Afghan Hero Malalai Joya: "A Continuation Of A War Crime"

Written by The Left Coaster Wednesday, 02 December 2009 23:36


"The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" is an understatement. Malalai Joya is one of the bravest people in the entire world.

By Turkana, The Left Coaster, December 2, 2009

Malalai Joya

To those who believe we are escalating the war in Afghanistan to benefit the Afghan people, I suggest you read the words of Malalai Joya. To those who believe we are escalating the war in Afghanistan to benefit Afghan women, I suggest you read the words of Malalai Joya. To those who believe we are escalating the war in Afghanistan because we owe the Afghan people, I suggest you read the words of Malalai Joya.

Who is Malalai Joya? As I wrote in 2007:

Malalai Joya is just five feet tall, unassuming and soft-spoken. On May 21 (2007), she was suspended from the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament for having in an interview compared the Afghan legislature to a stable or zoo.

As Human Rights Watch explained:

Joya, 28, is the youngest member of the Afghan legislature. As a 19-year-old refugee in Pakistan, she taught literacy courses to other Afghan women. During the Taliban years, she ran an orphanage and health clinic in Afghanistan. In 2003, she gained international attention for speaking out publicly against warlords involved in drafting the Afghan Constitution. Two years later, she was the top vote-getter from Farah province in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, and was easily elected to the lower house of the legislature.

Since her election, Joya has continued to be an outspoken defender and promoter of the rights of Afghan women and children. She has also continued to publicly call for accountability for war crimes, even those perpetrated by fellow parliamentarians.

Joya has survived four assassination attempts, travels with armed guards and reportedly never spends two nights in the same place.

So, she might know of what she speaks. In July of this year, she wrote in The Guardian:

Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.

You must understand that the government headed by Hamid Karzai is full of warlords and extremists who are brothers in creed of the Taliban. Many of these men committed terrible crimes against the Afghan people during the civil war of the 1990s....

So far, Obama has pursued the same policy as Bush in Afghanistan. Sending more troops and expanding the war into Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire. Like many other Afghans, I risked my life during the dark years of Taliban rule to teach at underground schools for girls. Today the situation of women is as bad as ever. Victims of abuse and rape find no justice because the judiciary is dominated by fundamentalists. A growing number of women, seeing no way out of the suffering in their lives, have taken to suicide by self-immolation.

And this past Monday, also in The Guardian:

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.

This may come as a surprise to some, but Joya believes Afghanistan can solve its own problems. Joya doesn't believe Afghanistan needs some self-important foreign power to save it.

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.

Who is Malalai Joya? As I wrote in 2007, when a different American administration was "helping" Afghanistan by blowing it to bits:

Undaunted, she courageously refuses to be silenced. On June 18, Reuters reported:

Washington "supports the same enemies, who are mentally like the Taliban. ... They brought them back into power," soft-spoken Joya told Reuters in an interview during her first visit to the United States.

"This is the wrong policy. Do not support fundamentalist warlords," she said. "Every day for the people of Afghanistan is September 11. Please pressure your government to change this policy, it is a mockery of democracy, it is a mockery of the war on terror."

We all say the same, but we don't risk our lives when we do so. Everything the Bush Administration does is a mockery, and it is genuine heroes like Malalai Joya who suffer the consequences.

"Many, many times they insulted me, even inside of the parliament they threw water at me and they threatened me with death, and one of them shouted, 'Take her and rape her,'" she said. "They turned off my microphone."

These are the people our government supports, as it pretends to fight terrorism. In an interview with Anthony Kaufman of The American Prospect, Joya elaborates:

"I understand that one day they will kill me, because it's easy for them to kill people, especially women," she says about her enemies in Afghanistan, namely the former Taliban members, tribal warlords, and Northern Alliance fighters. These are the people who currently comprise Afghanistan's government -- people that Joya frequently denounces as "killers" and "criminals."

"But this is the voice of the voiceless people of Afghanistan," she continues. "And they can't silence this voice and they can't hide the truth. And they understand that."

According to Kaufman, she laughs as she says this.

"Because I have hopes for my people, for my country, and I have supporters around the world, and I am happy that at least I am not alone," she explains. "And I trust my people and I believe in democracy, women's rights and human rights and I believe this isn't something that's given and we must make sacrifices."

She pleads that we, the American people, stand up for her, her people, and her cause. She emphasizes that people responsible for the massacres in Afghanistan during the Taliban's reign now hold important positions in our puppet President Hamid Karzai's government.

"I'm here to tell you: Please pressure your government to stop this wrong policy of supporting fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan who are brothers of the Taliban."

Joya's main goal is to clean up Afghanistan's leadership from what she calls "warlord-ism" and "druglord-ism." To back up her claims, the country remains the largest worldwide producer of opium and heroin, and according to Human Rights Watch, many of the country's new legislators, including up to 60 percent of deputies in the lower house of Parliament, have been directly or indirectly tied to current and past human rights abuses. In speeches, Joya has called the Afghan government "the most corrupt and unpopular in the world."

Joya is in New York, as an award-winning documentary about her 2003 political campaign, Enemies of Happiness, screens at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. She will return to Afghanistan, and again live with daily threats against her life. Meanwhile, we will blog in the security of our own homes, offices, and other internet access points, while the Bush Administration makes her homeland hell.

You can hear Malalai Joya in the Democracy Now interview from which I took the title of this post.

You can also read the links, and contribute to The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya.

"The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" is an understatement. Malalai Joya is one of the bravest people in the entire world.

Malalai Joya continues to be one of the bravest people in the world. And under a different administration, the United States continues to work against the best interests of her and her country. Maybe, instead, someone ought to listen to her.