Sometimes very much like telling a personal story, we can tell tales about the world around us and about the stories we want to tell about it. In Afghanistan, the stories of many Afghans are escaping the violence and poverty that has killed and maimed the innocent and impoverished and left scores dead and thousands more in hiding. Afghanistan has been torn apart by war for three decades now, and the price we have paid for its ills is high.
We do not now know the exact numbers that are been killed in the country’s current insurgencies. There have been around 2,097 Afghan soldiers and police who have been killed this year and over 17,000 Afghan soldiers and police who have been injured in combat during the same period. Millions of Afghans have fled their homes to safer ones. Cults that prey on the weak and the sick have become a threat to all civilians living in Afghanistan. Corruption from high-ups and commanders have become commonplace, many of them have also been complicit in crimes against humanity. Along with these terrible consequences, those of us who live in Afghanistan have also been greatly affected by the suffering.
In Hard Times, Afghan Farmers Are Turning to Opium for Security by Lowell Bergman review – we are all the ones who must make things right in Afghanistan Read more
The stories of the thousands of thousands of Afghans who live and work in Afghanistan are no longer shared. Thousands don’t read Western newspapers or listen to Radio Pakistan. They listen to each other in their rural homelands. Our biggest challenge is to find new ways to tell them the stories we want to tell. These stories are our cultural heritage, but if they go unnoticed then we could lose even more interest in Afghanistan.
We might be on the brink of a new chapter of healing in Afghanistan. In September 2017, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened a peace conference in Kabul. Days after his inauguration, President Ghani announced a plan to free and enroll thousands of the country’s inmates into the public sector. He insisted that Afghanistan should leave behind the military and let the people to fix their country.
“We are going to produce as much medicine and food as we can to keep people alive and healthy,” he said. He said he wants to consolidate the gains made by his predecessor Ghulam Haider Karzai in addressing poverty and instilling economic reforms.
Quick guide The Guardian view on Afghanistan’s peace process Show Hide The war in Afghanistan is going from bad to worse. As a result the international community must be prepared to do whatever it takes to secure an effective end to hostilities, without relying on foreign troops. Now is the time for a ceasefire – based on clear, verifiable and durable outcomes – in the hope of creating conditions for political talks that can end the conflict. The Afghan government needs to be more inclusive – as well as more productive. If it continues to seek to consolidate power by dividing the country along ethnic lines, then the nation’s future will be further hostage to its violent past.
But was the opening of the dialogue the only sign of hope for the peace process, or had there been other signs of hope? For a start, there was the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement by the Afghan government with all armed groups, including the Taliban, but there was a caveat – the deal was to begin only in areas where the government is in control, but for it to be in force for only 90 days.
The war in Afghanistan – a decade and a half on – has cast a shadow over all of us, because we are all the ones who must make things right in Afghanistan. My grandfather was a teacher, and my father a school teacher, and we were in the classroom and in their classrooms when things got worse.
Now one generation follows the other, and we look to them for words of wisdom. Each of them learned the same lesson: life in war is too short, and it is more important to put up a fight for survival, and die in triumph. Most of all, each of them learned that men should fight for peace, so it can be theirs as well as theirs.
• Lowell Bergman is a long-time Afghan-American journalist and author