Kidnapping hope

December 26, 2019

IT must be hoped that 27 peace marchers who have been abducted in Afghanistan will be freed safely. The group disappeared after leaving Herat and passing into the neighboring Western province of Farah which also borders Iran. They had set off to protest the continuing violence as Taliban insurgents jostle with the internationally-recognized government of Ashraf Ghani in Kabul

What these individuals, from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds are seeking to do is demonstrate in a brave, non-violent manner, that there simply has to be an end to the internal strife. Those who say Afghans are naturally disputative, ill-educated and traditionally revert to violence are belittling a diverse people with a proud and noble past. Of course there are warlords and insurgents who have never known the ways of peace; after all two generations have grown up since the 1970s who have never known peace. There are criminal gangs, not least among the Taliban with their supposedly high principles, who are ruthlessly exploiting poor farmers, forcing them to grow opium poppies which provide a significant proportion of the world’s deadly heroin. When the Talebs were in power, they lied when they said they would stamp out the narcotics business. They have always profited hugely from this evil trade.

Nor is the seeming endless conflict about the presence of foreigners on Afghan soil. This is a threadbare falsehood, not least since the Taliban were happy to host the murderous killers of Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps. No, this struggle is all about power. And the killing continues because the insurgents still think that they can fight their way back into government. It has always been wrong to think of the Taliban as an homogenous entity. Even before the death of the mysterious Mullah Omar, the movement was splitting. Thus one of the questions asked of those insurgent leaders who have been taking in part in indirect peace talks is whether they can actually deliver on any agreement that is finally reached. It seems more than likely that some of the Taliban leaders will reject a negotiated deal. They are too wedded to the ways of violence.

But as the bloodshed continues, ordinary Afghans have had enough. They have sought to make their voices heard through elections. Tragically, the country’s elected governments over the past 15 years first lacked the vision and confidence to bring about real changes for their people. Then by the time that the first elected President Hamid Karzai appeared to have got a firm grip on the business of government, the security situation outside of the main towns and cities, was collapsing rapidly. Karzai himself became paranoid and virtually shut himself up inside the Arg, the Afghan presidential palace.

Past popular demonstrations demanding an end to violence have been bombed and shot at. Voters going to the polling booths have been murdered. Now the latest effort by these brave peaceniks on their non-violent march from Herat, have been seized and their fate is still unknown. But the men who abducted them need to get it into their heads the key reality that whatever repressive methods they use, they will never be able to kidnap the fervent hopes for peace of the majority of Afghans.

December 26, 2019
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