Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Homes Lost and Lives Trampled, Rural Afghans Urgently Want Peace - nytimes

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan — When the war engulfing southern Afghanistan reached Sayed Mohammed’s doorstep, he resisted the urge to abandon his home. When Taliban fighters looted his chicken farm, he still refused to leave.

But the birth of his fifth child, a daughter, changed his mind. Named Halima, she was born amid a raging battle a couple months ago, with explosions shaking the walls of the family farmhouse on the rural outskirts of the city of Tirin Kot.

The blasts were so intense that Halima’s 4-year-old brother, Saber, developed stress blisters on his lips that began to bleed. Terrified, he crawled inside his father’s shirt to seek refuge.

Shortly after, Mr. Mohammed took his wife and young children and left with just what they could carry.

“She was born in such circumstances that I don’t wish upon any human,” Mr. Mohammed said of Halima, now wrapped in blankets in the corner of the dark, cold room that they rent. It is only about a 10-minute walk to this room from the family farmhouse, but with the old neighborhood now a battle front, it might as well be a world away.

“I was lost,” he said of the decision to leave his home and the farm, with 4,500 chickens, that he had taken out large loans to finance. “I didn’t know whether to stay with my suffering wife, or to take these other children to a safer place.”

As American diplomats push for a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 17-year war, a strong voice of protest, largely coming from urban centers, has been cautioning against a rushed deal that could endanger some of the gains of past years. Those include women’s right to work and education, as well as an independent news media.

On the other hand, however, is the nearly half of the country that is caught between the two sides of the seesawing conflict. The constant fighting has deprived these rural Afghans of most of the improvements — schools and institutions — at the center of concerns over peace negotiations. And the voices of those Afghans are notably underrepresented in the debate.

To this large part of Afghan society — including more than a million people displaced by fighting at least once, and often several times — there is a desperate urgency for any sort of peace deal, or even just a truce to allow aid to come through. They are focused simply on survival.

The peace efforts are unfolding during a humanitarian crisis, where displacement by war is being made worse by a harsh drought. About 13.5 million people are surviving on one meal or less a day, and 54 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a $1 a day, according to Toby Lanzer, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator. - Read More

Homes Lost and Lives Trampled, Rural Afghans Urgently Want Peace ...


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