WASHINGTON - War victims and human rights groups in Afghanistan are calling for an immediate cease-fire and a meaningful inclusion of the Afghan war victims in the ongoing peace process.

“I do not want mothers … to have their children buried,” said Wahida Shirzad, whose son, Rahid Amin, 21, was killed alongside 22 others in an attack on Kabul University on November 2.

Shirzad, who is an advocate for war victims, is calling on both parties to agree to a cease-fire. “I want the violence and fighting to stop.”

Violence across Afghanistan has surged in recent months, killing dozens of people, many of them civilians.

Students and civil society activists hold banners in protest as they shout slogans, a day after gunmen stormed Kabul university in Kabul on Nov. 3, 2020.

At least 27 people were killed and dozens injured Friday in a car bomb attack on a guest house in the eastern Logar province.

According to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, more than 570 civilians were killed and about 1,200 were injured in the first three months of this year — a 29% increase from the same period in 2020.

The Afghan war, from 2001 to present, has left about 241,000 people dead, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Lal Gul, the chairman of the Afghanistan Human Rights Organization who also serves on the newly formed National Committee for War Victims, said war victims want an immediate cease-fire.

“If violence continues, no one’s voice will be heard, and democracy, human rights and women’s rights would have no place,” Gul said.

Victim-centered peace

Gul added that the inclusion of war victims in the peace process is important for the newly formed war victims’ group. “We want voices of the victims of the war to be heard and justice to be served,” Gul said.

According to Gul, war victims is a broad category that includes all the civilians who suffered physically, financially and psychologically in the war.

Mohammad Rafi, whose sister, Rahila Manji, 17, was killed August 12 in an attack on Mauod Academy in Kabul that was claimed by the Islamic State, is calling for an inclusive peace.

“We, the victims, demand an effective and determining role in the peace negotiations. We call on the parties involved in the negotiations to recognize the central role of victims in the peace process as one of the pillars of a sustainable peace,” he said.

Rafi called on both sides to “immediately resume talks and stop being stubborn, and bring peace to the people of Afghanistan.”

No progress has been reported in the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban that started September 12.

Inclusive peace advocacy

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has been advocating for the inclusion of the victims’ voices in the peace process.

According to Zabihullah Farhang, a spokesperson for AIHRC, victims’ rights and grievances should be at the center of the peace process.

AIHRC, in a June 2020 news release, proposed four mechanisms for inclusion of victims in the peace process: that victims be selected to speak directly to the parties; regular meetings between parties in the conflict and civil and human rights activists; civil society members and experts to present on issues identified by the parties; and calling a “national victims’ Consultative Jirga ... to discuss issues of victims, justice and reconciliation.”

Farhang said both the Taliban and the Afghan government can choose some war victims as representatives to “be fair to both sides.”

If the peace process is not based on the demands of the war victims, it cannot be called a “true peace,” Farhang said, adding that “it can be considered a power-sharing [deal] or political settlement but not peace.”

“Therefore, we [AIHRC] insist on a victims-centered peace in Afghanistan,” Farhang said.