The “bravest woman in Afghanistan,” Malalai Joya
St. Joan of Arc Church, Minneapolis on April 1, 2011.
Sponsored by Women Against Military Madness
Full text of the talk by Malalai Joya. Transcription by Mary Beaudoin
This transcription is literal. You will find that the language is therefore not smooth English, but nonetheless understandable. Special thanks to Mary for this transcription. [Items in brackets are added by the editors.]
Introduction by Marie Braun
Malalai Joya is on tour to promote the second edition of [her book] Raising My Voice, A Woman Among the Warlords [Paperback edition, updated with Afterword.] As many of you know her travel visa was denied. Supporters immediately mounted a protest campaign that included Letters from the ACLU, groups of writers and academics and nine members of congress including our own [Representatives] Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum. Senator Franken also called the embassy where she was trying to get her visa and sent a letter to the State Department, so we want to thank all of them for the help that they gave us to make sure than Malalai was with us tonight.
Joya gained international attention when as an elected delegate at a constitutional assembly inKabulin 2003 she stood up and denounced her country’s powerful U.S./NATO backed warlords. She was only 25 years old. Two years later she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan’s new parliament.
In 2007 she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords, the drug barons and their cronies. She said they didn’t belong there. Her suspension generated international protests and her reinstatement was demanded and signed by high profile intellectuals and writers such as Noam Chomsky and politicians including members of the parliaments from Canada, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Italy. Since her suspension, Malalai Joya has continued to be an outspoken critic of warlords, fundamentalists, the Taliban, and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.
She is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for the women of Afghanistan. In 2010 Time Magazine named her one [top 100 People of Influence in the world]. Foreign Policy Magazine listed her in its annual list of top 100 global thinkers, and she was named one of The Guardian newspaper’s top 100 activists and campaigners just last month [March 2011]. She has received many, many international awards and recognition for human rights, justice and democracy in Afghanistan. Her personal cost: many death threats and four actual assassination attempts.
In response to the continual threats on her life, Malalai has said: “You can cut the flower, but you can’t stop the coming of spring.”
Let me first say a few sentence about the reason of refusing my visa. I think it has a political reason because not only in the U.S. when I traveled in the past, but also when I attended some international conferences in other western countries on behalf of my people, I exposed the wrong policies of the warmongers who commit crimes in my country under the name of democracy, human rights, woman rights. I inform justice loving people of the U.S. and around the world about the wrong policies of their government, of the tax payers money, billions of dollars that their government sent to Karzai’s puppet mafia regime.
Most of this money goes into the pockets of these warlords, drug lords, criminals, even ironically Taliban, and also I informed them that it was the U.S. government and NATO that after 9/11 tragedy they pushed us from the frying pan into the fire because they released these fundamentalist warlords who are photocopy of Taliban. From ’92 to ’96 they [the warlords] were in power and committed many crimes in a civil war in my country. Alone in Kabul City, they killed more than 65,000 innocent people.
Same like Taliban many crimes against women’s rights, human rights but after 9/11 wear the mask of democracy with suit and tie was imposed on my people. That’s why conditions day by day goes from worse to worse. I think this is something that the warmongers in White House can’t hear as they try to use their huge propaganda machine─the corporate media─to hide these realities from your eyes.
But I want to tell you a couple years ago Karzai, the U.S.’s puppet regime in Kabul, imposed a travel ban on me and now U.S. government imposed ban. They want to block my voice. I want to tell you that they never can block my voice. They never can stop me from spreading my message around the world against the Occupation and for democracy and peace.
The western governments are bombing and killing innocent civilians, people of my country under the name of “so-called” War on Terror, but we are so honored, so happy, and I’m speechless on behalf of my people for solidarity—that great people of these countries stand in solidarity with my people—let the poor, suffering people of my country raise their voice against the wrong policies of their government.
You have a warmonger like Obama and a war criminal like Bush, but you should be very honored that you have Professor Noam Chomsky and many Chomskys, like you, who they raise their voices against the wrong doing of their government against war and war crimes.
Ten years ago U.S./NATO invaded my country under the banner of woman rights, human rights. I am often asked situation under the domination of the Taliban. While there are many media hypes in the voices about improving women condition but the women of Afghanistan in many provinces they don’t even have human life. Killing of woman that much easier for the warlords and Taliban like killing a bird. Rape cases, domestic violence, acid attacks, burning their schools, poison gas against the schools, and many, many other miseries. Violence is increasing rapidly even historical [even from an historical perspective.]
Maybe you hear the story of Aisha in Time Magazine. The headline says, “What happens to the woman of Afghanistan if we leave?” But I’m telling you on behalf of my people it would be better to ask: “What’s happening to the women while we are there?” They misuse the women of my country for their propaganda machine. They never let you see disfigured women and children when they use white phosphorous and plastic bomb on them.
Why? Because their brutalities and war crimes will be exposed to justice-loving people in their countries. Many people ask me how they can help Afghan woman—firstly, war can never help Afghan woman, not only women but men and women. Secondly, if the U.S. and NATO [if] they left us [a little bit bread? inaudible] left us in peace then we know what to do with our destiny. And I’m sure many Afghan men will stand in solidarity with women. During these ten years of Occupation the women of my country, they didn’t got the limited rights they enjoyed in the 60s and 70s. During these nine years of Occupation, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed—most of them innocent men, women and children.
Not only these troops, brutal Occupation forces they are brutally killing my people but even making fun with what they have done with their bodies. Maybe you hear of the photos in Der Speigel. Heartbreaking photos. It’s true that these photos are new, but the martyrs is not new for my people. And they tell you that “we bring to court” some of those soldiers, cruel soldiers that made this crime. I think it’s just priceless—because those who order and send these troops inAfghanistan occupation forces to bomb and kill my people they must be brought to court—this minister of the war Robert Gates and General David Petraeus must be brought to the court first of all.
In my own province Farah? In one day 150 civilians has been killed —most of them women and children. Even used white phosphorous. Even bombing our wedding parties—what they did in [geographic name inaudible] and Nurestan. In Kunar province, 65 innocent civilians has been killed—again most of them women and children. More than even by Taliban.
It’s terrorism. Nine children in the same province has been killed. For all of these massacres, White House has apologized. Karazi’s Mafia regime, puppet regime says, “Thank you.” That is it. I think the blood of my people is not water that they shed. It’s worth as much as western blood worth. We want the end of this occupation as soon as possible.
When Obama took office unfortunately his first news for my people was more conflict, more war. When you follow the outcome of Obama’s administration’s policy, the truth is more massacres, more miseries, more tragedies. It’s the tip of the iceberg, only a few of these massacres I told you.
Now he invite this terrorist Taliban Hekmatyar–this man who was on the black list to join this misogynist, puppet regime. So the situation for my people will be more disaster, more bloody for my people—especially for women.
It seems that shedding innocent blood of people in Afghanistan was not enough. And now he’s expanding war in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Yemen and he even started this brutal war in Libya, as well. Since Obama came in power, civilian death tolls increase when you compare with Bush administration. For these reasons I told you, at least for my people, Obama is just a second and dangerous Bush.
This is the responsibility of justice-loving, peace-loving people in the antiwar movement around the world that they should raise their voice again against wrong policy and do not let these warmongers to shed more innocent blood in that country as well.
While the U.S. people are suffering and the economic crisis and living conditions are getting worse, the Pentagon wages another war which will only bring U.S.corporate and billionaires to loot the oil and other riches of Libya. Obama’s administration raised hue and cry against Ghadafi regime but in the meantime support much more dirty regimes, criminal regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and also Pakistan, many other countries, and I’m sure you hear the news trying to bring dirtier Ghadafi in power in Libya, similar to what they done in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A document by Wikileaks exposed and proved what I have been saying about the war in my country, the “so- called” war on terror. Every day more and more people in my country come on the streets and raise their voice against the Occupation but who will listen to the voice of these voiceless people? Karzai’s regime is full of warlords, drug lords and these people who have killed, tortured and looted our people for decades.
And now Afghanistan is rated 181 out of182 in the human development index. And according to the Mines Minister Afghanistan is sitting on three trillions of mineral deposits, but because it is the second most corrupt country in the world, the profits from these mines would fill the pockets of these government officials, these warlords, drug lords and also their foreign masters.
In these nine years they changed my country to the center of the [producing] drugs. Ninety-three percent of opium today is produced from opium in Afghanistan. Since 2001 there is official report that 4,400 percent increase. Even New York Times report Amid Wali Karzai, brother of Hamad Karzai, is a famous drug trafficker and also on the payroll of the CIA. My people call him a small Bush in Kandahar province.
Billions of dollar of this dirty opium money not only goes to the Afghan warlords, drug lords, it goes into the pockets of the foreign masters as well. It was a major project of the CIA to change my country to the center of drugs and by their support of these drug lords, you can see that they’ve become successful.
U.S. and NATO try to fool Afghan peoples and also their own people, too, by telling you that they are leaving Afghanistan by middle of 2011, which is a big lie. The puppet regime of Karzai is speaking about permanent military bases in my country. Which is clear they will not leave my country soon. They are there because of their strategic, political and economic interests. No question that we need helping hand, but it never means that we want Occupation.
They keep situation in danger: lawless, insecure especially for the women and then they have a very good excuse to stay there longer for their own interests. When in Afghanistan, they make their military bases more powerful very easily they can control other Asian powers like Iran, China, Russia, etc., then very easily they will have access to the gas and oil of the Central Asian republics.
No one can believe that a Super Power with massive military machine is really unable to defeat a bunch of killers, terrorists like Taliban who were created by U.S. government by support of ISI [Pakistan intelligence], by financial support of Saudi Arabia, and their domination by U.S. government. And still they are playing a game of Tom and Jerry with these powers and support indirectly through Pakistan government—I mean ISI.
Peace-loving people in the U.S. and countries around the world they agree with my people that democracy never comes by military invasion. Democracy never comes by using white phosphorous plastic bombs. Democracy never comes by bombing our [wedding] parties and killing innocent civilians under the name of [eliminating] Taliban. And what they are doing day by day more play with the destiny of these suffering people of my country.
Right now there are two kinds of resistance. One is the active resistance of the Taliban–the mainstream media especially the mouthpiece of these warmongers try to make a mountain out of mole hill. But never they give a report about the second kind of resistance which is a hope for the future of Afghanistan: the resistance of ordinary Afghan people—men and women, resistance of students of the universities. Nineteen members of student [body] of one university in one day has been killed by this blind bombardment of U.S. and NATO troops.
All students when they hear this news in Kabul they come on the streets with banners against the Occupation. Who hears their voice? Also, the resistance of some few democratic parties that we have parties and intellectuals. They never give you these reports.
I believe that the only solution for my country, for Afghanistan is that troops should withdraw because their presence is making our fight for justice much harder by empowering reactionary, brutal and dark-minded forces that are great obstacles for the true democratic minded elements and they will be more powerful day by day, more dangerous and create more miseries. And now my people they are stretched between three enemies: Occupation forces, warlord, Taliban.
With the withdrawl of Occupation forces, we will fight two internal elements, instead of three. At least the backbone of these warlords and Taliban forces will break if honestly they leave my country, if honestly do not give dollars and gun to these dirty minded elements. And my people despite being wounded, tired and hopeless of all the force will fight as steadfastly at end [to the end] against these warlords and Taliban because of the hatred they have for them.
History bears witness that that only nations can liberate themselves. So I would like to ask all peace lovers, justice seekers and also democratic-minded organizations, groups, antiwar movements around the world and also in U.S. that they are the ones to stand more in solidarity with my people, the suffering people of my country—especially we need their education support because I believe education is a key to emancipation.
Heartfelt thanks once again for your solidarity and support. Thank you.