By Ashley Blum
Eight years following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the human rights situation has not improved, Zoya, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, said in a lecture in Carpenter hall on Tuesday. Zoya, who does not disclose her full name for security purposes, described how her organization seeks to promote peace, democracy and human rights in her lecture, “War and Reconstruction from the Perspective of Afghanistan’s Revolutionary Women.”
Oct.9, 2009: Zoya speaking in Montgomery College, Rockville Maryland.
Zoya said that the United States has attempted to use the establishment of democracy, the liberation of women and the war on terror to legitimize its “occupation” of Afghanistan.
The status of women in Afghanistan has largely not improved as much since U.S. forces entered the country, despite media coverage suggesting otherwise, Zoya said. Women may no longer be legally required to wear burkhas and girls can attend school, but few women feel comfortable doing so because of security concerns, she said. Zoya described the progress of the past eight years as “purely cosmetic.”
Describing the country’s most recent presidential election as “a mockery of democracy,” Zoya argued that there are several problems with the current Afghani government.
Voter intimidation and corruption were common features of the election, Zoya said, adding that she does not believe the new leaders will enact change.
“We have a Persian proverb — the same donkey with a new saddle,” she said.
Terrorists have actually gotten stronger in the last eight years, Zoya said.
“The war on terror is like [a] Tom and Jerry game between the Taliban and America,” she said.
The United States has also supported fundamentalist groups that are not any better for Afghanistan than the Taliban was, Zoya said.
“If you are there to support democracy, why don’t you support democratic parties?” she asked.
Zoya questioned why a superpower like the United States, allied with other countries from around the world, has been unable to defeat a relatively small group like the Taliban.
She also criticized the international aid establishment in Afghanistan, saying that very little money actually goes to humanitarian efforts.
Zoya emphasized, however, that her criticism is directed towards the U.S. government’s foreign policy, not the American people.
RAWA members would like to see the United States withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, Zoya said.
Although the group initially welcomed the U.S. presence, RAWA changed its stance after learning that the United States is allegedly helping fundamentalist groups.
“I think it’s the Afghan people’s responsibility to fight [against fundamentalist groups],” she said.
Zoya said her organization seeks to promote democracy within Afghanistan by helping to fund and create alliances between democratic political parties to allow them to resist the fundamentalist groups.