by Farid Behbud
KABUL, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- "Afghanistan has been suffering in the flames of war and conflicts for 38 years and the smog of gunpowder has shrouded the sky while bullets instead of rain fall down. We must use all our resources to promote peace," Nadir Shah Nangarhari, the cyclist, told Xinhua.
Accompanied by his son, Feroz Khan, Nangarhari began a round the world trip in mid-July 2015, cycling 11,000 km from Istanbul in Turkey, to reach the United Nations' headquarter in New York in May this year.
"I tried along with my son to use the power of sports to promote peace. We travelled through 16 countries passing a message of peace to everyone we met. We told the people of the world that Afghans do not want war and we fear on a daily basis the bombings and blasts. We tell them that the war has been forced on us," Nangarhari said.
Welcomed by several officials, on Wednesday, the two Afghan sportsmen handed over their bicycles to the National Museum of Afghanistan to display to help visitors know about their adventurous trip.
"We have shown the people of the world another side of Afghanistan, that can't see on their daily news. We told them that we love sport and we have a rich culture and that we are against war and against any kind of corruption and that we are against illegal drugs," Nangarhari said.
Upon visiting the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in mid-May, the pair presented Ban Ki-moon with a famous traditional silk-embroidered coat called a "Chapan" which was typically worn by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"I was so surprised after visiting Ban Ki-moon in New York. We offered him a Chapan, and we told him that Afghans are tired of war and violence and that Afghans are fed up with the killings and blasts," Khan, 18, told Xinhua.
Khan said he was hopeful one day stability will return to his country.
"I was encouraged after UN chief told me that Afghanistan is not alone and it will not be without help and that Afghanistan will have the support of international community," he said.
The Taliban militants, who ruled the country before they were ousted in late 2001, have renewed their armed insurgency, staging ambushes and suicide attacks, killing combatants as well as civilians.
Since Jan. 1, 2015, Afghan security forces have assumed full security responsibilities from NATO, and the United States' forces after the foreign troops switched their mission from a combat to a support role, which focuses on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces.
More than 2,560 civilians were killed and over 5,830 injured between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 this year in conflict-related incidents across Afghanistan, according to the latest figures released by a UN mission in the country.
"We just want peace, education, sports and unity in Afghanistan," Khan said.
Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Afghan athletes have already taken part in several competitions at regional and international levels and started bringing medals and honors to the country.
The Taliban had outlawed a series of sports activities as well as forcing athletes to grow long beards and wear long shirts and trousers during matches.
"We have a great honor today to receive our sport champions. We must pay tribute to your efforts for sending out a strong message to the people of the world by cycling such a long and challenging trip," Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, Fahim Rahimi, told the audience.
"And we really appreciate you offering the pair of precious bicycles to the national museum. It is a great gift for all Afghans and we will put them on display as a symbol of peace in this historic building," he said.
Nangarhari, a father of seven, also told Xinhua that he and Khan wish they could one day ride from Kabul to the Great Wall of China and have a chance to further enhance ties between the two neighboring countries. Enditem