KABUL (Pajhwok): War-affected children are yearning for peace and a secure life as the Afghan peace process remains deadlocked. When their dream will come true is unclear.
Some sources say the 43-year-old war in Afghanistan has left more than a million people dead. Others, however, put the death toll at two million.
As a result of the conflict, millions of Afghans have been forced to flee the country. About 13.9 percent of the country’s population (4.4 million) has been disabled while more than half of the Afghans live below the poverty line.
Children are also among the victims of the ongoing war. Insecurity and poverty have also forced 3.7 million children to drop out of school. They have been forced into hard labour.
Zubaid, 10, is a child who lost his father to the war and is seeking to earn a living on Kabul streets, in front of shops, restaurants and near garbage heaps.
He was busy collecting water bottles, papers and plastic items with his small hands and putting them in a dirty bag that he was carrying in the 500-Family Square.
The orphan is originally from Ghor province, but due to insecurity, he came to Kabul along with his family (mother, two sisters and a brother). He lives in the Parwan-i-Du neighbourhood of the capital.
Wearing old black clothes and worn-out shoes, the child was asked why he collected plastics. Zubaid replied: “I’m an orphan; my father was martyred in a suicide attack.”
He said: “My mother cooks bread for people; I collect garbage and sell Pepsi cans. I earn 50-100 afghanis daily and my little brother sells plastic bags.”
About the peace process, he said: “Yes, I do know about it. I hope this war will end soon and stability will return to Afghanistan. We will receive assistance… and go to school to get educated like others. I pray a lot for peace.”
Nigeen, 6, who has been begging due to poverty and helplessness, many children at this age are only thinking of games and joy, but due to poverty and tight hands, Nigeen has been begging away from home to earn a living.
Nigeen, originally from Kunduz province that came to Kabul with her family due to insecurity, said she lives with her father, mother and two brothers in the Kabul city. Her father polishes people’s shoes and her two brothers sell plastic bags.
She also yearning peace and said: “If peace comes, the war will end, we will go home, my father would work on the farmland, me and my brother will go to school.”
Suratullah, a resident of the Kushanda district of Balkh who has moved to Kabul along with his family due to insecurity, works as a shoe-shiner.
He studied up to 7th grade in his native area, but was unable to continue his education in Kabul because of financial constraints.
The 15-year-old deplored: “I could not continue my education here. Now I’m begging on the pretext of polishing people’s shoes. My father is a market janitor. We earn 100-200 afghanis every day. I will be studying if there is peace.”
He called the war a disaster, praying: “May Allah bring peace, may my father have a good job so that I can go to school, become a teacher, teach the boys to make Afghanistan stable and prosperous.”
Mohammad Nisar, an 11th grade student at Istiqlal School in Kabul, is worried about children who have dropped out and the problems caused by the ongoing war. He is also concerned about those forced into hard work.
He believed if the peace was achieved, the killing of the Afghans would be stopped, education provided to all children and development projects implemented.
Once stability was restored to their homeland, the student argued, the Afghans would no longer need to travel to other countries through risky routes.
With the restoration of peace, Nisar hoped he would study in a prosperous environment, get higher education and become a doctor.
“Some of our compatriots got to Pakistan and India for the treatment of serious diseases, but those who do not have wealth die here. That’s why I want to become a doctor and sever the poor people of my country.”
Habibur Rahman, a 13 years old seventh-grade student of Istiqlal High School, said: “Peace is prosperity. If there is peace, we can focus on our studies. But there are suicide attacks, explosions and bloodshed. We have become frustrated and can’t concentrate on studies.”
He remarked: “All people, especially children who are being killed ruthlessly, want peace.”
Children’s demands for peace come at a time when the war is raging across the country. Afghans, including children, are being killed every day, but the fate of the peace process is still unclear.
Intra-Afghan peace talks begin in Doha last year, following the signing of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States. Eight months on, the warring sides have only agreed on the procedure for the talks, which remain stalemated.
A conference was scheduled to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 24, with the participation of some political parties, the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government and influential countries.
But a week before the event was to take place; the Taliban said they would not attend such meetings until the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Subsequently, the US and NATO announced that their pullout would begin in May and end by September 11. However, under the Doha agreement, all foreign troops had to leave Afghanistan by May.