We don't need Canada's 'heroes,' Afghan MP tells Victoria rally

Material, moral support is welcome, she says, but soldiers unwittingly back U.S., warlords

Times Colonist (Victoria), October 29, 2007
Richard Watts

Joya in Canada
Afghan activist Malalai Joya speaks at an anti-war rally at the cenotaph in front of B.C. legislature yesterday. Joya, the youngest member of the Afghan parliament, says Canadian soldiers fighting the Taliban are unwitting agents of U.S. foreign policy. (Photo: Bruce Stotesbury)

Afghan activist Malalai Joya speaks at an anti-war rally at the cenotaph in front of B.C. legislature yesterday. Joya, the youngest member of the Afghan parliament, says Canadian soldiers fighting the Taliban are unwitting agents of U.S. foreign policy.

Afghanistan doesn't need Canada's soldiers but would be grateful for any material and moral support, a female member of the Afghan parliament said yesterday.

Malalai Joya said Canadian soldiers -- "heroes" she called them -- now fighting the Taliban are unwitting agents of U.S. foreign policy, which in itself is supporting an Afghan government dominated by the country's warlords and drug lords.

"Today our people are like sandwiches between two powerful enemies," said Joya speaking of the warlords and U.S.

She was speaking in Victoria at an antiwar rally at the cenotaph in front of B.C. legislature organized by the Canada Out of Afghanistan Campaign.

Joya, 29, is the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament. In December 2003 she became famous for her public stands against the domination of the Afghan politics by what she called armed "warlords."

Since her stand, Joya has survived four assassination attempts and now travels around the country disguised under a burqa and only with armed guards. Earlier this year she was suspended from the Afghan parliament.

The demonstration occurs in the weeks leading up to the Remembrance Day ceremonies and only a day after anti-war demonstrations occurred in cities across Canada and the globe.

Joya is now travelling across Canada and said she hopes Canadians will listen to her message and pressure the federal government into providing financial and material support to the democratic forces within Afghanistan and stop taking part in what she calls a pointless occupation.

"We are facing occupations and our people are being occupied," said Joya.

"But our history shows we do not want occupation," she said.

Joya said democratic, freedom-loving people, who respect women's rights and religious freedoms, exist in Afghanistan. But they are not being heard.

"The silence of the good people is worse than the actions of the bad people," she said.

Valerie Lannon, spokeswoman for the Canada Out of Afghanistan Campaign, said yesterday's demonstration was about letting people now the best way to support Canadian troops is to bring them home.

Afghanistan's problems, whether its with the Taliban or warlords or whatever, are for the people of Afghanistan to solve, said Lannon.

Canadian troops "are supporting an [Afghan] government that is oppressing the people of Afghanistan," said Lannon.

"We need to understand that we are a small part of a very large NATO mission that is led by the U.S. war on terror," she said.


Joya in NDP Convention
Jack Layton, Stephen Lewis and Malalai Joya in the NDP convention (September 2006).