HERAT -- The Taliban's continued violence during Ramadan, and as international forces are withdrawing from the country, reveals its hypocrisy and its animosity towards the Afghan people, Herat residents said at a Sunday (May 2) rally.
More than 500 men and women gathered in Herat city to condemn the ongoing violence and to call on the Taliban to stop killing Afghan civilians.
The fighting and violence must stop to give the country an opportunity to build peace and prosperity, so Afghans can heal and move on with their lives, said Nafisa Rahmani, a Herat resident who attended the rally.
"As a young woman who grew up under the shadow of war, I do not have any hope for whether I can stay alive tomorrow," she said.
"The growing violence and the continuation of war have left people frustrated, and many have fled the country," Rahmani added.
She called on the Taliban, who have continued to kill Afghans during the holy month of Ramadan, to stop their fratricide and accept a lasting peace.
The war has made life miserable, said Herat resident Ramatullah Nabi.
"We demand an immediate truce between the government and the Taliban," he said, adding that the continuing violence and chaos are intolerable.
"Our innocent people are martyred in Taliban attacks during iftar, and blood is shed at the iftar table," Nabi said.
The Taliban must understand they cannot win the war militarily and that only a ceasefire can open the door for peace, said Herat city resident Soraj Arab.
"We call on the Taliban to stop the killing of women, children, innocent civilians and security forces," he said. "At least stop killing Afghans during the holy month of Ramadan and let the people worship peacefully."
"Because of the Taliban's growing violence and brutality, people do not feel safe and secure in their homes," he added, accusing the Taliban of violating Afghanistan's national values by targeting innocent civilians.
'No more excuses'
Now that foreign forces have started to withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban's so-called "jihad" against US and NATO forces is about to end, there should be no reason for the Taliban to continue fighting, Herat residents say.
The Taliban have used the presence of foreign forces as a pretext for killing Afghans for the past 20 years, said Herat city activist Ahmad Wali Paiman.
"We strongly condemn Taliban attacks," he said.
The withdrawal of foreign forces presents an opportunity for peace talks, he said, adding that Afghans expect the Taliban to return to the negotiating table to pave the way for sustainable peace in the country.
"With the withdrawal of foreign forces, the Taliban's continued fighting is a clear sign of their enmity toward Afghans," Paiman said.
The Taliban have repeatedly said that with the complete withdrawal of foreign forces, they will declare a ceasefire and join peace talks, said Herat resident Faisal Afghan.
"The Taliban should not make more excuses to continue the war, because there will be no more foreign forces and they can no longer massacre the people under the name of their so-called jihad," he said.
The Taliban have been ruthlessly targeting and killing civilians during the month of Ramadan, so their claim of "jihad" is just a big lie, Afghan said.
"The Taliban have been fighting Afghans -- not foreign forces -- for the past several years," he noted.
Warning for the Taliban
The Taliban must stop killing Afghans and serving the interests of other countries, said Abdul Rahman Salehi, a resident of Pashtun Zarghun district, Herat province.
"The Taliban shed the blood of Muslim Afghans every day in order to gain power and make money," he said. "They take orders from foreign countries to kill security forces and civilians."
The Taliban do not have a clear vision of what it would take to achieve peace, and are just waiting for instructions from the countries that support them, said Herat governor Sayed Wahid Qatali during the Sunday rally.
Although the government has worked hard to stop the violence and to establish a permanent ceasefire, the Taliban so far have continued to pursue their ambitions through violence and bloodshed, he said.
"We will never give up under the name of peace and let the Taliban's horror and dark days rule the country again," Qatali told the gathering.
If the Taliban respond to the demands of the Afghan public and join peace talks, and the outcome of those talks is positive, they will be accepted, he said.
But if the Taliban continue fighting, he warned, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces stand ready to defend the country.
"The Taliban are losing on the battleground every day, and their fighters are exhausted by this meaningless fighting," he said, adding that their "corrupt leaders" appear unwilling to recognise or accept this reality.