By Zia-ul-Islam Shirani / CSRS
The decades-long on-going war in Afghanistan, in different phases and through different parties, has taken hundred thousands of victims as well as made millions to leave their country.
After the collapse of Taliban regime by America in 2001, the Afghan war became handed to America and NATO-member countries. There was, however, relative security in Afghanistan for a few years after the collapse of the Taliban regime; but slowly, the war revived and became severed day by day.
Civilians are widely killed due to war policy of parties involved in the on-going war and the assaults are even carried out on public places like crowded areas, hospitals, mosques and madrasas. This situation and tremendous civilian casualties have caused the people to raise their voice against war; thus, women and men, youth and elders demand peace for the parties involved in the war.
The questions on the need of people’s movement for the purpose of ending the on-going war in Afghanistan, the rise of peace-demanding voice from Helmand, the assessment of demands of the people’s movements and their impacts on peace and war are tried to be answered here.
Peace and People Movement Need
The war that has begun after 2001 in Afghanistan has caused heavy causalities to Afghans that reach up to hundreds of thousands.
Bases on the report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), only in 2017, more than 10,000 civilians became killed or injured due to the on-going war and even celebration parties and religious ceremonies had been targeted by parties involved in war.
Apart from casualties, approximately 3.5 million Afghanis whose most of them are youth have been addicted with drugs due to martial and bad situation in the country. The same numbers of Afghan children are deprived from school. Almost 40 percent of Afghans live under the poverty line and according the statistics of the World Bank, 1.9 million qualified Afghans are unemployed. The most important thing is that most Afghans are disappointed and this disappointment and lack of confidence is on the rise day by day.
The most important factor behind this situation is the continuation of war in the country. In the past 17 years, the parties involved in war have been tried to eliminated their opposite in the battlefield; however, no party is yet to reach this goal and as the world history of war has proven that every war is ended by peace; therefore, if the on-going war was elongated for several other years, it would not have any winner.
The truth on Afghan war has been understood by the Afghan government and international community and thus, the Afghan government and various other domestic and international parties have made efforts for the aim of bringing peace since last few years, but they are yet to be succeeded.
The efforts of the Afghan government have not got any result yet, from one side; and from the other side, it is needed to put pressure on the parties involved in the war to bring changes in their martial policies. Considering that civilians are the main victims of the on-going war, it was much needed for the people’s voice to be raised for peace. There were, however, various voice raised for peace, but they were not as reflective and ordered as the present movement.
Helmand Peace Demanders
On 23 March, 2018, after the car bombing in a sport stadium in Helmand which killed more than 20 civilians, tens of Helmandi youth and elders including women initiated a People’s Peace Movement under the banner of “Oh Taliban! You shall make peace after that” and it almost one month that tents on supporting this voice have been erected in 17 provinces.
A member of People’s Peace Movement in Helmand, Sharif Alizai told CSRS (Center for Strategic and Regional Studies): “we are tired of this war, neither our sanctities, nor public place or schools or hospital are secured, we are killed everywhere.” War is not the solution, we want security and peace and peace is being brought after the people rise and made the parties involved in war to make peace; because, the war is being continued since last 40 year, it has not got winner and they only victims of it are Afghans, Alizai added.
Another member of People’s Peace Movement in Helmand province, Eng. Daoud Farhang said that the People’s Peace Movement started in Helmand is the voice of entire victimized nation of Afghanistan. “No man or group is behind this movement, it is a fully people’s movement and this peace movement of us will be turned into a big people’s movement with the aim of bringing security in the country”, he insisted.
Helmand, alike other areas of Afghanistan, is a province that has suffered several causalities and heavy damages in the 17-year long war. Due to the consequences and causalities of war, eventually, the people of Helmand became obligated to raise their peaceful voice against war and to demand the parties involved in the war to Stop the War.
Demands of People’s Peace Movement
As first steps toward peace, the People’s Peace Movement demanded that Taliban and the government to apply ceasefire for two days in order for these two days to pave the way for long-term ceasefire as well as peace talks.
The demands of People’s Peace Movement, however, were logical but the problem is that it has not accosted the important party of war (America). The presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is the factor which has not let the peace efforts to become succeeded in past one decade and, it is considered as the main reason of war by the Taliban.
By reason of this, when the members of People’s Peace Movement in Helmand wished to attend the Taliban center in Mosa Kala and ask them for ceasefire, they replied through publishing a statement and wrote: “we ask the protestors of Helmand to got to Americans’ centers and bases as a remonstrance instead of attending the areas of Mujahedeen [the Taliban] and should inquire them to terminate the occupation and end the war; the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] is obligated to war and resistance.”
Nevertheless, every tiny and significant movement toward peace brings hope and is valuable in its position and attributable to that people’s voices on bringing peace and security in Helmand and a number of other provinces have brought hopes with themselves; however, these movements will be more effective if they cause serious pressures on entire parties involved in the war.
The impact of People’s Voice against War
In past years, several parties have made efforts to make the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban successful, however, the main reason behind this failure is considered to be lack of truthful intention for peace in the both sides and this issue is directly connected to the people’s pressure in this regard. As some people seek their interests in war, so there has not been a ground facilitated for the Afghanistan-inclusive civilian pressure. Therefore, if these voices are continued and spread, perhaps, their impacts will be widespread; because the people’s voice has always brought change.
The National Unity Government (NUG) presented peace proposal to Taliban in the second meeting of the Kabul Process which showed flexibility in the position of Afghan government for the first time in last one and a half decade and, it was mostly due to the people’s pressure existed since recent years.
The peaceful protest against war which originated from Helmand became accepted by different tribes, areas and people and, in the present time, it was a hopeful movement. Hence, if the people’s movements really stay people’s and besides the Taliban, put pressure on the international community, especially, the United States, perhaps, Afghans voice under the umbrella of People’s Peace Movements will be listened to and thus, the ending of war will be, then, truthfully considered in Afghanistan.