No nation can liberate another
is known around the world as a courageous opponent of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the corrupt regime presided over by President Hamid Karzai--and the Taliban and other conservative Islamist forces battling U.S. and Afghan government troops.
An uncompromising fighter for women's rights, Joya was elected to parliament in 2005, where she denounced the presence of representatives who she called "warlords" and "war criminals." In 2007, she was suspended on the grounds that she had "insulted" fellow members. An international solidarity campaign has rallied support for her.
Joya has been the target of assassination attempts and must travel in Afghanistan with armed bodyguards, wearing a burqa as a disguise. She has written a new book about her life, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.
As the first stop on a speaking tour of the U.S.,was the featured speaker on a panel discussion at the Northeast Socialist Conference in New York City on October 23. Introducing her were several American opponents of the U.S. war on Afghanistan, including Iraq Veterans Against the War member Mathis Chiroux. Here, we print edited excerpts from Joya's speech.
GOOD EVENING, everyone. First of all, let me thank the International Socialist Organization, which invited me here and gave me this opportunity to talk about the ongoing disaster in my country, and about the activities of the so-called "war on terror" by the U.S. and NATO--which is not a war on terror, but a war on innocent civilians.
And let me thank our dear brother Mathis. We are so proud of you, Mathis. I am short of words on behalf of my people to express my feeling to Mathis and the many Mathises and all of you who will not leave us alone in this disastrous situation. By your support, you give us more determination and courage, and hopes that will not sit silent.
I will never forget the first time that I met Mathis--it gave me that much hope in the meantime. Like now, Mathis was talking, and I couldn't control my tears, because he was apologizing to me for the war crimes of the U.S. government. I said no, it is your government that must first of all apologize to democratic people like you, for deceiving you and sending you to war in my country. And not only in my country, but Iraq--and today, as one of our friends mentioned, what they are going to do in Pakistan by drone attacks.
I said to Mathis that they first of all must apologize to you, the democratic people of United States, and especially to the troops, because they are the victims of a wrong policy of their government--they have been sent for a bad cause, for war.
Democracy never comes by gun. Democracy never comes by cluster bomb. Democracy never comes by war.
I hope that we will have more brothers like Mathis, who will stand up and refuse to go to war in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the United States occupies these two countries, and especially in my country, it is under the banner of woman rights and democracy.
It is even worse than Iraq. Why? Because they brought into power a photocopy of the Taliban, with a mask of democracy, and a suit and tie. But do not believe it. They are still deceiving people around the world. They are responsible for the current disaster in Afghanistan. They are the foreign masters, the U.S. government and its allies in NATO. And now they are going to negotiate with the Taliban.
I have a lot to say about the ongoing disaster in my country, and I can talk for hours about how much this means, the actions of Mathis and the many Mathises. Mathis, you said I am a hero, but you are our hero. We really love you, and my people hope one day that we will see you in my country--in a democratic Afghanistan. This is my dream for the future of Afghanistan.
THERE IS a famous saying: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Your international solidarity is key. As always, nations are separate from the policymakers. It is the governments that are committing these war crimes. They are betraying democracy, women's rights and human rights, and they are betraying the truth. The mainstream media is still trying to throw dust in the eyes of democrat people around the world.
You know what your government is doing now? They have put a soft name on the Taliban, these terrorist people, to bring them into power as well. Mullah Omar--this fascist man, this dinosaur--is not in power, and neither is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but they want to bring them into power to complete the circle of warlordism and drug lordism and terrorism in my country.
The U.S. is occupying my country and making a military base there. They are not leaving my country because of their strategy and policies. They don't care about the wishes of my people--how much they are fed up by the situation. Now, my people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies.
Democracy is the alternative for the future of Afghanistan. But there are still many risks for us. Those who tell the truth, those who stand and praise the war against injustice, insecurity and occupation receive death threats. They get killed or they have to leave Afghanistan. The first casualty is the truth.
Let me say a few things about the role of troops first, since now Obama wants to surge with more troops in Afghanistan. His foreign policy is quite similar to the wrong policy of the Bush administration. It's even worse--according to officials statistics, even more civilians have been killed than during the same time period under Bush.
The worst massacre in Afghanistan from September 11 to now happened during the presidency of Obama. In May, in Farah province, a bombing killed 150 civilians, most of them women and children. They were even using white phosphorus and cluster bombs. On September 9, a bombing in Kunduz province--you may have heard about this through the media--killed 200 civilians, and again, most of them women and children.
Then, after all these crimes, White House says it apologizes, and Karzai's government--this puppet regime--says thank you. That's it. My people are so fed up that they want an end of the occupation--the end of this so-called war on terror--as soon as possible. As long as these troops are in Afghanistan, the worse the war will be. Through the mainstream media, they are telling you and democratic people around the world that civil war will happen if the U.S. withdraws, but nobody is talking about civil war today.
Eight years ago, the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the banner of women's rights. Today, the situation for women--half of the population of the country--is hell in most of the provinces. Killing a woman is as easy as killing a horse. A few days before I come here, in Sar-e Pol province in the north of Afghanistan, a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped and killed. The rape of women and kidnapping and acid attacks--all of this violence is increasing rapidly, even at historical levels. And all of these crimes are happening in the name of democracy, women's rights and human rights.
I'm saying that as long as these warlords are in power along with these occupation forces, there is no hope to make positive changes in the lives of the men and women of my country.
It's not only women who are suffering. If I talked only about conditions for women, it would be all morning, but I wouldn't even be finished. All of this shocking news that the media never even gives to the people around the world. Women don't even have a human life.
But today, women and men don't have liberation. Millions of Afghans suffer from injustice, insecurity, corruption, joblessness, etc. Your government says that it sent troops there so that girls can go to school, but according to official figures from the government, more than 600 schools have been closed. When the girls go to school, they throw acid on their faces.
I think education is important--very important in my country. I always say that it's the key to our emancipation. But security is more important than food and water. They keep the situation dangerous like this so they can stay longer in Afghanistan because of their strategy and policies.
To know more about the deep tragedy of Afghanistan, during these eight years, they changed my country to the capital of the center of drug trade.
Today, 93 percent of opium produced in the world is from Afghanistan. The brother of Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is a famous drug trafficker, as the New York Times recently wrote. Through dirty business of opium, every year, $500 million goes into the pocket of Taliban alone. And since 2001, there has been a 4,500 percent increase in opium. If the U.S. government don't stop this wrong policy, the drugs will find their way onto streets of New York, and destroy the life of youth here as well.
Another example of the catastrophic situation of my country is that a few days ago, the United Nations human development index ranked Afghanistan 181st out of 182 countries. This is a country where the government received $36 billion over the past years, according to official reports. Where did that money go? Into pockets of warlords and drug lords--these criminals and misogynists.
Today, 18 million people of my country live on less $2 a day. Mothers in Herat and Ghor provinces are ready to sell their babies for $10 because they cannot feed them. And this is another example of many shocking examples that never made it to mainstream media.
MY PEOPLE are caught now between two powerful enemies, and they are being crushed. From the sky, the bombs of the occupation forces are falling, killing civilians. And on the ground, there is the Taliban, and also these warlords. So we have three kinds of enemies. But the withdrawal of one enemy--these U.S. occupation forces whose government sends them for war, and that also supports the corrupt mafia system of Hamid Karzai with more money and guys--will make it much easier to fight the enemies that are left.
I promise I will never be tired as long as war is in Afghanistan as well as in other countries--what is going on in Iraq, in Burma, in Pakistan, in Palestine. The list can be longer. No nation can bring liberation to another nation. These are nations that can liberate themselves. The nations that pose themselves as liberators to others will lead them into slavery. What we have experienced in Afghanistan and in Iraq prove this point.
If the U.S. and its allies let us have a little bit of space and peace, then we know what to do with our destiny. The people of Afghanistan don't want occupation. They need honest support, they need educational support, they need your powerful voice--which means, first of all, international solidarity against the warmongers of your government.
Regarding Barack Obama, and the Nobel Peace Prize, they are giving the Peace Prize to the president of war--who is carrying out war in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Pakistan, and is also supporting the criminal regime of Israel and what is going on today in Palestine. Many heroes and heroines are risking their lives and doing a lot for peace, but nobody knows their name. They must be nominated for the prize. I think the question for Obama is, so far after nine months, what did he do for piece that he received this Nobel Peace Prize?
And in such a disastrous situation, they are talking about so-called democratic elections. I think you would agree with us that an election under the shadow of guns, warlordism, drug lordism, awful corruption and occupation forces has no legitimacy at all. There's a famous saying that it's not important who's voting, it's important who is counting. That's our problem. Some democrats ran for the election in Afghanistan, but all the ballot boxes are in the hands of mafia. They betrayed the vote of my people.
Before the results of the election, people in my country discussed among each other that the result is like the same donkey--hopefully, I won't be insulting to donkeys--but with a new saddle. Everyone knows that winner of the election will be picked by the White House.
There's a huge difference between the presidential election and the parliamentary and provincial elections. For the parliamentary election, we have some chance for democrats to run, and that is my message to my people. If a few of us are allowed, it's good to be in these national bodies to be a small voice of our people. As I experienced, in this parliament, I said it was worse than animals--that it's like a zoo. These criminals told me that I must apologize for this comment. I said that I must say apologize to the tanimals that I insult.
Don't misunderstand--in our parliament, we have a few democrats, men and women. Unfortunately, you can count them very quickly, but it's good to be the voice of the people. But for the presidential election, we have one choice--the person who will be the next puppet.
Do not be deceived with this melodrama of a so-called democratic election--I think it's the most ridiculous election anywhere in the world. They spent $250 million for the election while people do not have enough food to eat. Less than 10 percent of people participated in the election. And now they want to waste more money. That's why we believe that your government and NATO are wasting taxpayer money and the blood of your soldiers in Afghanistan by supporting such a terrorist.
I gave only a few examples of the disastrous situation of my country. I'm saying that my people can liberate themselves. But we need your helping hand. As always, I again stress that we separate people from the -policy makers of their government. We are honored that we have the support of democratic-minded and peace-loving people in the U.S. But we need more of your solidarity and support for our country.
Let me conclude my speech with a quote from Bertolt Brecht, who said that "Those who struggle may fail, but those who do not struggle have already failed." Thanks a lot for your solidarity and support.
Transcription by Christine Darosa