It is the third day of Eid-ul Fitr and all over Afghanistan there is a sincere feeling of joy and uncertainty. The joy that the ceasefire meant for only three days may be extended. There is uncertainty on whether the word of Afghans to Afghans will hold in place for the sake of peace.
I am writing this letter to the members of Taliban who are my age. I was born in the early 1990s. I am not a politician nor part of any political party in Afghanistan. I am just an observer who enjoys reading newspapers. This letter is to the boys who internalized foreign propaganda and became men when they were handed a loaded Kalashnikov. This letter is to the young twenty-something-year-old Taliban.
Peace is expensive but it doesn’t cost as much as war. In February, President Ashraf Ghani made an unconditional offer to your leaders. The elected Afghan government is willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party and withdraw your organization’s name from international sanctions lists. In response, from your Qatar office, your leaders said they would only negotiate with the United States. Yesterday, in a press release from U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the United States agreed to negotiate with the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Afghan people to permanently end the war.
As long-term peace talks commence, you must remember that your history in the minds of Afghans is a dark one. It is even darker in history books. You have killed thousands of civilians and repeatedly targeted minority groups. The elephant in the room and the biggest concern for the international community is your treatment of women and violation of human rights. There are Afghan school girls who know what it feels like to have acid melt their faces. Those girls look into the mirror every morning and see the scars… and they can’t forget the terror you reigned on them. For you to have a political future in Afghanistan as a political party, the Taliban need a facelift that is not just skin deep. You need an immediate public relations campaign to gain Afghanistan’s trust.
The celebratory hugs and selfies will end in a few days. Accept the peace offer of President Ghani and be active participants of Afghanistan’s democratic process.
For you to reserve your future, you need to endorse the education of both women and men. Knowledge is power and it is empowerment that your country men and women seek. There is a famous saying, “Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Afghan girls become wives and many become mothers. Mothers are our foundation and girls are our future. What is a future without an education?
The Taliban need to show that they are enlightened and no longer are the men who cut electricity lines to take away light. They must recognize that a women’s place is not just in the home. It is in the home and everywhere she wants to go.
Peace is expensive and requires sacrifice. However, peace will bring freedom. Our generation was born into a fractured and poor country but we will be the generation to make it a unified, regional power. Afghan youth will no longer be pawns in the game that started before we were born. We know that at the end of the day, the pawn and the queen will go into the same box. Why kill when there is peace to be owned?
Trust your moral compass. Choose peace.
OpEd by Mariam Amini.
Mariam is a human rights activist who studied at University of Oxford and is a recent graduate of Stanford University. Follow her tweets @mariamamini.