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Anti-Tehran Protest Ends In Kabul

FILE: Afghan peace activists shout slogans in demand to an end to the war during a march from Helmand as they arrived in Kabul in June.
FILE: Afghan peace activists shout slogans in demand to an end to the war during a march from Helmand as they arrived in Kabul in June.

Members of the People’s Peace Movement of Afghanistan ended their three-day sit-in protest outside the Iranian Embassy in Kabul on July 27.

Before leaving, the protesters gave the ambassador a letter calling upon Iran’s leaders to modify their stance on Afghanistan.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, a member of the movement, Bissmallah Watandoust, accused Tehran of instigating civil war and supporting militant groups who terrorize people in Afghanistan.

In the letter addressed to the Iranian envoy, Watandoust wrote, “We called upon the Iranian people to press the Islamic Republic’s authorities to stop stoking the fire of ethnic and religious conflicts in Afghanistan and end sending arms to Afghan armed factions.”

Although Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement with violence in Afghanistan, Tehran’s ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, said in May that Iran was in contact with the Afghan Taliban.

However, he denied Tehran's involvement in the Taliban’s assault on Farah, a rural province bordering Iran in western Afghanistan.

“We have already explicitly said we are in touch with the Taliban, but we never established formal relations with the group to avoid legitimizing it,” Bahrami told the government’s official news agency, IRNA, on May 21.

Bahrami said that Tehran continues its contact with the Taliban to encourage it to join peace talks with the Afghan government.

U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Tehran of fomenting unrest in neighboring Afghanistan.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set 12 conditions for a possible rapprochement between Tehran and Washington and insisted that Iran’s support for the Taliban in the form of weapons and funding leads to further violence and hinders peace and stability of the Afghan people.

“Iran, too, must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region and cease harboring senior Al-Qaeda leaders,” Pompeo said at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think-tank.

The People’s Peace Movement was initially launched on March 24 under a single tent by mainly young residents of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, which neighbors Iran.

A day earlier, a car packed with explosives had blown up outside a sports arena in the city, killing at least 17 civilians and wounding 55.

In an unprecedented move for the conservative province, women also joined in the People’s Peace Movement sit-in on March 27.

"Stop making us widows and making us cry over the death of our children," a woman said at protest rally in Helmand, according to Voice Of America (VOA).

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also expressed support for the People's Peace Movement.

"I welcome the campaign in Helmand and other provinces where women, elders, and youth have gathered to seek peace and raise their voices in unison against war and violence," he wrote on Twitter. "And I hope this peaceful national movement will be strengthened and supported by the people in large numbers."

The movement, which has already held sit-in protests outside the Pakistani, Russian, and U.S. embassies in Kabul, plans to hold another demonstration on August 3 outside the UK Embassy.

The protesters dispersed after their three-day sit-in outside the Iranian Embassy, leaving posters that read, “To the people of Iran, your government is supplying militant groups in Afghanistan," and "To the people of Iran, our water is saving your lives, but your government is taking our lives."

Speaking with RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, international affairs analyst Mushtaq Raheem said, “Such civil movements refer to the fact that the people of Afghanistan are tired of war and demand peace.”