New Statesman, January 31, 2010
Malalai Joya talks about her hopes for her country, her heroes and the London conference
The US government doesn't want a democratic Afghanistan, so it counts on its puppets who are anti-democracy and anti-woman to the marrow of their bones.
Interview by Mehdi Hasan
What is your earliest memory?
I was only four days old when the coup of 27 April took place and the Russian puppet regime was installed in Afghanistan [in 1978]. One of my earliest memories is of clinging to my mother's legs while police ransacked our house, looking for my father. They turned it upside down searching for clues, emptying everything out of drawers, ripping open mattresses and pillows.
Do you still hope to return to the Afghan parliament?
Malalai Joya iwth her guard in Kabul, Jan.2010 (Photo: New Statesman)
Yes. I have challenged my illegal suspension in court, although in two years there has been no progress. My case is being followed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but it is also deeply fed up with the Afghan parliament, as it only makes empty promises.
I knew from the very first day in parliament that it is a meeting place for the worst enemies of the Afghan people. The majority are warlords, drug lords and human rights violators. The parliament in occupied Afghanistan is a show of democracy. It has not brought anything positive to the Afghan people in the past five years and it will not do anything for my people in future. They have only passed laws that are anti-democratic and anti-woman.
When I was in parliament, these brutal men and women gave me a hard time. They regarded me as an obstacle to their sinister plans. My suspension was a political conspiracy. But I still want to return to this defamed and undemocratic parliament, as I regard it as a good platform from which to raise the voice of my voiceless people and expose the parliament's reactionary nature from within. There, I can challenge the brutal and powerful warlords, so they cannot pass their laws easily, far from the eyes of the Afghan people.
Who are your political heroes?
I don't want to name a specific person. My people, the suppressed millions, are my heroes. They are the real source of any positive change in Afghanistan and their power is stronger than anything else. And anti-war protesters around the world, those who are standing against the destructive policies of world powers. There is a superpower in the world besides the US government -- world public opinion.
What inspires you to keep going?
The suffering of my people, especially women.
Do you live in fear, or hope?
Both. I fear that I will not live to see freedom for Afghanistan and a joyful life for my people in a democratic and just society. But I have great hope that we will eventually be free, democratic and prosperous and that this can be achieved by the men and women of my own country.
In the past 30 years of conflict, we lost everything in Afghanistan. But it also taught us many things. Our people's political consciousness and awareness were raised and they do not accept the domination of national and foreign invaders or criminal forces. This is a great asset in the Afghan people's struggle for liberation and it gives me hope for a bright future.
What do you believe the Afghanistan summit in London can achieve?
I don't expect anything positive from the London conference at all. Since 2001, there have been a number of conferences. They have only pushed Afghanistan further into the hands of the occupying forces and their local agents.
The Afghan government begs for funding from the international community in the name of its people, but the billions of dollars poured into the country are looted by warlords, drug lords, national and international NGOs and government officials. Much of it goes back into the pockets of the donor countries.
According to US government sources, more than $60bn in aid has been given to Afghanistan since 2001. Such a huge amount could have turned Afghanistan into a paradise, if it were properly spent. But that money did not reach the needy people, so I am sure that any other amount sent in future will have no impact on poor Afghans and will only widen the gap between rich and poor.
Over 70 per cent of Afghans are living below the poverty line, but the Afghan government spent $4.2m on a luxury apartment in the Trump World Tower in New York for Zahir Tanin, the permanent representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations. This is one small example how the international aid is wasted.
The conference will prepare the ground for the return to power of the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Islamic Party [Hezb-e-Islami]. The Afghan government says it will ask the world leaders there to remove the name of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, from the Security Council's blacklist. Ordinary Afghans have no faith in such conferences.
What is your opinion of Hamid Karzai?
Among Afghans, a king called Shah Shuja is hated for being an agent of 19th-century British rule. When the Russians installed Babrak Karmal, he was called the second Shah Shuja. The US and its allies have tried hard over the years to portray Hamid Karzai as a powerful leader but, for Afghans, his government is the most corrupt and unpopular in our modern history. Karzai is the third Shah Shuja -- a US puppet who has also joined hands with our internal enemies.
His own brothers have been accused of involvement in the drugs trade. Ahmed Wali Karzai, his half-brother, is allegedly on the payroll of the CIA.
What about Barack Obama?
It is now clear to many people around the world that Obama is a warmonger, no different from Bush. The big hopes that the US people had for him are gradually turning into despair. His popularity is dropping faster than any previous US president's at this stage of office.
Obama is making the world more unjust and insecure by waging new wars in Pakistan, Iran and Yemen, and also by increasing troops in Afghanistan. While billions of people around the world and inside the US are living in poverty, he is increasing the Pentagon's overall budget in fiscal 2011 to a record $708bn, which is ridiculous. Spent in the right way, this huge amount could ensure peace and prosperity around the world.
Those who supported Obama as a hope for change should have reviewed his past. During his time in the US Senate, he voted for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he voted for the Patriot Act, he refused to support a bill for single-payer health care, he supported the death penalty, and so on. He came to power with corporate backers. They want him to continue the US's militarism and he obeys.
I hope Obama will be a lesson to the US people that, as long as the current political system is in place there, no president, white or black, will bring any major "change". In the best case, they will cause some cosmetic changes, nothing more.
How has Afghanistan changed since the fall of the Taliban?
The US and its allies occupied Afghanistan after 11 September 2001 under the banner of bringing peace, democracy and women's rights. But they replaced the barbaric Taliban with the brutal Northern Alliance -- who look different but are mentally similar. This act betrayed human rights.
Afghanistan is not only a safe haven for terrorism today, it is a mafia state and is ranked at the top of the most unstable countries in the world. Afghanistan produces 93 per cent of world opium and even some ministers and Karzai's family have been implicated in the dirty business. Turning Afghanistan into the world capital of opium was part of the US's and Nato's hidden agenda and they have reached their goal.
The situation for women is as catastrophic today as it was before. In some big cities, some women and girls have access to jobs and education, but in most provinces women's lives are hell. In rural areas, most women do not even have a human life. Forced marriages, child brides and domestic violence are very common. Gang rape is becoming more common day by day in Afghanistan, more common than it has ever been in the history of our country. Self-immolation is at a peak. Every day, we receive news of women who burn themselves to death to get out of their awful destitution and plight.
What was the last book you read?
Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam by Robert Dreyfuss. Reading this book, one can better understand that the current "war on terror" is a hoax -- a family issue between the US government and its fundamentalist creations. I do not agree with certain points in the book, but I recommend it to everyone who wants to know about the hidden, dirty games played by the US and its allies in Afghanistan over the past decades. It will be an eye-opener for those who regard the Taliban, Iran's fascist regime and other fundamentalist forces as "anti-imperialist".
What security precautions do you have to take, now that your life is under threat?
Since I was expelled from parliament, life has been very difficult for me inside Afghanistan. I have been restricted from free movement and meeting people in different parts of Afghanistan, so I have tried to advance my efforts on international platforms. I change homes often and can't have an office. I wear a burqa outside and travel with bodyguards, and I don't attend public meetings. But I still don't feel safe. I receive threats.
Do you think the majority of Afghan women support your view of the Karzai government?
Yes, I am very sure they do. I am talking about women who are suffering and have no voice, those women who mostly live in the countryside, deprived of everything. They are completely ignored by the media, too.
Your critics say you don't represent them.
Most of my critics are warlords, Taliban or US puppets. Many of the women in the Afghan parliament are critics, as they are, unfortunately, female warlords. The US government has a handful of Afghan women in Kabul who are used as showpieces: they are given awards, featured by the western mainstream media and sent to important international meetings as representatives of Afghanistan. Such women try to whitewash the wrongdoings of the US and its puppet regime and justify the US occupation of Afghanistan.
They comprise a small minority, living luxurious lives in Kabul or other major Afghan cities, and have not experienced the brutalities of recent years. From the occupation, they have gained wealth and fame, and they are afraid to lose it from the withdrawal of the US troops. It is natural that such Afghans rise against me.
What are the chances for a better life for Afghan women while foreign troops are still in the country? Do you believe that is part of their purpose in being there, as they say it is?
"A Woman Among Warlords", a book by Malalai Joya.
Only some cosmetic and symbolic changes have been made. Most of the 68 women sent to the parliament are pro-warlord; the women's ministry has done nothing for women at all.
We Afghans know well that the US and its allies occupied Afghanistan for their own strategic, economic and regional interests and don't care about the wishes of our people. So the "liberation" of Afghan women was never part of the real agenda. It is just a lie. The so-called freedom given by the US to Afghanistan is enjoyed mainly by the warlords and drug lords, who are free to commit their crimes and do their drug trafficking.
Don't polls show Afghan support for the western military presence?
This is not only a military war, but also a war of propaganda. A recent BBC survey said that 70 per cent of Afghans think that the country is headed in the right direction and 71 per cent support Karzai. Even animals make fun of the figures! If Karzai is so popular, why did he have to win the election by fraud? Unfortunately, the western mainstream media are playing a very negative role. It is not honest to the Afghan people.
You want foreign forces out -- but what then?
Afghans face three enemies: the occupying forces, the Taliban and the warlords. When the US pulls out, the Taliban and the warlords will lose their guardian. It will be easier for Afghans to unite and crush these internal enemies.
The US government doesn't want a democratic Afghanistan, so it counts on its puppets who are anti-democracy and anti-woman to the marrow of their bones. Today, friends of the US in Afghanistan are dark-minded, criminal people.
Afghanistan will never see democracy and freedom when such dirty elements are real power-holders and policymakers.
Can democracy ever flourish in a tribal and conservative society like Afghanistan?
We are living in the 21st century. The world has turned into a global village. Years of conflict have changed Afghanistan and its people's political knowledge has increased. It is the US and its puppets who try to give a bad name to democracy in Afghanistan.
Our people want democracy but now know that occupation will never bring democracy for them. Because democracy without independence has no meaning. When Afghan people raise their voice for independence, western forces call them "tribal" and "anti-democracy", while those barbaric warlords and Taliban who have accepted the US occupation and are in the parliament are called "democrats"!
What would you like to forget?
The cheap attacks of my enemies.
Are we all doomed?
No. We can change our destiny by our struggle and efforts.
This interview is originally published in the New Statesman Magazine on January 25, 2010
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