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Afghan victims of violence voice concerns about peace talks

Afghans gathered yesterday in Kabul to recount atrocities they suffered under Taliban and Soviet regimes. Afghans gathered yesterday in Kabul to recount atrocities they suffered under Taliban and Soviet regimes. (Dar Yasin/ Associated Press)
By Jamey Keaten
Associated Press / May 10, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmad Shah knows more than most Afghans about the nation’s 30 years of bloodshed, repression, and war: He lost his hands in a mine blast. His father died in an antigovernment uprising. His brother was shot 30 times and killed by a rival. And Taliban thugs once beat him up even though he had no hands to punch back.

Shah, 46, was among the scores of Afghans who spoke of their suffering caused by the Taliban and Soviet regimes at a “victim’s jirga’’ yesterday — a gathering billed as one of the first of its kind for victims to voice their concerns about the possibility of making peace with those who have perpetrated the violence throughout the years.

Legal advocates who organized the conference are hoping the stories will put pressure on President Hamid Karzai, who is hosting a national peace assembly next month, to seek a consensus on how to reconcile with insurgents and help end the war.

Karzai has said he would accept back into the fold any insurgent who renounces violence, severs ties with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and respects the Afghan Constitution. He has said he would even talk to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar if it would help end the war.

Such prospects will be on the agenda when Karzai meets with officials in Washington today.

About 1,500 people from across Afghan society have been invited to attend the assembly to seek a consensus on a reconciliation plan. Some victims believe those responsible for the violence should be brought to justice and want to deprive them of regaining any positions of power.

The legal advocates hope to build public pressure for those goals. But ultimately, political leaders like Karzai will have final say on any reconciliation.

“We cannot lose hope for a peaceful life,’’ said Sima Hussiani, a woman from Badakhshan Province in northern Afghanistan. The former Taliban regime — which ruled the country from 1995 until a US-led invasion in 2001 — killed her two brothers, both teachers, in the late 1990s. “I don’t want blood for blood, but the perpetrators should acknowledge their mistakes,’’ she said.

Some in the crowd, whose trips to the capital were paid by advocacy groups, dabbed their eyes while hearing accounts of atrocities that their fellow Afghans endured. Others broke down in tears while telling their own stories.

Shah now manages programs at a Kabul center for the disabled.