The big lie of Afghanistan

Inquiries into the 954 deaths in police custody since 1990 have all proved fruitless – and then this historic case comes along

The Guardian (UK), July 25, 2009
By Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya in Press Conference in Kabul on May 21
Malalai Joya talking to journalists in Kabul (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In 2005, I was the youngest person elected to the new Afghan parliament. Women like me, running for office, were held up as an example of how the war in Afghanistan had liberated women. But this democracy was a facade, and the so-called liberation a big lie.

On behalf of the long-suffering people of my country, I offer my heartfelt condolences to all in the UK who have lost their loved ones on the soil of Afghanistan. We share the grief of the mothers, fathers, wives, sons and daughters of the fallen. It is my view that these British casualties, like the many thousands of Afghan civilian dead, are victims of the unjust policies that the Nato countries have pursued under the leadership of the US government.

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.

I don't believe it is in your interests to see more young people sent off to war, and to have more of your taxpayers' money going to fund an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords and drug lords in power in Kabul.

For expressing my views I have been expelled from my seat in parliament, and I have survived numerous assassination attempts. The fact that I was kicked out of office while brutal warlords enjoyed immunity from prosecution for their crimes should tell you all you need to know about the "democracy" backed by Nato troops.

In the constitution it forbids those guilty of war crimes from running for high office. Yet Karzai has named two notorious warlords, Fahim and Khalili, as his running mates for the upcoming presidential election. Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House. As we say in Afghanistan, "the same donkey with a new saddle".

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.

This week, US vice-president Joe Biden asserted that "more loss of life [is] inevitable" in Afghanistan, and that the ongoing occupation is in the "national interests" of both the US and the UK.

I have a different message to the people of Britain. I don't believe it is in your interests to see more young people sent off to war, and to have more of your taxpayers' money going to fund an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords and drug lords in power in Kabul.

What's more, I don't believe it is inevitable that this bloodshed continues forever. Some say that if foreign troops leave Afghanistan will descend into civil war. But what about the civil war and catastrophe of today? The longer this occupation continues, the worse the civil war will be.

The Afghan people want peace, and history teaches that we always reject occupation and foreign domination. We want a helping hand through international solidarity, but we know that values like human rights must be fought for and won by Afghans themselves.

I know there are millions of British people who want to see an end to this conflict as soon as possible. Together we can raise our voice for peace and justice.