The Afghan Taliban recently opened its first office abroad in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Many see this as a signal that the insurgents are willing to consider peace talks and compromise.
The Afghan government reaffirmed its support for possible negotiations with the Taliban after nearly 12 years of war.
But more than 1,000 families still live in a camp for internally displaced people camp located in the western part of Kabul. They fled their homes to escape the war... They lost their family members, homes and belongings.
40-year-old Sofi Hayder has been in the camp for the past 5 years with 10 of his family members.
“I came here because of the war... there was fighting every day. I lost my uncle because of it. I asked him to come to the camp, but he didn’t listen to me. One night, American forces came to our home on a night raid, they shot him and he died. There is lots of violence in my country.”
Sofi is a farmer from Helmand Province, one of the most dangerous areas in Afganistan....the heartland of the Taliban. He’s now the campleader... but he doesn’t receive any money for it.
He digs deeps into his pocket and shows me a 1 dollar bill.
“Our life was bad, but we’re still alive. Nobody thinks about us. We have to live inside this tent... in this hot weather, how can we live in here? No electricity, no fan, no food to eat. We don’t have any income because we have no job,” he says.
“While our leaders... they have good air-conditioned rooms, nice houses and everything. How can they think about peace negotiations while they never think about us poor people? We’ve lost everything.. We need peace and stability.”
According to Amnesty International, nearly 500 thousand people are still displaced because of the war. Many live in informal settlements with inadequate shelter, and lack of access to water, health care and education.
In January this year, the Taliban agreed to open a political office in Qatar to allow direct peace talks. But this doesn’t mean the war is over... says, Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, a spokesperson from the new Taliban office.
“There is no cease fire. So far we have two options; the military option just like what we have in the past decade, and simultaneously, we have a political option. In the past 12 years of fighting with the US and their allies, they tried to defeat our power... And the result is our power has increased. Here we are now. It’s a good sign that they recognised the fact... it’s also good for the peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Just one day aftar a Taliban-claimed attack on the Presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan and the US reaffirmed their commitment to the peace talks with the Taliban.
The Taliban flag and signboard have been removed from the Qatar office after heavy pressure from the Afghan government.
Afghan opposition groups welcome the peace talks with the Taliban.
“Afghanistan can’t end the war by military force,” says Fazal Rahman Oriya, the spokesperson for the Afghan National Alliance.
“It’s necessary to end the conflict with negotiations. So it’s ok for the Taliban to have an office with a special address in Qatar. But this must not be used to strengthen their power or for other purposes. It should only be used for peace negotiations.”
Sofi Hayder is talking to his sons and relatives inside their tent... He hopes the peace talks will bring lasting peace.
“Life was very good in our homeland when there was no war. We worked on our farm and garden. We had a good house, there was water and everything. We lived very peacefully. But I’ve lost everything... I’ve lost my family because of the war. We need peace.”
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