'No liberation' for Afghan women

She called on the activists all over the world to express support oppressed women in Afghanistan.

BBC Sinhala Service, October 12, 2008
By Saroj Pathirana (audio)

Joya after receiving the award in London
Dissident Afghan MP, Malalai Joya, was the winner of 2008 Anna Politikovskaya award given by RAW in WAR

Women in Afghanistan were thrown into the frying pan from power by the West since Taleban were overthrown in 2001, a leading women’s activist said.

Malalai Joya, an MP currently suspended from the Afghan parliament said that people in women in Afghanistan are still suffering same fate as they used to be under Taleban regime.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sandeshaya after receiving the 2008 Anna Politkovskaya award for her courageous campaign against the warlords in Afghanistan, she said Afghanistan women are currently caught between two powerful enemies.

The award is organized by RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in war) in memory of the outspoken Russian journalist who was killed in her flat in Moscow on 07 October 2006.

Anna Politkovskaya award

Anna Politkovskaya was a strong critic of Kremlin’s war against Chechen rebels.

Afghanistan's new government and the western authorities pledged swift action to improve the lives of women after the fall of the Taleban, in 2001.

However, the women are currently suffering the same fate as they used to suffer under Taleban, Malalai Joya said.

Her claim is confirmed by other independent organisations. Afghanistan's independent human rights commission says violence against women has increased over the past year.

A report by the international women's organisation Womankind Worldwide earlier said millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face discrimination and violence in their day-to-day lives.

Both Taleban and the Mujahideen warlords are still accused of raping very young girls, some as young as four years, in the northern Afghanistan, Ms. Joya says.

A son of powerful MP was accused of rape but instead of trying to bring him to justice, she says, the MP has changed his son’s birth certificate to make him a much younger to avoid his arrest.

Ms. Joya was expelled from Loya Girga in December 2003 for questioning the presence of the Mujahideen warlords in the new “democratic” administration supported by the western powers.

Assassination attempts

She was given UN protection after the incident. She was elected to parliament in 2005, campaigning for women's rights.

Ms Joya, 30, was suspended from the parliament said in a television interview that parliament was worse than a stable because, she said, at least stable animals were useful.

She has survived four assassination attempts.

"I am moved from house to house on a daily basis," she said after receiving Anna Politkovskaya award in London on 06 October.

Afghanistan that has been marred with conflicts for over two decades is currently run by a mafia group, she says.

She called on the West to withdraw their troops if they don’t change the policy of supporting “criminal” warlords who she accuse of corruption and oppressing women with the blessings of western powers.

“Many women are once again forced to wear burqa even in the capital. Girls in Farah province are willing to go to school but their school was burnt down by Taleban. Yes few women got job and education opportunities but majority of women still suffer,” she told BBC Sinhala Service.

President Karzai is so powerless in the face of “criminal” warlords he is jokingly referred to as the ‘Mayor of Kabul’, according to Ms. Joya.

The US-led coalition overthrew the Taleban administration promising to bring peace and democracy to the war-torn South Asian country.

US' strategic interests

And that is exactly what Afghanistan lacks after seven years of new administration, according to the dissident parliamentarian.

She says her motherland has been a playground of world’s powerful nations for decades.

“Warlords have committed the same crimes as Taleban but nobody is brought to justice. There is no difference between these people and Pinochet, Musolini, Hitler, so on. In Afghanistan, only the law is the jungle prevails. Killing a woman is like killing a bird here”.

She recalls of incidents in which four journalists, who were critical of the government, were beaten by the warlords inside the parliament.

The United States, according to Ms. Joya, has no intention of leaving Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

“The US is happy with the situation in the country. It suits their strategic policies. They use the Taleban insurgency as an excuse to stay longer in Afghanistan”.

The winner of the 2008 Anna Politkovskaya award says people have no expectations of the coming elections as they will be conducted by the same “criminal” warlords who are supported and financed by the US.

She called on the activists all over the world to express support oppressed women in Afghanistan.

Joya after receiving the award in London

Joya delivers speech after receiving the award in London