Malalai Joya visited Australia recently to promote her new book, which tells the story of how civil war and foreign intervention have ripped Afghanistan apart, and why the government supported by the US-led occupiers is every bit as vicious as the Taliban was. She spoke to Solidarity.
What were the events that got you elected to the Afghan parliament and made you famous across the world?
My speech in 2003 [at the loya jirga assembly] exposed the criminal warlords who after 9/11 became imposed on our people under the mask of democracy. After that I became famous—I got support from the poor suffering people of my country and also from around the world.
In 2005 when parliamentary elections came people asked me to run. I thought [I would] be the voice of my people, even if a small voice, inside the parliament.
When I got to the parliament I found the majority of seats belonged to warlords and criminals because they controlled Afghanistan and had money and foreign support. From the beginning every time I tried to speak they turned off my microphone and threatened me.
As I never compromised with them they expelled me from parliament, which is an illegal act, and still do not allow me to go back.
You have spoken out bravely against the continuing influence of warlords in Afghanistan. What influence do they have in Hamid Karzai’s government?
Today in Afghanistan we have a mafia system. Afghanistan’s government is one of the most corrupt in the world. The government received $18 billion from the international community under the name of reconstruction and education but most of this money went into the pockets of warlords.
Most of my people are getting poorer and only a bunch of killers are getting powerful. Today the city of Kabul has [become a] city of beggars. In most places in Afghanistan the situation of women is like hell.
What has the presence of US and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan meant?
We are now between two enemies, on one side these Taliban and Northern Alliance fundamentalists who continue their crimes against my people, but on the other side the occupation forces that are bombing innocent civilians.
For example in Farah province recently, more than 150 civilians were killed, most of them women and children. They were burned using white phosphorus and cluster bombs. Matthis Chiroux, an American soldier who apologised to me in a formal conference in France [told me] “What my government is doing is a war crime.”
I pay condolences to those families who lost their sons [fighting for the occupation forces] in my country but I ask them to raise their voices against the policies of their own governments which are a mockery of democracy.
The US uses $100 million on the war in Afghanistan a day, but up to ten million people in my country live on less than $2 a day according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation report, and 80 per cent live below the poverty line.
Some people in the West oppose foreign troops leaving Afghanistan because they think this will simply make things worse. Why don’t you agree?
In these wars we almost lost everything, but we gained one positive thing, which is the political knowledge of my people—this gives me hope for the future of our country.
Everyone is saying that if troops leave there will be civil war, but today itself there is already civil war in Afghanistan.
The US government pushed us from the frying pan into the fire, because they replaced the Taliban with the Northern Alliance fundamentalists.
From 1992 to 1996 when they were in power they caused a civil war in Afghanistan. In Kabul alone they killed 65,000 innocent people and committed many crimes—[as recorded by] Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.
Day by day the warlords are growing more powerful. For example the Bush administration put a price on the head of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [a notorious warlord] but now Obama’s administration invite this man to join the government.
You should raise you voice against supporting this non-democratic government of Hamid Karzai, who is again running for president. He is betraying the people of Afghanistan.
For more info on Malalai Joya see www.malalaijoya.com