by Ish Theilheimer
Those who feel it is good news that the Afghanistan government is secretly negotiating with the Taliban won't get any reassurance from Malalai Joya. A year after her last visit to Canada, the outspoken former member of Afghanistan's parliament risks her life every day by speaking out against the three threats to her people: warlords, the Taliban and outside occupiers.
Known as "the most courageous woman in Afghanistan," Joya has faced at least four assassination attempts. She travels in Afghanistan in a burqa and stays in a different house every night.
The real reason for NATO's involvement is to protect its geopolitical interests and pipeline routes to Central Asian oil supplies.
Joya says that things in Afghanistan "go from worse to worse." Despite official spin, warlords and the Taliban control most of the country. The condition of women is worsening. "Since the implementation of the so-called new strategy of Obama in Afghanistan, the outcome is bloody for people."
On her first visit to Calgary, the 32-year-old said Afghanistan needs a helping hand in the fight for democracy and she hopes people who attended the talk will support her goal.
"We are in between two evil: the warlords and Taliban on one side, and the occupation on the other," Joya said. "The first step is to fight against occupation -- those who can liberate themselves will be free, even if it costs our lives."
"Day by day the gap between the rich and poor people is getting wider and wider."
The situation of women, she says, is so bad that last year 2,300 Afghan women killed themselves to escape torment. "In most of provinces, it's like hell," for women she said. If the Taliban comes in power, "The situation will be more disaster, more bloody, especially for the women."
NATO forces cite human rights and women's rights as their rationale for intervening, she says, but these are merely slogans intended to rally public support. The real reason for NATO's involvement is to protect its geopolitical interests and, especially, pipeline routes to Russian and other Central Asian oil supplies. [For more on this, see John Foster's paper for the CCPA A Pipeline Through a Troubled Land.]
The Hamid Karzai government, she says, is a "puppet" regime made up of "warlords, druglords, and gangsters." Much of the aid money it receives is funneled directly to the Taliban, by warlords who work both sides of the fence.
The Karzai government won the election by sham, she says. "It's not important who is voting, it's important who is counting," she said. "This election was just a show to confuse people around the world and give legitimacy to the puppet regime."
There are no simple solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan. There may be no solutions at all, but Joya says the first step must be a withdrawal of foreign troops. This seems inevitable anyway in view of flagging public support in the West for the costly war, in light of its apparent failure to make things any better at all for Afghans.
"In nine years they made powerful these warlords. Now they're negotiating with the Taliban."
The removal of foreign troops would create some space for Afghanistan's domestic democratic activists. "It's much easier to fight two enemies instead of three," says Joya. There are many people in Afghanistan, who are unknown outside the country, Joya says, who work quietly and at great personal danger to oppose both the Taliban and the warlords. They are "the great hope of Afghanistan," says Joya. "They need especially educational support, which is a key toward emancipation."
She dismissed criticism coming from feminists like Sally Armstrong that leaving Afghanistan would expose women to more abuse there. "It's just a big lie," she said, that women's rights are being defended by NATO. "When the occupation forces leave Afghanistan, we will fight two enemies instead of three."
There are many problems that complicate the woes of the people of Afghanistan, including tensions over the Kashmir territory between India and Pakistan, oil imperialism and the insane drug war. None of these has been or will be solved by waging more war halfway around the world.
It's time for a new approach: bring the troops home.
Ish Theilheimer is founder and president of Straight Goods News and has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.