HERAT -- Outraged by the Taliban's continuing attacks on innocent civilians, more than 100 young people from Herat Province are raising their collective voice to call on the militants to renounce violence and killing.
Young men and women, including those disabled by war, gathered in Herat city on October 17 to condemn the Taliban's suicide attacks and murder of innocent civilians.
They marched for 2km, chanting anti-war slogans and calling for peace.
"We young people raised our voice to show the parties to the conflict, especially to the Taliban, that Afghans are fed up with war and want peace," said Ferdaws Aasi, director of the National Volunteer Network in Herat.
"We condemn the casualties of civilians in the war as we have seen that most of the victims are civilians," he said. "The killings of civilians including women and children in terrorist attacks have concerned us, and they must stop."
Afghans will not tolerate the slaughter of innocents, and they want the Taliban to listen to their calls, Aasi said.
"Most of us participating at this event are victims of war, and I am one of them... [I] have lost two of my family members in the war," said Suraya Shujaee, a resident of Herat city.
"We want the parties to the conflict to open channels of dialogue with each other and negotiate to reach a settlement for ending the war," she said.
Authorities in Herat Province have long stated that the doors of peace are open for the Taliban.
"We want an intra-Afghan peace that preserves the achievements of the past two decades of the Afghan people: the kind of peace that upholds the constitution and women's rights," said Herat Deputy Governor Ghulam Daud Hashemi.
Young Afghans have been the country's main victims of war and terrorism over the past 18 years, with thousands killed in terrorist attacks, said Tawab Mubarez, the head of youth affairs at the Herat Department of Information and Culture.
"Young residents of Herat raised their voice today and told the insurgents that they don't want to be victimised any longer and this war must stop," he said.
Afghan forces take out Taliban enclaves
The Taliban and the United States had been close to striking a deal that would pave the way for intra-Afghan peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but the Taliban ramped up their attacks on civilians in an attempt to use their deaths as bargaining chips.
In recent weeks, joint Afghan and coalition force operations have surged against the Taliban's safe havens, with Afghan forces recapturing a number of districts that had been under the Taliban's control for a few years.
The security forces have inflicted many casualties on the Taliban in the past two months and have expelled them from many areas, said Herat Police Chief Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil.
"I call on those Taliban fighters who consider themselves the children of this country to make peace, and we are ready to embrace them," he said.
"But I warn the terrorists who still think about war and destruction in Afghanistan that our security forces and our international partners are determined to destroy them," he added.
The Afghan people and Afghanistan's international allies have sidelined the Taliban after the dissolution of peace negotiations and the continuation of violence, said Jawad Ameed, a civil society activist in Herat Province.
Now the only viable option the group has in front of it is to join the peace talks, he said.
"The Taliban thought of themselves as powerful during their talks with the United States, and they expressed their views about various issues," he said. "But after the peace talks ceased, the Taliban have found themselves alone everywhere."
"The Taliban realise very well that they cannot rule in Afghanistan anymore, but they continue to kill Afghans with orders from foreign [sponsors]," Ameed said.
"The Taliban benefit from the continuation of war," he said.
"This group is involved in drug and human trafficking and smuggling of weapons from which the commanders of the group earn abundant money annually, and it receives support from neighbouring and regional countries."