Malalai Joya on occupied ‘new’ Afghanistan

This video says about itself:

Afghan Member of Parliament [then, in 2006, still; before she was expelled] Malalai Joya speaks about the troubling and declining status of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Book review by Phil Shannon in Australia:

Malalai Joya: her struggle is our struggle

2 December 2009

Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out By Malalai Joya Macmillan, 2009 278 pages, $34.99 (pb)

When Malalai Joya described some members of the Afghan parliament in 2007 as belonging in a “zoo or a stable” in 2007, the howls and screeches from its fundamentalist and warlord members was predictable. They seized on her comments as a pretext for a plot to have the feminist parliamentarian permanently suspended for “insulting the institution of parliament”.

In her autobiography, Raising My Voice, Joya notes the irony that the leaders of the countries with troops in Afghanistan never commented on her illegal suspension “even through they say their militaries are in Afghanistan to help build democracy”.

Joya’s book recounts many other examples of the undemocratic new Afghanistan ruled by pro-US religious extremists and warlords.

After 16 years in exile, Joya courageously returned to an Afghanistan ruled by the “depraved and medieval” Taliban, which had emerged victorious in 1996 during the vicious civil war among the US-funded mujahideen following their ousting of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the overthrow of the pro-Soviet People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan government in 1992.

Working through the Organisation for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC), Joya’s aim was to educate girls and women. Teaching was literally underground (in sympathisers’ basements) where she found the compulsory burqua (“a symbol of women’s oppression, like a shroud for the living”) useful for “hiding books and other forbidden objects”.

Joya risked kidnap, rape, torture and murder on a daily basis. She survived thanks to the quiet resistance, instinctive solidarity and human kindness of strangers. Afghan men, for example, at risk of their own lives, would step to claim to be a close male relative of lone women stopped by Taliban patrols for moving about the streets unaccompanied.

When the Taliban fled in 2001 after the US invasion, many Afghans were sympathetic to the Americans. This support soon collapsed as the US and allied military continued to kill civilians and installed a corrupt government of warlords and fundamentalists.

Joya, as a feminist and democrat, needed (and still needs) an armed bodyguard, a network of safe houses and the burqua to hide her identity. She remains in the sights of the CIA-backed Northern Alliance made up of “ruthless men with a dark past” who now dominate the US-approved government of President Hamid Karzai.

These were the same thugs and terrorists that pillaged Afghanistan during the post-Soviet civil war between 1992 and 1996. They were eager to resume their power and self-enrichment in a post-Taliban Afghanistan under US protection. Women were again the first victims of the pro-US Karzai regime — as they were in the anti-Soviet and Taliban regimes that preceded it.

Joya took the fight up to the new rulers as well, first against the local officials appointed by warlords in Joya’s province of Farah who were hostile to the free medical clinic and orphanage run by Joya and the OPAWC.

Joya then raised the political level by standing, successfully, in UN-supervised elections in 2003 to the Loya Jirga (constituent assembly) to approve the new constitution.

Joya used her three-minute speech to parliament to attack the warlords at the gathering. Halfway through, however, her microphone was cut as accusations (“communist!”, “prostitute!”, “infidel!”) and death threats were rained on her.

Joya was the youngest member of parliament elected in the 2005 elections. The physical and verbal attacks on her continued inside and outside parliament, culminating in the plot to suspend her. This, she says, was because she “spoke the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Karzai”.

Human Rights Watch said about 60% of the members of the 2005 parliament were warlords or their allies who got elected through fraud, intimidation or US-financed bribery.

At the head of the current regime is the “impeccably mannered” Karzai whose “own hands”, says Joya, are “stained with the blood of the innocent people of Afghanistan because he had put so many warlords and criminals into positions of power”.

Under Karzai’s watch, corruption and nest-feathering has been raised to a fine art. Misogynist laws were introduced and the war criminals in parliament, in the name of “reconciliation”, granted themselves amnesty for all war crimes committed during the past three decades.

The claim that the US and its allies have brought justice, democracy and women’s rights to Afghanistan “is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world”, says Joya. Afghanistan is still ruled by “women-hating criminals” — in most places it is still not safe for women to appear in public uncovered or to walk on the street without a male relative.

Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape, in and out of marriage, goes unpunished. Life expectancy is less than 45 years and 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Half of all men and 80% of women are illiterate. The US alone spends $100 million a day on the war but total international aid for reconstruction is a mere fraction of this and mostly falls into corrupt hands.

The Afghan people, says Joya, are sandwiched between two enemies — the anti-US terrorists of the Taliban and the pro-US terrorists (originally armed and financed by US proxy efforts against the Soviets in Afghanistan) that came back to power with the Northern Alliance in the 2001 invasion.

US President Barak Obama, she says, continues the same failed policies as his predecessor. That is, more troops and support of corrupt, violent pro-US rulers in the pursuit of US military, regional, economic and strategic interests in the Central Asia region.

Joya’s book is valuable for dispelling the fluff that passes for most analysis and reporting on the West’s war in Afghanistan. It’s also valuable for her clear perspective that neither the Taliban, nor the corrupt, warlord-riddled government of President Karzai, nor the Western occupation troops, offer anything but a diet of terrorism, misogyny, economic deprivation and censorship. She does not rule out armed struggle.

Joya’s analysis is enriched by the stories of her personal experiences with the people of Afghanistan and their enemies. She puts faces and names to what it means when US-protected warlords are running society and brings the “poor and forgotten” people of Afghanistan, their traumas and humanity, out from the shadows of Western media stereotypes.

Afghans, she shows, are not backward people mired in Islamic fundamentalism. This does not stop her from having “hard discussions with men who thought that they could treat women and girls like property”.

Joya says the struggle for Afghanistan’s people is “hard and risky” but there is no other option. She says, quoting Bertholt Brecht — “those who do struggle often fail, but those who do not struggle have already failed”.

Despite the personal dangers (Joya has survived five assassination attempts and uncounted plots), she feels “proud that even though I have no private army, no money and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me”. Her outspoken stance for equality and democracy has won her many friends and protectors, and her grassroots support is both enormous and enthusiastic, especially among young Afghans.

International support, she writes, is very important in the struggle — messages of support are invaluable for keeping up the spirit of democratic activists and showing the people of Afghanistan that they are not alone. Joya’s struggle is our struggle.

No explicit provision in the Afghan penal code that criminalises rape: here.

The official excuse of the US Bush administration for the Afghan war was that it was in order to catch Osama bin Laden. Well, after after all those years, they still have not caught him. Did they try seriously?

According to DNA news in India:

Washington: Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was cornered by US forces in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora just months after 9/11 and could have been killed or captured, but the military top brass decided not to attack him with the massive force at their disposal, a Senate report says.

Afghanistan: Harsh Treatment Reported In Secret American Prison: here.

Recent reports reveal that the US military continues to carry on torture and illegal detention in Afghanistan at a dungeon known to inmates as “the black prison”: here.

An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore: here.

17 thoughts on “Malalai Joya on occupied ‘new’ Afghanistan

  1. Prince Harry’s Afghanistan dreams ‘smashed’

    2009-11-29 13:00:00

    Prince Harry’s dreams of returning to front-line duty in Afghanistan have been smashed over security concerns.

    The Royal, who is training to pilot the meanest attack machine in the British Army, the Apache, served ten weeks in the 2007 Afghan War but was pulled out after his presence there was revealed by the media.

    And now, Army top brass fear Taliban infiltration of the Afghan police force may blow the lid on the prince’s presence and put him and his comrades in danger.

    “Getting Harry back on the front line is certainly not a priority right now,” News of the World quoted a military source as saying.

    “The situation there is extremely volatile and an operation involving the third in line to the throne would require a lot of planning and secrecy,” the source added.

    Another high-ranking Whitehall source said: “The negatives of his redeployment far outway the positives. It is not on the agenda.” (ANI)



    A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan

    If Barack Obama heralds an escalation of the war, he will betray his own message of hope and deepen my people’s pain

    o Malalai Joya
    o, Monday 30 November 2009 19.00 GMT

    “But I still have hope because, as our history teaches, the people of Afghanistan will never accept occupation.”

    After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

    I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week’s announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.

    Already this year we have seen the impact of an increase in troops occupying Afghanistan: more violence, and more civilian deaths. My people, the poor of Afghanistan who have known only war and the domination of fundamentalism, are today squashed between two enemies: the US/Nato occupation forces on one hand and warlords and the Taliban on the other.

    While we want the withdrawal of one enemy, we don’t believe it is a matter of choosing between two evils. There is an alternative: the democratic-minded parties and intellectuals are our hope for the future of Afghanistan.

    It will not be easy, but if we have a little bit of peace we will be better able to fight our own internal enemies — Afghans know what to do with our destiny. We are not a backward people, and we are capable of fighting for democracy, human and women’s rights in Afghanistan. In fact the only way these values will be achieved is if we struggle for them and win them ourselves.

    After eight years of war, the situation is as bad as ever for ordinary Afghans, and women in particular. The reality is that only the drug traffickers and warlords have been helped under this corrupt and illegitimate Karzai government. Karzai’s promises of reform are laughable. His own vice-president is the notorious warlord Fahim, whom Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch describes as “one of the most notorious warlords in the country, with the blood of many Afghans on his hands”.

    Transparency International reports that this regime is the second most corrupt in the world. The UN Development Programme reports Afghanistan is second last — 181st out of 182 countries — in terms of human development. That is why we no longer want this kind of “help” from the west.

    Like many around the world, I am wondering what kind of “peace” prize can be awarded to a leader who continues the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and starts a new war in Pakistan, all while supporting Israel?

    Throughout my recent tour of the US, I had the chance to meet many military families and veterans who are working to put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They understand that it is not a case of a “bad war” and a “good war” — there is no difference, war is war.

    Members of Iraq Veterans Against War even accompanied me to meet members of Congress in Washington DC. Together we tried to explain the terrible human cost of this war, in terms of Afghan, US and Nato lives. Unfortunately, only a few representatives really offered their support to our struggle for peace.

    While the government was not responsive, the people of the US did offer me their support. And polls confirm that the US public wants peace, not an escalated war. Many also want Obama to hold Bush and his administration to account for war crimes. Everywhere I spoke, people responded strongly when I said that if Obama really wanted peace he would first of all try to prosecute Bush and have him tried before the international criminal court. Replacing Bush’s man in the Pentagon, Robert Gates, would have been a good start — but Obama chose not to.

    Unfortunately, the UK government shamefully follows the path of the US in Afghanistan. Even though opinion polls show that more than 70% of the population is against the war, Gordon Brown has announced the deployment of more UK troops. It is sad that more taxpayers’ money will be wasted on this war, while Britain’s poor continue to suffer from a lack of basic services.

    The UK government has also tried to silence dissent, for instance by arresting Joe Glenton, a British soldier who has refused to return to Afghanistan. I had a chance to meet Glenton when I was in London last summer, and together we spoke out against the war. My message to him is that, in times of great injustice, it is sometimes better to go to jail than be part of committing war crimes.

    Facing a difficult choice, Glenton made a courageous decision, while Obama and Brown have chosen to follow the Bush administration. Instead of hope and change, in foreign policy Obama is delivering more of the same. But I still have hope because, as our history teaches, the people of Afghanistan will never accept occupation.


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