Members of the People’s Peace Movement arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif City in Balkh province on Wednesday after a 32-day journey, barefoot, in their quest for peace.
“Our message is the message of peace” read a banner being carried by members of the convoy. The activists left Kabul on August 10. They walked over 420 kilometers to get to Balkh.
The journey has been challenging, tough but full of hope, as one of their members said when they arrived in the city on Wednesday.
They were 15 members when they left Kabul. They are now 45 members as others joined them on their journey north.
The activists called on warring parties to end the violence, adding that the continuation of conflict will take plunge the country into a crisis.
“We moved from Kabul with people from other ethnic groups including Tajik, Aimaq, Uzbek to show that Afghans are one nation and all want peace,” said Bismillah Watandost, spokesman for the peace movement.
The activists went to Taliban-controlled areas in the north, passing on the message of peace to them.
“There are always conflicts. We call on the people to wake up and stand against it,” said Hafizullah, a member of the movement.
On August 31, the activists faced harsh treatment by the Taliban when they entered areas controlled by the group in Baghlan province and that they were insulted and threatened by the Taliban in Dand-e-Ghori area on the outskirts of Pul-e-Khumri City, the center of Baghlan, when they wanted to pass on the message of peace to the group.
“We were chanting peace slogans and were chanting stop the war and we want peace. Around 20 Taliban members came and threatened, humiliated and insulted us,” said Bismillah Watandost, a member of the movement, after the incident.
The activists will hold a gathering at the Blue Mosque in Mazar where they will call on the people to help them in their goal for peace.
The Journey Began In Helmand
The peace activists initially launched their protest in Lashkargah City after a suicide bombing outside a stadium in March. About a month later, a group of eight protestors left Helmand on foot for Kabul.
The activists walked through towns and villages, crossed provinces and met with local residents along the way. For 38 days, they walked and as they progressed, so their numbers grew.
About 700kms later, the group of eight had grown to an estimated 100. They arrived in Kabul on June 18 and handed over demands for a ceasefire and peace to both the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The group gave the Taliban three days in which to answer and said if they failed to do so, they would embark on sit in protests outside diplomatic offices and missions in the capital.
The Taliban’s deadline passed without any response. The activists then held a three-day sit-in protest outside UNAMA’s office in Kabul. They sent a letter to the UN Secretary General António Guterres in which they asked him not to remain indifferent towards ending the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
From there, they moved on to the US embassy – where they stayed for nine days. The activists sent a letter to the American people, asking them to put pressure on the US government to end the war in Afghanistan.
The activists, whose ages range from 17 to 65, come from all walks of life and include students, athletes and farmers among others.
The activists also established sit-in protest camp in front of Iranian, Pakistan, Russian and British embassies as well as the office of the European Union in Kabul.
The movement called on Afghan allies to put pressure on Pakistan to stop its interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.