Elsa Rassbach interviews Malalai Joya, Afghan political leader and women's rights advocate, about her visit to Germany September 18th to 22nd, 2007.
Malalai Joya is at age 29 the youngest person to become a member of the Afghan Parliament. She was one of 68 women elected to the 249- seat National Assembly or Wolesi Jirga in 2005. She won the second highest number of votes in Farah Province. But after she spoke out against the fundamentalists and former warlords in the parliament. she was suspended from the parliament on May 21, 2007, until the end of the current term, which ends in 2009. She has appealed to the Supreme Court in Afghanistan.
Malalai Joya rose to fame and gained international attention in December 2003 when, as an elected delegate to the Constituional Loya Jirga, she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords. Since then she has survived four assassination attempts, and travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards.
She is the daughter of a former medical student who was wounded while fighting against the Soviet Union (which invaded and occupied Afganistan from 1979 - 1989). Malalai was 4 years old when her family fled Afghanistan in 1982 to the refugee camps of Iran and then Pakistan. She finished her education in Pakistan and began teaching literacy courses to other women at age 19. After the Soviets left, Malalai Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban's reign. During that time she established an orphanage and health clinic, and was soon a vocal opponent of the Taliban.
Malalai Joya was named International Woman of the year in Italy in 2004, was one of 1000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, was selected by the World Economic Forum among 250 Global Leaders for 2007, and this month was nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by European Parliament. An award-winning documentary film about Malalei, "A Woman Among Warlords” (formerly named "Enemies of Happiness”) was shown in the U.S. on most PBS stations earlier this month.
Malalai Joya heads the non-governmental group, "Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities" (OPAWC) in the west of Afghanistan. She is married to a Kabul-based student of agriculture and has six sisters and three brothers.
From September 18th to 22nd, she was in Berlin, Germany, on invitation of the parliamentary group of Left Party, to meet with German government officials and to speak with the German people about the situation in Afghanistan.
Elsa Rassbach, a U.S. citizen in Berlin, interviewed Malalai Joya on September 22nd.
E.R. Why did you come to Germany, and what did you hope to achieve here?
M.J. The Left Party parliamentary group in the German Bundestag invited me to come to give them update about the disastrous situation in Afghanistan, about the terrible problems of women there, and about the role of foreign troops, including German troops, in Afghanistan.
My message for German people was clear: I hope that Germany will completely separate its Afghanistan policy from the wrongful U.S. policy, which is a mockery of democracy. The “war on terror” is a mockery, and so is the U.S. support of the present government in Afghanistan, which is dominated by the Northern Alliance terrorists. The U.S. government is fighting the Taliban under the name of the “war on terror” but is working with and helping the Northern Alliance terrorists who are just as much dark-minded killers and rapists as the Taliban. It was the Northern Alliance leaders like Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, and others who gave shelter to Arab terrorists in Afghanistan for the first time. But today the U.S. government tries to paint them as being “democratic-minded” and “liberators of Afghanistan”!
If the German government and German troops want to prove themselves to be real and honest friends of the Afghan people, then they will act independently of the U.S.: unlike the U.S. government, they will rely on Afghan people and freedom-loving individuals and groups, who are the real alternative to the fundamentalists.
Today we need security and liberation, but in the name of security, the foreign troops deprived us of our liberation. We need international support, but we don’t want occupation. Sadly, today Afghanistan has become an occupied country, and the U.S. government is pursuing its regional and economic interests there, while the well- being of the Afghan people seems to be of no value. The U.S. nourished and empowered the Northern Alliance even though they are more a danger than the Taliban, as President Karzai himself confessed. And the Taliban are getting stronger simply because the majority of the people do not support the present government.
We should remember that it was the U.S. who originally supported the Taliban and built them up, and the U.S. also supports the Northern Alliance. The U.S. could easily get rid of the Taliban if it wanted to do so. It seems strange to the Afghan people that a superpower is unable to red rid of a bunch of medieval-minded, illiterate and ignorant people like Taliban. Actually, the U.S. is not serious in its fight against the Taliban and just needs an excuse to prolong its presence in Afghanistan to threaten Iran, China, Central Asia and other Asian powers.
Here in Germany, I had warm support from the people – many even cried as they told me of their support for the liberation of the people of Afghanistan. I was deeply touched by sympathies and solidarity of German people. I came here to show my support for the democratically minded people in Germany and all over the world, who can be a powerful voice against U.S. policy.
E.R. What was the response to what you said in the German Bundestag (Parliament)?
M.J. The Foreign Affairs Commission in the Bundestag even refused to meet with me. Why don’t they want to meet with me? Why do they invite the warlords and politicians, who do not tell the truth, to speak in the Bundestag, instead of hearing a voice from the Afghan people? They have German troops in Afghanistan, so it is their responsibility to try to understand what is happening there. They used as an excuse not to hear me the fact that the warlords have banned me from the Afghan Parliament, but I am still supported by the people.
In the Bundestag the (multi-party) Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Economic and Social Development did meet with me. So far I have had no response, as they are still discussing the German involvement in Afghanistan.
One Member of the Bundestag said that the German government has been supporting projects for change, such as schools. But they didn’t give me a chance to say that most of the money is going to the warlords, and the Taliban is burning schools and killing school children. I wanted to tell them that Mr. Karzai’s government is the most corrupt in the world. Even officials accept that fact. I wanted to tell them that even the defense officials in the US and in Britain estimate that up to half of all aid in Afghanistan is failing to reach the right people. A Pentagon official said thousands of cars and trucks intended for use by the Afghan police had been sold instead. (Sunday Telegraph, January 29, 2007)
We need a democratic government to stop this – the projects alone are not enough. We need security even more than we need food and water. Giving money to the current mafia government will change nothing and will fill the pockets of drug-lords and warlords.
Germany needs to try to influence neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, Russia etc. to stop sending arms and support to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Right now the German troops are supporting the U.S. aims in Afghanistan and not the wishes of the Afghan people. But I want to extend the sincere condolences of the Afghan people to the families of the German soldiers and policemen who have been killed in Afghanistan.
I am sorry to see that many in the German Parliament are not interested to hear from someone who represents the voice of Afghan people. When, despite the presence of tens of thousands of foreign troops, Afghanistan produces 93% of world opium -- then that is enough to know that the international efforts have failed and alternatives must be considered.
E.R. What would you like the U.S. to do?
M.J. Simple -- the U.S. must stop its support to warlords and must help us bring people like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Khalili, Qanooni, Fahim, Mohaqiq, Ismael etc. on trial as war criminals rather then installing them in the top positions. The U.S. and its allies must seriously consider disarming all illegal armed groups who are imposing their fascism on our people across Afghanistan. But no one takes notice of this situation, as these criminals are either governors, police chiefs, or in other posts. The people of Afghanistan do not support the Northern Alliance war criminals and warlords in our government and publicly burn their pictures.
The U.S. must respect the Afghan people, and the U.S. must stop its war crimes. Far more civilians have been killed by the U.S. military in Afghanistan than were killed in the U.S. in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. More Afghan civilians have been killed by the U.S. than were ever killed by the Taliban.
But the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are innocent, because they have been told that they are bringing us democracy. When I spoke in the U.S. earlier this year, people who had lost loved ones in Afghanistan came to me to hug me and cry and to say that they understand more and more that the U.S. policy in Afghanistan is a mockery of democracy. We need the helping hand of the freedom and peace loving American people.
E.R. Would you like the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan?
M.J. Yes, as soon as possible. We need liberation, not occupation. The only hope is that other countries with troops in Afghanistan will force the U.S. to change its policy of fostering criminals. It seems from the experience of the past six years that the U.S. is not willing to change its policy, so the U.S. must go.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The Afghan people need both security and liberation, and they feel today that no foreign nation can donate these values to them and that they themselves need for fight to achieve them.
The U.S. occupation has even further complicated Afghanistan’s crisis. They came under the name of “liberating Afghan women,” but today the women’s rights situation is catastrophic: every month dozens of women commit self-immolation across Afghanistan to get rid of their desolation. Afghans have a long history of fighting foreign occupation, and if the U.S. occupation lasts longer, we may witness many mass resistance movements against it.
E.R. What faces you when you return to Afghanistan, and how can we help you from the U.S. and elsewhere in the world?
M.J. I am a person. I am not better than my people. And the security of all the people in Afghanistan is at risk. My life is at risk more and more each day, because I do not compromise and will not stop my fight while I have blood in my body. I do not keep silent, and I expose the masks of the present rulers in Afghanistan and in the US to the world. I say, “We will not be silent.” Truth is like the sun – you cannot hide it.
I am young, and I hope to help especially the women in Afghanistan. If something happens to me, the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance will be to blame. Only freedom-loving people are giving a helping hand to the anti-fundamentalist and pro-democracy forces.
We need your moral and material support. People can support me morally and financially. I need your help to educate Afghan women and girls. As Martyred Meena told me, “Afghan women are like sleeping lions, who when awoken can play a great role in any social movement.” Your help will enable me to educate these sleeping lions to know their rights. Then no power can brutalize and deprive them like what goes on today.
For more information and to help Malalai Joya:
Tax-deductible donations can be sent by check or money order, payable to: “IHC/The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya – USA” Mail your check or money order to: USDCMJ, P.O. Box 580085, Elk Grove, CA 95758, USA