MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): A female restaurant owner in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, believes her business would grow when peace is established in Afghanistan.
Zahra Ibrahimi, a graduate of Public Administration and Policy, has been running a restaurant named “Unique” for over a year in the limits of second police district of Mazar-i-Sharif.
But she says recent clashes, insecurities and increasing crimes in the city have negatively impacted her business.
Zahra hopes her business would grow if the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiating teams agree on establishment of peace in the country during the second round of peace parleys.
“Unique” is regarded an appropriate and serene place for the youth, girls and adults for serving fast food, coffee and tea.
Zahra Rahimi invested around $4,000 and built the restaurant over a year ago. She is the manager of the restaurant and monitors everything.
“Unique” owner, wearing a black veil and red jacket while adjusting her spectacles with her right index finger, introduced herself as the café owner after greeting us in.
Ms.Ibrahimi in an exclusive interview told Pajhwok Afghan News that after completing her higher education, she was inspired to own a personal business.
“I always thought of how to own a personal business, not to have a boss over me and meet my lively requirements in a legal way; that is when the inspiration of building a restaurant came to my mind and I proceeded into this business with the help of my family and friends,” she added.
She said her family in the beginning was against the café but after many efforts she managed to convince her family and they accepted to build the restaurant.
Ms.Ibrahimi said in initial primary she faced many financial losses but she stayed determined and ultimately stood on her feet financially.
A year ago, after two weeks of inaugurating the café, Mazar city was locked down due to the coronavirus outbreak and she had to close the café.
“I bore financial loss in the beginning but I did not step back and continued with my efforts and ultimately after three months of lockdown, I reopened my restaurant and started with the services,” Unique café owner said.
Besides hospitality services in the restaurant, Zahra has also engaged herself in social and civil activities in Mazar-i-Sharif.
She claims she follows peace related issues seriously and is aware of every progress or hurdle in the Intra-Afghan peace process.
While staring at an artwork hanging on the restaurant wall, she told Pajhwok Afghan News that she was optimistic about the intra-Afghan peace process but also sometimes frightened.
“All of us must be optimistic about the on-going peace process, I too am happy that the Afghan government and Taliban ultimately sat down for negotiations; but I sometimes fear that God forbid if Afghanistan goes back to the era of 20 years ago,” she said.
She says recent clashes, insecurities and spike in criminal activites in the city have a negative impact on her business.
Zahra hoped for an overall ceasefire and peace agreement in the second round of Intra-Afghan peace parleys which could lead to her business growth.
“I lost many customers as their number declined due to blasts and mysterious killings in the city,” Zahra said.
“The café had good income when the situation was somehow good; I used to work from 8 in the morning to 9pm but now I work for a couple of hours in the restaurant and my family always fears if someone would rob or hurt me in the restaurant,” she added.
The café owner demanded that Intra-Afghan negotiating teams must preserve the achievements of the two decades and not compromise on individual freedom and women rights. “There are values that both the negotiating teams must consider and focus on during the talks”.
Zahra added that Afghans were tired of the current violence, killings and blasts. She demanded a lasting peace in Afghanistan. “Both the negotiating teams must agree on a ceasefire that preserves Afghans and their possessions”.
She added that she would expand her business and provide employment for tens of more women after the peace is established.
NiginaMayij, a women’s rights activist who visited the café for drinking coffee, told Pajhwok Afghan News that she felt comfortable and secure when she was in the café because the owner was a woman.
Ms Mayij hoped for an end to the war through negotiations. “All sides of peace negotiations especially the Taliban must establish peace by accepting the truth of Afghan society,” she said.
“We Afghan women demand nothing more than the rights Islam has given to us, we hope there will be no compromise on women’s rights in the peace negotiations, if they cut a deal on women’s rights, then it would not be a comprehensive and all-accepted peace”, she added.
Meanwhile MasoomaRahimi, in-charge of Afghan women’s Network in Balkh province, said that Afghans are hoping for establishment of a just peace in the country.
She told Pajhwok Afghan News that the beginning of the second round of peace negotiations was good news; but added that before all, the two sides must agree on an overall ceasefire.
MasoomaRahimi urged the government negotiating team to share details of the on-going peace negotiations in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with Afghan people.