RAWA.org, November 7, 2015
[Voices of the Afghan Left Part I]: “We are on top of the black list”
An interview with one of the oldest revolutionary women organisations in Afghanistan
This is a rush transcript of a Skype interview of a RAWA member with the German leftist magazine, the Lower Class Magazine.
Jan [LCM]: Hello Heela, can you please introduce yourself and your organisation to our readers? How would you describe the political work you are into, in wgich parts of Afghanistan do you work and with what kind of problems are you confronted with?
Meena, leader of RAWA.
Heela [RAWA]: My name is Heela Faryal, but this is not my real name. All of our members are using pseudonymes due to the fact that we're suffering strong repression. I am a member of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), which is the oldest organisation in Afghanistan that fights for the rights of women, social rights and freedoms while taking a stand against the Afghan fundamentalists and their international backers. We work in all parts of Afghanistan, but face enormous difficulties: RAWA is the most hated name among the ruling class in Afghanistan, which consists basically of different warlords, who commited horrible and bloody war crimes in the past. A good example is Abdullah Abdullah, who today is playing an important role in Afghan politics. We are on top of their black list and have to work in a country, which is trapped in a choke-hold of the Taliban fundamentalists on the one side, and the Jehadis - that's how the warlords used to call themselves - on the other side. So it's very dangerous for us to work in most parts of Afghanistan. But it is still possible for us to continue our political activity in most parts of the country due to our contacts to locals and the fact that our activities are covered and secretly supported by the population. Our political work contains with immediate support in emergency situations, consultation, education and empowerment for women. But there are also areas, in which we are not able to work, because these areas are under the rule of particular brutal warlords and their plundering, raping and killing followers. We also document these kind of crimes , are therefore victims of persecution by these warlords and have to work secretly. We share this situation with all different kind of progressive organisations and movements in Afghanistan - especially with popular members of leftist parties like the “Solidarity Party of Afghanistan”.
Jan [LCM]: You already talked about Islamism in Afghan society. A lot of the Islamist warlords that drove the country to civil war in the 90s were to power again by the occupation forces and are today in high positions in all parts of the Afghan state. What is your explanation to the fact, that Islamist groups, which didn't have any relevance in the 70s, became so influential, that they not only were able to overthrow the former socialist government, but also regained power in Afghan politics today despite their numberless war crimes?
Islamic warlords of Afghanistan: Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mohammed Omar, Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Ismail Khan, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Gul Agha Sherzai.
Heela [RAWA]: First I want to point out that the government before the Jehadis, that means the several governments in the 70s and 80s, weren't socialist governments. This is a misconception that is very common outside of Afghanistan. In fact these so called “socialist governments”' were puppet-regimes of the USSR, which - as we all know - lost its socialist essence at the latest in the 70s and 80s. That's the reason why most of the regimes the USSR supported during that time weren't socialist or communist regimes. We cannot stop to repeat, that this so called “socialists”' did the heaviest blow to the most progressive parts of Afghan society - democrats, intellectuals, especially leftist activists - neither the Jehadis, nor the Taliban made a similar blow. Under their rule thousands of intellectuals and political activists were murdered. Basically they ruined the country long before the Jehadis came to any power. These people weren't socialists, they were just murderers - their government was a regime that worked like puppet-regime always worked around the world. To come back to your question: To cut a long story short Islamists in Afghanistan became so powerful, because of the financial, military and political support they gained from their international backers. One of the biggest funders till today are the USA, but also Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - a constant that can be followed from the times of the cold war to contemporary politics. Their bare existence is a result of this backing; they never had any support by the Afghan people and keep their strength only through their international support. A relevant part of them today receives backup by the US-Occupation forces, while others decline the collaboration with the NATO-forces. This simple truth was documented in several publications, amongst other things the engagement of the Pakistani secret service ISI in equipping, training and financing this groups.
Jan [LCM]: Let us talk about the Taliban. The Taliban is a fundamentalist milicia, that has its origins in the Afghani-Pakistani Pashtu borderlands and came to power due to the civil war between the different Jehadi groups fighting a bloody civil war in Afghanistan. They finally came to power in 1996 defeating the other groups in a lightning war. Can the Taliban - similar to the other Jehadist groups - also be described as a puppet-milicia that is backed by foreign powers or do they have any support in the population? Your organisation was also active during the Taliban period from 1996 to 2001; can you tell me something about your work under Taliban rule?
Play showing Farkhunda's brutal murder.
Heela [RAWA]: I should add that the different Islamist militias always received funding from different international powers and were influenced by their agenda. For example the Taliban were created as a tool for the Pakistani regime by its secret service ISI. But of course also in this case the US are involved - especially in financing the militia. That means that the Taliban never had any support within the Afghan population; nor had one of the other Jehadi groups. They were intentionally brought to power in 1996. To make this fact clear we have to understand what happened between 1996 and 2001: Never ever a country experienced such intense social backslide like Afghanistan under Taliban rule, and they have never been punished for their numberless crimes. Our activities during that time were basically the same: We organized education courses for women, although it was much harder for us to meet, because the women weren't allowed to make assemblies under Taliban rule. So we had to find excuses for this kind of meetings and pretended to celebrate weddings. This kind of work was quite important, because the schools were shut down and especially women were excluded of any kind of education. In addition RAWA was the only organisation that documented the crimes of the Taliban regime by camera; issues like the cut offs of hands, the executions of women and so on. A dangerous task - the Taliban illegalized cameras and the possession and use of them led immediately to execution. It's a sad fact that until 2001 no one was really interested in the material.
Jan [LCM]: 2001 the US founded - allegedly as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks - a war coalition, overthrew the Taliban Regime and occupied Afghanistan. How did the situation change in the following years and what do the Afghan people think about the occupation?
Heela [RAWA]: To be honest the situation - especially for RAWA - only got worse in the last years. The Afghan people suffered a state of war for almost 40 years, the bloody and brutal rule of the Jehadis and the Taliban, but never under the rule of foreign occupying forces. In this new situation we're threatened from many sides: from the Islamist warlords in the government, who are backed by the occupation forces on the one side, and the Taliban fundamentalist on the other side. The US-administration brought the most criminal and blood thirsty elements of the Afghan society to power again. The Jehadis that are now part of the new government are even worse than the Taliban; they have an even longer and more intense history of massacres and war crimes. Many of the current problems of Afghanistan result from this initial point: Afghanistan is one of the biggest drug-producers in the world. We face an exploding corruption that leads to the fact that although international funders invested billions of dollars in the reconstruction of the country, most parts of the country are still destroyed. Violence towards the Afghan women is higher than ever before; they're faced with honor killings, mistreatments, abductions and domestic violence. The whole chitchat about the liberation of Afghan women and the failure of the implementation of women's rights fails because that the occupation itself brought the most misogynist parts of Afghan society to power.
Jan [LCM]: Let's talk about the current situation. Few weeks ago the Taliban conquered the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. The new formed Afghan army seemed to be overcharged - it took several weeks till the army claimed to have reconquered all parts of the city. How can it be possible that the Taliban gained enough strength to capture one of the biggest cities in Afghanistan?
Kunduz hospital bombing by the US.
Heela [RAWA]: We can add that Kunduz only became a topic in the international press because the regional clinic of the renowned NGO “Doctors Without Borders”' was bombed during the recapture of the city by the US-Army. Due to this kind of incidents and the fact, that the bombings never stopped in the last 14 years many people suffer from constant fear and psychological problems. Concerning your question, you have to ask yourself how it can be possible that 2000 fighters with heavy weapons can just “appear” and conquer one of the most important cities of Afghanistan. The reason is evident: These kind of groups receive funding and arms from international backers - especially from the US-Administration and its secret services. Certainly also other countries have their part in plundering the country, but: Nothing in Afghanistan happens without the involvement of the US. With actions like this the US wants to ensure that a constant conflict is going on between the different Islamist groups, while arming and financing these groups independently from each other to legitimize the presence of US-troops in Afghanistan. This is exactly what happened in case of Kunduz. It's a tactical game. If the USA really wanted to fight the Taliban, they would use their whole military potential to crush the group overnight. This far superior military force pretends that they are not able to crush a medieval militia like the Taliban? That just doesn't make any sense! In addition to that we know several unofficial documents that prove that the higher ranks of the Afghan military and police collaborates with the Taliban in many ways.
Jan [LCM]: To come to the last and most important question: You described your country to be in a chokehold between the western-backed Warlords in the government, the Taliban and the occupation forces. Do you see any perspective for a progressive movement and change in Afghanistan being faced with this scenario?
Heela [RAWA]: Neither there is a diplomatic, nor a military solution to the current situation, because the US and the other occupation forces don't have any interest in the situation to be significantly changed. If the US really wanted to crush the military potential of the Taliban, they would do so within a month - with nothing left for the Taliban to work with. A diplomatic solution between the Taliban and the occupation regime would mean to bring the Taliban to power through peace talks. That means not only that these slaughterers will never receive any punishment for their numberless crimes, but also that they would become internationally accredited. This is not a solution for the Afghan people, but only a consolidation of the US-puppet-regime. Yes, the Taliban and the Jehadis have to be destroyed, but this cannot be done by the US. The US themselves are the biggest supporter of these kind of groups - not only in Afghanistan, but worldwide. Let's have a look at other countries: What kind of groups did they support in Iraq and Syria? ISIS is an immediate product of US foreign policy. Of course this group got out of their hands, but there is more than enough proof that the USA was involved in funding and equipping ISIS in the past. We could also backtrack this bloody history to the funding of pro-US and anti-democratic groups in Latin America and Asia. Real change for Afghanistan cannot be done by an external force or a military occupation. History shows that this is just impossible. And the history of the past 14 years is proof enough that in no country in the world peace, freedom and democracy can bloom under a military occupation. If there should be any change, it will have its origin in the Afghan people and the progressive movements of the country.