For Afghans Scarred by War, ‘Peace Can’t Bring My Love Back’

For Afghans Scarred by War, ‘Peace Can’t Bring My Love Back’

KABUL, Afghanistan — After nearly two decades of bloody fighting, the United States and the Taliban were on the verge of a provisional agreement that could help end the long war — then President Trump pulled the plug on negotiations.

Many Afghans, who express an urgent need for ending the bloodshed, have remained skeptical of the agreement. Although the United States-Taliban deal would open the way for direct negotiations between the insurgents and Afghan officials over the country’s political future, they fear that a loss of leverage by withdrawing American troops could embolden the Taliban, who would want to roll back basic liberties of the past 18 years such as women’s rights and freedom of the press.

Over the years we have reported countless stories of people caught in the hopeless grind of the conflict. We recently reached some of those individuals to hear their feelings and fears. Their answers have been edited and condensed.

Masih Ur-Rahman Mubarez, 39

Mr. Mubarez’s wife, seven children and four other relatives were killed in an American airstrike last September in Wardak Province because Taliban were in the area. He has since spent most of his time in Kabul, the Afghan capital, seeking justice.

I am tired of the people, the area, the district and the province. When I go to Wardak, I feel so tired. But what to do? I have to go there and visit their graves. It is not only one person — it is 12 family members. My four daughters, three sons, my wife, and four cousins. I lost all in one day when my house was bombed by the Americans.

I can never forgive the Taliban, but if the peace deal can stop the bloodshed, I can accept them to the country. I don’t want other families to go through what I have.

I go to the Americans, to the Taliban and to the government for justice. There should be accountability. The ones who killed my family should be punished. I am mad at the people in my village. They are the easiest target. Everyone — the Taliban, the Americans, the government — kills them like sheep, and they don’t react at all. They are used to it.

Only God is my help in all of this. If I were not a religious person, I don’t know what would happen to me. I want God to help me and help Afghanistan experience real peace.

Mashal Sadat Kakar

Ms. Kakar’s husband, the Afghan radio journalist Sabawoon Kakar, was killed in a double bombing that took the lives of eight other journalists. They had one son, and she was pregnant with their second child.

There are a lot of challenges in my life now. I have to play the role of a dad and a mom and I have to stay strong because of my kids. I left the country and I don’t want to go back, I have nothing there. I have to hide my pain and keep smiling just because of the boys — and it is so painful and needs a lot of energy.

The future looks gray to me. There are many women like me who work, and who are the only breadwinners of the family. If the Taliban come back it is obvious they are going to establish new rules and the women will be the victims of the peace process.

I am torn. When mentally I am calm, I hope for peace for the country. I don’t want other women to go through whatever I have. But sometimes when I am so sad and depressed, I think to myself that I don’t care about peace — I lost everything I had. Peace can’t bring my love back.

Hussain Rezai, 32

Mr. Rezai was about to be engaged to Najiba Hussaini, who had risen from a dusty village in central Afghanistan to go as far as Japan for a master’s degree. She was killed in an explosion targeting a bus carrying the employees of the Ministry of Mines, where she worked.

I can’t forget what the Taliban did, and I can’t forgive them for it. When I lost Najiba it was so hard to cope with the pain. I had lost myself and I was very sad. She wasn’t even supposed to go to the office that day because there was a protest planned. But she went to save more days for our vacation. We had planned to go to Bamiyan after our engagement.

When it comes to peace, I think we have lost everything. If the Taliban come back to the country, we have to once again start from zero, like 2001, and it is very scary.

Every time there is an explosion, it reminds me of Najiba. I think about who else has just lost their sister, their brother, their dad, their mom and their love.

Zaheer Ahmad Zindani, 23

Mr. Zindani lost his father to an American airstrike. His sister was killed in a Taliban roadside bomb that left the teenage Mr. Zindani blind. He has marched as part of a peace movement for the past year.

This war has ruined my entire life. My father was martyred, other family members were martyred. I was blinded, and I can’t go to our own home village.

If the sides had been serious about peace, they would have heard our voice by now. Our fear is that this war will stop and another will start. Unless both sides are more open and transparent, this can be a deal that does not bring us any benefits.

Breshna Musazai, 27

Ms. Musazai, a polio victim, was wounded in a Taliban attack on the American University of Afghanistan in 2016 that killed at least 12 people.

It is hard to say we would have peace in the country because there are negotiations between the Taliban and the United States — because Afghans are not involved at all. If the Taliban and the Afghan government reach an agreement, that would be acceptable.

Now we see bombings everyday and the peace talks — and even talking about peace — feels meaningless. If the Taliban want peace, why are they bombing us?

If the Taliban join the country and there would be peace, I will accept them as a part of the country and the government. But I can never forget what they did. They attacked my university. I was shot in my leg. I pretended to be dead. I will accept them because I care about people and a better future and I don’t think about revenge. But I am worried if the Taliban come back to the country, the Afghan women will be the main victims.

Jalal Khogyani, 28

Mr. Khogyani lost his friend and classmate, Zabet Khan, who was a young Taliban commander in the east. Mr. Khan had twice tried to leave the war, once as far as Greece, before it sucked him back to his death.

This war has left a big impact on our minds, on our psychology, on our economy. In the past, when our kids would play they would fly kites. Now they make weapons out of whatever they can and they fight each other. It’s impacting every bit of our lives — we haven’t seen any calm, any peace. Sometimes, one just wishes for death — that is how suffocating it gets.

I lost a great friend, a classmate. He wasn’t carrying himself as a major commander of the Taliban — he treated us with love. When I see his family, they say his void can never be filled. They say even if we get peace now, our family is no longer complete and the peace won’t mean anything to us.

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