As hope grows around the possibility of peace in Afghanistan, after 40 years of war, dozens of youths, activists and religious scholars from Herat on Sunday said intra-Afghan talks should start as soon as possible and that dialogue should be initiated by the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Five days ago, a group of prominent Afghan politicians held talks with Taliban representatives in Moscow. The talks were declared “constructive” by some participants. The Afghan government did not however attend as the Taliban has until now refused to engage with government.
Activists in Herat meanwhile said on Sunday the Afghan government and the Taliban should not wait for “foreigners” to bring them together to discuss peace.
One Herat resident, Abdul Ghani said: “No country will bring peace to us unless Afghans themselves roll up their sleeves and strive for peace.
“We should bring peace through negotiations between Afghans,” he said.
“We should sit together and talk to each other about how to bring peace to the country,” said Mohammad Rafe, a civil society activist in Herat.
Peace efforts have, over the past four months, gathered momentum.
During this time, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held four rounds of talks with Taliban representatives.
There are concerns however about whether achievements made regarding women’s rights will be maintained following a possible peace agreement with the Taliban.
Drawing attention to this on Sunday, female activists in Herat spoke out and said they were worried that women’s rights would be compromised in a peace deal.
“Women need to play a bigger role in this process. They make up half of society therefore they should have an active role in this regard,” said Shila Shaheedzada, an activist from Herat.
Another Herat activist, Nargis Jamshedi, meanwhile said: “We call on the Taliban to join peace. Afghans are tired of bloodshed.”
Some religious scholars who attended the Herat gathering said the fight against Afghan security forces is “forbidden” and that the current war by the Taliban should not be called “Jihad”.
“There is no legitimacy in the war against Afghan forces. They are killed in the name of Islam but Taliban are seeking help from Westerners, as we have seen recently,” said Saifuddin Sayyaf, a religious scholar from Herat.
Critics have been skeptical about the protection of achievements made in the past 18 years, which include those relating to women’s rights, press freedom and freedom of expression.
This comes after two delegates at the Moscow talks said it appears as if the Taliban are willing to end the war through peaceful means.