A Seed Sown By the West: Afghanistan’s Young Liberal Elites Challenge the Taliban

Sitting in her house in Kabul, where two steel gates provide security from the street, Shaharzad Akbar is talking about overcoming hatred. The 29-year-old, who holds a master’s degree in development studies from Oxford University, wears a colorfully embroidered Bedouin dress over her tight jeans.

In January, the Taliban murdered one of her best friends, Abdul Ali Shamsi, the deputy governor of Kandahar. He wasn’t much older than she is. On the day of his murder, he had met with diplomatic visitors from the United Arab Emirates. A bomb had been hidden in the upholstery of a sofa in the governor’s office. It killed 13 people.

Shamsi and Akbar had co-founded a group called Afghanistan 1400, a movement of young, well-educated Afghans who campaign for putting an end to the civil war in Afghanistan. On the day of her friend’s murder, says Akbar, a young spokesman for the Taliban had attended a workshop with members of the movement.

“At that moment, I hated that man from the bottom of my heart, because it was the Taliban that had killed my friend,” says Akbar. “But that is precisely the point: We need to stop hating.” After 16 years of fighting, she says, many members of the Taliban also yearn for peace.

How can someone continue pursuing a cause when their best friend, their brother or their child has been murdered by a suicide bomber? How can someone endure the brutality that pervades everything in Afghanistan, day after day?

Some 3,498 civilians were killed in the country last year, most of them in bomb attacks. About 7,000 members of the Afghan security forces also died, bringing the death toll to an average of about 30 a day — an intolerable number.

Read more at Spiegel.