Money exchangers in various provinces of Afghanistan on Thursday closed their shops and staged protests to raise their voice against the kidnappings of their colleagues for ransom by armed robbers.
Earlier this week kidnappers abducted Haji Abdul Qayoum Rahimi, the head of Balkh's money exchangers union in Mazar-e-Sharif, and Mujtaba, another money changer, in the center of northern Balkh province.
Protestors have warned that they will continue protests if the security agencies do not recover them.
“If Haji Abdul Qayoum Rahimi and Mujtaba, the son of Haji Qurban, aren't safety released from the custody of the kidnappers, we will continue our protests and civil action,” the protestors said in a three-article declaration.
Meanwhile, a number of businessmen and money exchangers in Balkh said that they have hired personal guards for their safety, which is costing them a lot of money.
“When there is no security, when there is kidnapping, then a businessman is compelled to hire a personal security guard. How long will this devastation plague the country?” asked Mohammad Asif, a protestor in Balkh.
“Today our protest is not limited only to Mazar-e-Sharif, but it is a nationwide movement. businessmen are protesting in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and in 34 provinces of the country to ask for protection for their lives and property,” said Dadullah Qaisari, the deputy head of the Balkh Money Exchangers Union.
There are 13 business complexes in Balkh that include over 2,000 shops. They all remained closed on Thursday.
Businessmen have said that closing the money exchange shops will pose millions in financial losses to the people daily.
“Our transactions are carried out by the money exchangers, but when there is no money exchanger, our business is also stopped,” said Ayoub, a businessman in Balkh.
Mirza Amir, a money exchanger in Balkh, said that seven months ago the kidnappers abducted a man in Balkh and he was released in exchange for $100,000.
“He was released in exchange for $100,000 after 18 days, however, later on his nephew was abducted,” said Mirza Amir.
Local officials in Balkh have said that efforts are underway to detect the location of the kidnappers.
“We have closed the routes of the kidnappers, I don’t want to go into the details to avoid risking the lives of Haji Qayoum, but we are confident that we will reach a positive conclusion,” said Mohammad Bashir Tawhidi, the deputy governor of Balkh.
People in Balkh have said that kidnappings and other criminal cases significantly increased in the province over the past few months, which is a matter of serious concern for the residents.