Today’s the Day: Peace Day in Afghanistan
21 September 2009 - The International Day of Peace is being marked across Afghanistan today with hopes high that a ceasefire will be observed.
In the run-up to the worldwide Peace Day, events and activities have taken place across Afghanistan as people and organizations have answered this year’s campaign slogan – “What are you doing for Peace?”
For the third year in a row, the United Nations has called on everyone in Afghanistan to do something for peace in the country.
In 2008 the United Nations Department for Safety and Security recorded a 70 per cent reduction in violence on 21 September.
Speaking at an event releasing twenty-one peace doves last week, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan Kai Eide, said: “We need peace now. We need to bring this terrible conflict to an end.”
Mr Eide urged all Afghans to use the Day to focus on how to bring peace to their nation: “Stop the fighting on 21 September and demonstrate that there is a readiness from all of us to move into a peace process.”
In a statement issued on 16 September President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan noted that Afghans “more than any other nation in the world, realize the value of peace.” He added “our nation bears the heaviest burden.”
In the same statement President Karzai also issued an order to the Armed Forces of Afghanistan “not to resort to force on this day (21 September), except when attacked.”
President Karzai’s statement concluded with: “I hope this day becomes the beginning of an enduring peace in our country and the world.”
Following the President’s statement the Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal issued a statement that ISAF was to cease offensive operations on Peace Day.
“I have directed my forces to support our Afghan partners in ceasing offensive operations on September 21,” said General McChrystal.
A statement from a Taliban spokesman has also said their forces will remain in “defensive position” on the day
In the weeks and days before today’s Peace Day events have taken place across Afghanistan – from small individual efforts and gatherings to large life-saving moves.
From 13 September for three days, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health with the UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, aimed to vaccinate more than one million children from polio (Afghanistan is one of only four countries in the world with polio).
In Kabul the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) hosted the acclaimed author of “The Kite Runner” and goodwill ambassador Khaled Hosseini, who joined children to fly kites for peace.
“Finding long-term solutions to the Afghan refugee situation, including their sustainable return and successful reintegration, is directly linked to peace and stability across the country,” said Mr Hosseini after the visit to the land of his birth.
“After almost thirty years of conflict, peace is what all Afghans wish for. Bringing closure to the refugee chapter cannot be achieved without it,” Mr Hosseini added.
Large gatherings have been held across the country, with efforts such as a race for the handicapped in Herat, school painting in Maimana and Prayers for Peace in Kunduz taking place.
The International Day of Peace was first established by the UN General Assembly in 1981 as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
The Assembly called for people around the world to use the Day as an opportunity to promote the resolution of conflict and to observe a cessation of hostilities during it.
By Dominic Medley, UNAMA