Twenty Afghan amputees, some in wheelchairs and others on crutches, began a gruelling trek of hundreds of kilometres across Afghanistan on Tuesday, demanding an end to the war that cost them their limbs.
The “peace convoy” began its journey in the western city of Herat and will finish on the other side of the country in the capital Kabul, running the gauntlet of militants, roadside bombs and blistering temperatures.
“We are taking this journey of more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) to Kabul to tell the world to stop the war,” Mohammad Musa, 40, who lost both legs in a landmine explosion, told AFP. “The war has brought nothing except destruction.”
Abubaker Qaderi, whose right leg was blown off by a roadside bomb 15 years ago, called for a “permanent ceasefire” in the latest conflict, which began with the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
“War must stop, we want peace,” the 50-year-old told AFP before setting off towards Kabul.
“For the sake of the next generation, they should stop fighting,” another protester called Khan Zai told AFP.
#Peace – a group of over 20 disabled people from Herat have started walking to Kabul in support of peace. The group hope to join People’s Peace Movement that has been holding sit-in demonstrations in the capital after also walking the almost 700km from Herat. #PPM pic.twitter.com/IYisGgvxpU
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) August 7, 2018
The march comes weeks after another group demanding peace walked 700 kilometres from the southern city of Lashkar Gah to Kabul, much of it during the fasting month of Ramadan.
That march, believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan, arrived in the city on June 18 as the Taliban ended an unprecedented three-day ceasefire and resumed fighting.
The Afghan government is expected to announce a second truce for the next Eid holiday this month.
Afghanistan’s largest militant group has not agreed to the protesters’ demands and has ignored President Ashraf Ghani‘s offer of unconditional peace talks.
The Taliban has long insisted on direct talks with the United States. Washington has repeatedly refused, saying negotiations must be Afghan-led. But there are tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start negotiations are starting to bear fruit.
Washington indicated a change in its longstanding policy in June when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was prepared to “support, facilitate and participate” in talks.
Pompeo also said the role of foreign forces in Afghanistan would be on the table.
Last month Taliban representatives met U.S. officials for talks in Qatar.