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World

Afghan University Student Reflects On Week Of Reduced Violence

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has been that rarest of things in Afghanistan - a few peaceful days in a country that's been battered by nearly 19 years of war and violence. Today marks the end of a seven-day reduction in violence meant to promote goodwill and set the stage for the U.S. and the Taliban to sign a peace deal tomorrow. The reduction in violence has mostly held, making this last week the longest truce, partial or otherwise, that's held in nearly two decades.

We wanted to know what that has felt like, so we have called Hakim Ahmadzai. He's a student at Jahan University in Kabul, and he's on the line from Kabul now.

Hakim Ahmadzai, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

HAKIM AHMADZAI: Thank you.

KELLY: I want to know - how has this week felt? Has it felt different knowing that some form of truce is in place and has held?

AHMADZAI: Yes, definitely. This week has been very different. The Afghan nation is really thirsty of getting into a peaceful Afghanistan.

KELLY: Did you say people are very thirsty for this reduction in violence? Is that the word you used?

AHMADZAI: Yes.

KELLY: It drives home just how much people are ready for this, how much people want an end to war and violence.

AHMADZAI: People want to live in a peaceful environment. They're really tired of all those wars, all those conflicts, all those struggles and all those violences all around.

KELLY: Tell me how it has felt different this week. Is there a specific story or something that unfolded or happened differently this week?

AHMADZAI: Yes, definitely. People can go everywhere they want. People are really entering the Taliban-controlled areas. They can visit their own relatives and homes as well. People are welcoming this agreement between the United States and the Taliban by some dances, you know? We have got a traditional dance. It's called attan. And people are welcoming and they're celebrating this seven-day cease-fire by dancing attan on the streets.

KELLY: That's a wonderful image of people dancing in the streets in Afghanistan. It's been a long time. The talks so far have been between the U.S. and the Taliban. Those are the two sides that are set to sign this peace deal tomorrow. Then the government of Afghanistan says it will get involved, and they will start negotiating with the Taliban. Does it worry you that the government has been not party to these talks thus far? Do you trust that the government will be able to strike a good deal?

AHMADZAI: Yes, definitely. But whenever they enter the negotiation table, it will be the most important stage of the negotiations, which will directly let the Afghan government to issue their own terms and their own conditions. And I'm really hoping for a better outcome and for an outcome that all the Afghans are looking really forward to.

KELLY: I believe you may be too young to remember what life was like before 2001, when it was the Taliban that ruled Afghanistan. But you will have heard about it from your family and from older friends. Are you worried about the Taliban becoming more of a presence? Are you worried about, say, the women in your life, the women in your family and who you know - what their lives will be like?

AHMADZAI: Yes. I have heard from my father, as well as from our grandfather, that they all had seen some moves from the Taliban that they had ignored the rights of the women. Even the men didn't have the life that they really deserved. But this time, it will be a bit different. The Afghan government has gone further to even stand for their rights. So we really hope that things get better and every single member of our society gets his or her rights.

KELLY: This peace deal that they are supposed to sign tomorrow would pave the way for American troops to leave your country. Do you want U.S. troops to go home? Are you ready for them to leave your country?

AHMADZAI: I want to have them for a few more years because we aren't really yet in a state that the American troops really leave our backyard because the help that they're providing, the services that they're providing with the Afghan National Army - it won't be good for the Afghan army to lose such a partner like the American troops. I want to have them for a few more years.

KELLY: Do you think five years from now you will be living in a country that is at peace and not war?

AHMADZAI: Yes. I'm really hopeful that the things will go our way, inshallah, and we will see a peaceful Afghanistan.

KELLY: Hakim Ahmadzai, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.

AHMADZAI: Welcome.

KELLY: He was speaking with us from Kabul, where he is a student at Jahan University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.