Seventeen-year-old Tahir Khan walks with a limp as he guides the public who have gathered on a cordoned-off street in Kabul to show solidarity with him and his colleagues.
The teenager quit his university degree to join a peace march that saw a caravan of nearly 80 fellow countrymen walk over 700 kilometres across the stretch of Afghanistan – from the war-torn province of Helmand to Kabul – to demand an indefinite ceasefire between the government and the Taliban group. The 40-day march encompassed all of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The men arrive after an unprecedented three-day Eid ceasefire that saw Taliban fighters enter populated city centres to greet civilians and soldiers. But that truce was shattered Monday as Taliban fighters ended the truce and launched attacks on security forces across the country. The men who trekked a Herculean distance express their frustration at the collapsed ceasefire.
“We are so tired of war and we just want this to end,” says Mr Khan with physical exhaustion evident in his voice. His feet are bandaged after weeks of walking on an empty stomach with just his plastic sandals and a bag of essentials.
The men stopped regularly to spread the message of peace to locals along their route. But that message has not been heeded by the Taliban, which has rebuffed President Ashraf Ghani’s offer for a truce extension.
The marchers had offered Taliban members they crossed paths with to join the caravan, but none took up the other. Despite their frustrations with the Taliban, Mr Khan remains hopeful that one day they will live side-by-side in harmony.
“The Taliban are all tired of war; every Taliban fighter we met wanted the war to end but couldn’t take the first step,” he says. But the Eid ceasefire showed “that peace between both sides is possible. Never before have we seen such an Eid celebration”.
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