Joya addresses Convention of New Democratic Party of Canada

"Joya charged that the US is propping up a government of corrupt warlords and fundamentalists."

The Arab American News, Sep.17, 2006
Reuel S. Amdur

Joya in NDP Convention
Joya's speech in the NDP convention was responded by the audience warmly.

It came as no surprise that the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) voted - at its convention in Quebec City on September 9 - in favor of withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan. Their leader, Jack Layton, had expressed that view recently himself. What was an interesting feature of the event, however, were the views expressed by Malalai Joya, a 28-year-old member of the Afghan National Assembly, who addressed the convention.

Joya also spoke on September 13 to a packed 450-seat lecture hall at the University of Ottawa. In that talk she contrasted the desperate conditions in which her countrymen live. The country stands 175th out of 177 on the U.N. Human Development Index with the billions being poured into the country for rehabilitation and development, much of which, she said, goes into the pockets of the warlords.

Joya charged that the United States is propping up a government of corrupt warlords and fundamentalists, citing Human Rights Watch as finding that 70% of her National Assembly colleagues are accused of human rights violations. She claimed that they are former Communist government officials, drug lords, Talibans, and "killers" from the Northern Alliance.

According to Joya, the Northern Alliance fundamentalists are at least as bad as the Taliban, and it is not just the Taliban who burn schools that teach girls. She described her country as being infected with a fundamentalist misogyny, resulting in widespread rape of girls and women, toleration of domestic violence, and death by stoning. The Cabinet has recently decided to reinstate the old Taliban Department of Vice and Virtue.

She also pointed to her country's position as the leading source of opium in the world, accounting for 92% of the production. Joya accused government officials of involvement in the drug trade. She also said that President Hamid Karzai is "in the hands of criminals," citing his recent appointment of 13 commanders of militias with links to crime to top positions in the police force.

Joya has been the target of four assassination attempts, and she has been assaulted on the floor of the National Assembly for her attacks on the warlords and fundamentalists. Everywhere she goes in Afghanistan she is accompanied by bodyguards and she sleeps in a different house each night. She declares that she will continue her struggle against the warlords and for women's rights as long as she is alive. Her political opponents are intent on making that time as short as possible.

While the NDP favors withdrawal, the Canadian Parliament voted in May to extend Canada's troop commitment till 2009. The vote was very close, but many voted against because they wanted a fuller discussion and explanation of Canada's role. The Conservative Party which heads a minority government supports the continued military commitment in Afghanistan, and the opposition Liberal Party is split, with a strong feeling that the Canadian role requires further examination. The separatist Bloc Québecois is siding with the Conservatives.

Joya in NDP Convention
Jack Layton, Stephen Lewis and Malalai Joya in the NDP convention.