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'White House will pick Afghan leader'

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The election is a showcase of the US government

By GRAEME GREEN published in Metro (UK), August 18, 2009

Malalai Joya - Kabul

Malalai Joya, 31, is the youngest member of the Afghanistan parliament. She has made enemies with her speeches denouncing President Karzai's government and has survived several assassination plots. Her book, Raising My Voice (Rider, £11.99), is out now

Were you prepared for the consequences of the speeches you made against the government?

In parliament, they couldn’t tolerate me because I told the truth. They turned off my microphone so I couldn’t talk, they insulted and threatened me. There are people saying even though they’ve expelled me from parliament, it’s not enough: ‘We must punish her with the Kalashnikov.’

How many assassination attempts have you survived

From 2003 until now, five. Almost every night now, I move from one safe house to another and I have bodyguards but it’s still not safe.

Are you prepared to die for what you believe in?

Samad Behrangi, an Iranian writer, said: ‘Death could very easily come now, but I should not be the one to seek it. If I should meet it and that is inevitable, it would not matter. What matters is whether my living or dying has had any effect on the lives of others.’ My enemies are trying to eliminate me. I’m not the first – other democratic men and women in my country have been killed – but I believe no power is able to hide the truth.

Cover of Joya's book
"Raising My Voice" By Malalai Joya

Do you think the government is still corrupt?

We democrats have two options: one, to compromise with a warlord, drug-lord government, those who came into power after 9/11 with the mask of democracy. To compromise with people who are like Pinochet, Hitler, Khomeini… The second way is to tell the truth and not sit silent. It’s a mockery of democracy in Afghanistan. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime who are responsible for killing, torture and repression.

Many people in Britain don’t know what the war is about. What do people in Afghanistan think it’s about?

People have always wanted to occupy Afghanistan because of its geopolitical location and also to have access to the valuable gas and oil of the Central Asian Republics.

Is life better for Afghans now than it was under the Taliban?

No, the situation is as bad as it was. Men and women of my country suffer from injustice, insecurity, joblessness, poverty, corruption. Eighteen million people in Afghanistan live on less than two dollars a day. We have ‘jungle law’. I have meetings with young girls and children who have been brutally raped.

There’s been outrage in Britain at each British soldier killed in the conflict. Should there be the same level of outrage for every Afghan civilian killed?

Of course. The blood of our people is shed like water. In May, in Farah province alone, more than 150 civilians were killed by air strikes, most of them women and children. Bombing doesn’t bring peace. Occupation forces are bombing and killing innocent civilians, and the Taliban are also terrorising and killing people.

What do you hope to see happen in Afghanistan’s future?

These criminals in government have no support among the hearts of our people. But we need democratic-minded people around the world to support us. All the British families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan should raise their voice against injustice, and also against more of their taxes funding an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords in power in Kabul.

Are you hopeful about tomorrow’s elections?

The election is a showcase of the US government. We have a famous saying that it’s not important who is voting, it’s important who is counting. The next president of Afghanistan will be selected behind the closed doors of the White House.