Speech by Malalai Joya, New York City, October 25, 2009

The Mantle, November 7, 2009

US/Canada version of Joya's book

First, I would like to thank my publisher, Simon & Schuster, for bringing my book to American and Canadian readers. I would also like to thank each and every one of you for attending this book launch.

Before I talk about my crying country, let me tell you why I decided to write A Woman Among Warlords. In the past few years, many supporters from different countries asked me to share my experiences to more people by writing a book. There are three reasons why I accepted to write this book:

First, I accepted it was time to tell the truth, because in a war-torn country like Afghanistan, the first casualty is the truth, and those who are in power still betray the truth.

My second and most important reason was to tear off the masks of warlords, drug lords and criminals who, after the 9/11 tragedy, came to power wearing the mask of democracy with the support of the U.S. and its allies.

The third reason was to just reflect the tip of the iceberg, the pains and sorrows of my people. However, I believe that the tragedies of Afghanistan are so much and the crimes committed against them uncountable, that one book is not enough. My co-author, Mr. Darrick Okafee, told me that my experiences alone growing up in a generation of war would require four books! So, we had to cut down a large number of my stories and accounts in order to fit in one book.

Girl power: Malalai Joya at UCLA

Mainstream media has always tried to tell lies and throw dust in the eyes of democratic people of the world. Therefore, this book not only tells about my war-stricken people, but also about the realities of the so-called “war on terror” by U.S. and NATO forces.

Also, we have seen some Westerners who pay a visit to Kabul’s green zone in their bullet-proof vehicles, meet few officials or the puppet regime, and some pro-warlord men and women of the parliament, and then claim their pro-war statements represent the “public opinion” of the Afghan people—I think this is an insult to our people.

In this book you can read some very depressing stories of some girls who have been raped. The number of rape and violence cases is at its peak. One of the main reasons of the current catastrophic situation of Afghanistan is the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance that consists of brothers-in-creed of those in the Taliban. The U.S. government and their allies occupied under the slogans of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “women’s rights,” but in fact they have betrayed these values by imposing such sworn enemies onto my people and pushing us from the frying pan into the fire.

The women’s rights situation is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban. The level of self-immolation among afghan women has gone awfully high.

Rapes, kidnappings, acid attacks, domestic violence and the murder of women are increasing rapidly. Most women in many provinces are living in hell and are treated as less than human—the killing of a woman is like the killing a bird. Unfortunately the true picture of the horrible suffering of Afghan people—and especially its forgotten women—are not reflected in the world media. Instead, the mainstream media sells lies under the name of truth. Truth is always suppressed and threatened.

Only two days ago I received a report that a five year old girl named Fazila was kidnapped and then murdered in Sari Pul Province.

Despite wide coverage of their crimes by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, these misogynist warlords are trying to make their crimes legal. For instance, the recent disgusting law of the Shia fundamentalist against Shia women is quite similar like Taliban’s rules. One article of this law is enough to prove this: women are banned to go out or to work or to visit the doctor without the permission of their husbands! Despite national and international condemnation, this law has been passed and even signed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

The most dangerous woman in Afghanistan: Malalai Joya in Farah Province

Today, most of the men and women of my country do not have freedom at all, and millions suffer from injustice, insecurity, poverty, corruption and joblessness. I think this point is enough to know about the bitter realities of my country: after seven years, the U.S, and its allies have changed Afghanistan into a center of drugs—today Afghanistan produces 93% of world’s opium which has found its way even to the streets of the U.S. and Europe. I think opium is more dangerous than the Taliban because after 9/11, not only the Taliban became more powerful, but also my country is now a mafia state run by powerful drug lords. Even the brother of Hamid Karzai, Ahmad Wali Karzai is a famous drug-trafficker. I think opium is not only dangerous for Afghanistan, but also a threat to the world. I believe that if U.S. policies continue like this, the opium will find a way to your city too and destroy your youth’s life as well. According to a survey, alone USD 500 million goes in the Taliban’s pocket annually from this dirty business. From 2001 until now, it has increased by around 4500%.

To find out about the ongoing catastrophe of Afghanistan, it is enough to know that in the Human Development Index released by United Nations Development Programme a few days ago, Afghanistan is ranked 181 out of 182 countries. Afghanistan’s ranking drops every year despite the fact the over USD 36 billion of aid has been received in the past 8 years; but pennies were actually spent for the benefit of our people. The U.S. government alone spends USD 165 million every day on its war in Afghanistan; this money could change Afghanistan into a heaven if it was really spent on a right direction.

In the past few years, under the U.S. occupation, thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, and most of them are women and children.

On one hand, the Northern Alliance criminals and barbaric Taliban are killing our people on the ground, and on the other hand, occupation forces are bombing my people from the sky. My people are sandwiched from both sides as war crimes continue. Fortunately, you all know a great deal about the Taliban, and these seven years was enough to know the Northern Alliance as the ones responsible for the ongoing tragedy in Afghanistan. But to know better about the role of the occupation forces, let me give you an example. In my Farah Province, more than 146 innocent people, most of them women and children were killed in just one day in a U.S. air raid.

Just recently, occupation forces bombarded Kunduz Province where about 200 civilians have been killed. The same war crimes happened again in Farah Province in Bala Buluk District where 50 people were killed. Occupation forces have even bombed wedding parties in Nangarhar and Nuristan Provinces. Recently, in another wedding party, four people were killed and injured—these were not the first, and will not be the last as well.

After all these crimes, the White House apologizes and Karzai’s puppet regime thanks them, but our people don’t want “sorry” and “thank you.” They urgently want the end of the so-called “war on terror.”

The “war on terror” is in fact a war against Afghan people. Billions of dollars are spent under the name of “war on terror,” but Taliban and other terrorist groups are getting powerful day by day. And despite the presence of over 100,000 foreign troops, the Taliban have permanent presence in 80% of Afghanistan and impose their rule on people. So everyone knows that “war on terror” is just a hoax and there are other hidden agendas behind it.

When Obama took office, unfortunately his first news for the Afghan people was of more war and more conflict and a continuation of the wrong policies of the Bush Administration. Obama plans to surge forces into Afghanistan which would only add to the problems and miseries of our people. According to a survey, the number of innocent civilians killed during Obama’s administration is more than that of Bush’s. Now, Obama is trying to decorate barbaric Taliban members like Mullah Omar and a fascist like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as “moderates” to join this anti-democratic puppet government. So if they come in power, the circle of warlordism and drug lordism would be complete. It is clear for our people that the U.S. has no plan of destroying the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They keep the situation in danger to stay longer in Afghanistan for their own regional, strategic and economic interests and do not care for the will of our people.

In such a disastrous situation, so-called democratic elections were held, which was a showcase for the U.S. and its allies, because an election under the shadow of guns, warlordism, drug lordism, awful corruption, and occupation forces has no legitimacy at all. International observers spoke about widespread fraud, and people said among themselves that the real winner has already been picked by the White House; the result of these elections would be like the proverb: the same donkey but with a new saddle. In our constitution, it is mentioned that those accused of war crimes must not run for the elections, but we saw that even the Taliban participated. It seems Karzai again will be the winner of the elections. Many war criminals campaigned for him; he made countless deals with them, and is ready to negotiate with the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as well, so the situation will be more bloody and worse. Until now, USD18 billion has been received by the Afghan government in these eight years, but some mothers of my country were ready to sell their children for ten dollars! When they do not have food to eat, how can they participate in the elections with empty stomachs, where the vote and hope has no role in these elections, and millions of Afghans did not take part in this election drama?

Role modelIn a country where guns, power and money have an upper hand, and the whole nation is living under the shadow of war, all basic human rights are being violently upset. The Afghan government, warlords of Northern Alliance, Taliban and the occupation forces each try in different degrees to suppress democratic-minded forces and elements.

Role model

The judiciary, executive and legislative bodies are infected with the fundamentalist viruses. My case itself is an example of injustice in Afghanistan that, despite national and international support and condemnation, the last answer of the Complaints Commission of Parliament was that expelling me from parliament is not enough—we must punish her with gun! Still, the language of the gun is inside of national house! Anyone who speaks the truth and exposes the crimes of these warlords are accused of blasphemy, murdered or forced to leave Afghanistan. These past two years were the bloodiest years for journalists—recently two young journalists, Jan Agha Hashimzada and Sultan Ali Munadi were killed.

Today, I just mentioned the tip of the iceberg of the ongoing disaster in my crying country. My people are squashed between two enemies, internal and external ones. If the U.S. continues their policies of supporting such dirty-minded elements, they will become more powerful than ever. Right now, our people are fighting two enemies. If the occupation troops leave, as their governments are the ones giving these warlords weapons, money and power, then it would be much easier to fight against one enemy instead of two. Since they do not want to support the democratic-minded people, they should leave as soon as it is possible, but there is no question that in this difficult and long struggle, we need the helping hand of the democratic-minded, peace-loving, and anti-war movements, and individuals around the world. Our history shows that we do not accept occupation. If they don’t leave voluntarily, they would face the resistance of our people in the near future as the killing of innocent people is increasing their resistance.

I would not be tired to announce from every tribune that democracy can’t be donated to a nation through occupation, cluster bombs and air raids. The horrible condition of Iraq and Afghanistan today proves it. Especially the history of the U.S. government’s involvement in countless other countries shows that it has only caused pain, destruction and bloodshed on other nations.

In Afghanistan every day we are mourning civilian casualties as a result of the U.S./NATO bombardments and the use of illegal massive weapons. In my own hometown, over 150 civilians, many of them women and children, were brutally killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 2000-pound bombs on two villages. Dropping thousands of cluster bombs and use of depleted-uranium and white phosphorus in bombs rained on Afghanistan have caused terrible environmental and health problems in my country.

The people of the United States should know that the people of Afghanistan want peace, liberation and democracy, but the current occupation is exactly against these values and has doubled our miseries and problems. We have come to the point that achieving these values is the sole responsibility of our people and its democratic-minded forces, those who claim to donate these values will only push us towered slavery.

I believe that the U.S./NATO governments in Afghanistan and wastes the tax-payers money in the wrong way. The money they are spending and the lives they are sacrificing is not for our poor people, but rather it adds to their miseries. So you should continue to put pressure on your government to pull out of Afghanistan.

People of the United States and the world should know that their troops are not in Afghanistan with gifts of freedom and democracy, but to nourish and support a bunch of criminal rulers—they are simply wasting their blood and money.

Afghan people have found by experience in the past few years that the West once used us in its chess game during the Cold War, which cost us over two million lives and completely destroyed Afghanistan’s infrastructure. Now they are trying to use us in another such power struggle against its rising rivals in Asia. Therefore, we say no to this occupation and want all the troops to withdraw Afghanistan as soon as possible.

The anti-occupation sentiments are very high among our people today. There have been many anti-U.S./NATO protests in every corner of Afghanistan, and if these troops did not pull out voluntarily, soon they will face greater resistance from our people. Terrorist groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda may get the most of out of these mass protests.

Girl powerOnly those nations who liberate themselves can be free and we are ready give any sacrifices for our freedom. We are happy that while Western governments bomb us, the great and peace loving people of these countries stand in solidarity with us and raise their voice against wrong-doings of their governments. Your solidarity and support give us encouragement and determination to fight for justice and true democracy in Afghanistan until the end.

Despite these difficulties and disasters, there are some alternatives. If the U.S. and its allies are really honest for my people, firstly they should apologize for their war crimes in the past and end the tragic occupation as soon as possible. Secondly, support the democratic organizations and individuals as they are against terrorism, fundamentalism and war. Thirdly, together with the UN, they must stop neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, etc, who support Taliban and Northern Alliance terrorists. Rather than negotiating with the barbaric Taliban, they should disarm the Northern Alliance and completely remove them from political power.

As long as these fundamentalists will be in power, there is no hope for any positive change in the lives of the men and women of my nation.

Let me conclude my speech with a quote from Alice Walker, who says: “I am a woman offering two flowers whose roots are twin, justice and hope.” With the permission of Ms. Walker, I would like to add: Let’s begin the struggle to achieve justice and democracy all over the world, especially in my devastated Afghanistan.

Thank you very much.

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Malalai Joya is one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out (Scribner, 2009). Visit her personal website here.

* This speech has been minimally edited for clarity – Shaun Randol, Editor