Blistered and hungry: Afghans walk hundreds of kilometres for peace
Ghazni: Hobbled by blisters and stalked by hunger, dozens of Afghan protesters are marching hundreds of kilometres across the war-torn country demanding an end to the nearly 17-year conflict.
Nine people began the weeks-long anti-war march in May, but their numbers have since swollen to around 50, organisers say, as their demands for an end to fighting gain traction among ordinary Afghans increasingly fed up with years of bloodshed.
The arduous journey began in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold.
The group hopes to reach the capital Kabul, some 700 kilometres (430 miles) away, before the end of the holy month of Ramadan this week where it plans to present a list of demands for peace to Afghan leaders.
Among the protesters is Zaheer Ahmad Zindani, who was blinded in a roadside explosion several years ago that also killed his sister.
“We are tired of this war and bloodshed,” Zindani told AFP as the group arrived in Ghazni, the capital of the southeastern province of the same name, over the weekend.
“Both sides should sit down for peace talks. We want a permanent and sustainable peace.” The group is also calling for a ceasefire—but longer than the ones announced by the Afghan government and Taliban for the Eid holiday that follows Ramadan—and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
After weeks of walking along asphalt roads in the heat, sleeping under trees or in mosques, and weakened by fasting for Ramadan, the group is now within 200 kilometres of the Afghan capital.