(Coriolanus, act 2, sc. 2)
Comment. Malalai Joya, 34, a courageous Afghan woman, first gained international attention in 2003 when she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords. As you may conclude from what follows, she is indeed dignified by her valor in speaking out and in having survived until now.
In 2007 she again spoke out against former warlords and war criminals in the Afghan parliament and was thereupon suspended from the parliament. Since then she has survived many assassination attempts. She travels in Afghanistan with armed guards and has worked tirelessly on behalf of Afghan women and to end the occupation of her country. She has received universal international recognition.
Her most recent book is “Raising My Voice.” Here are excerpts from an interview, where some (predictable but yet unexpected) information is discovered. The exclamation marks are mine as well as the bolded sections, to show how incredibly false is the information distributed by the corporate media.
Interviewer. Last month in Paris representatives of the Taliban for the first time met with their former enemies of the Northern Alliance, the collection of militias that fought them in the 1990s and eventually helped the U.S. to oust the Taliban regime. Now President Obama has invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to meet with him in Washington. What do you make of this?
Malaila: To make the current puppet regime in Kabul more powerful, the U.S. and NATO have been trying to bring together three groups that emerged during three criminal periods of war in Afghanistan: the warlords, the Taliban, and some of those who served the hated Russian occupation.
Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance warlords are long-time allies of the West (!) These groups are criminal, dark-minded, and reactionary to the core. In their lust for power, they are ready to sacrifice national interests of Afghanistan to any foreign power.
The Taliban and the Northern Alliance warlords are responsible for much of the suffering of the Afghan people. They are like a wolf and a vulture and can never be regarded part of a “solution” to Afghanistan’s tragedy. Our people want them prosecuted as traitors and war criminals. But the West wants to “unite” them and impose them on our nation… Such “unity” may serve the U.S./NATO interests in Afghanistan, but will lead to another reign of terror and brutalities upon our poor people.
As history shows, the U.S. has relied on criminals, dictators, human rights violators, and reactionary forces in many other countries of the world. Recently in Libya the U.S. and NATO supported fundamentalists who are worse than Qaddafi; in Syria they are supporting Al-Qaeda (!) and other such dirty groups. So it is not surprising that they are once again working with the Taliban and with Hekmatyar and other criminals in my country.
It was the U.S. that brought the warlords into power in Kabul, and the U.S./NATO puppet Karzai is even more shameless than previous Afghan puppets of the British and the Russians. While the puppets of Russia and Britain negotiated behind closed doors, Karzai is publicly selling Afghanistan to a foreign master. The so-called strategic agreements like the Bilateral Security Agreement provide for long-term U.S./NATO military bases in Afghanistan. The U.S. wants to remain in Afghanistan because of its geopolitical location: to be able to control other Asian powers like Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China.
Karzai and Obama are working on an outline of an agreement for legalizing permanent military bases in Afghanistan. But as long as we have foreign military bases in our country, we have no independence. (and that applies to any nation “protected” by American military or “NATO” bases). And when we have no independence, we have nothing, and all talk of democracy, human rights and women’s rights is a joke. Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country in the world. And Afghanistan is the worst place to be a woman, according to a recent international study. They are looting our rich mineral deposit mines worth three trillion dollars, and they are raking in money from the drug trade.
For the U.S. government, the wellbeing of the Afghan people has no value at all. The U.S. elites just want relative stability in order to continue the occupation and maintain military bases in Afghanistan without much trouble. If “stability” can be achieved by empowering the worst enemies of Afghan people, they are ready to do this. After all, the U.S. schemes to interfere with and control Afghanistan did not begin with 9/11. They go back for decades.
The warlords who were put into power in Kabul by the U.S. are extremist fundamentalists. In the 1980s, during the Cold War, they received much financing and support from the ISI (the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan) and from the CIA to fight the Soviets. The warlords were known to be misogynists; for example, one of their leaders was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (founder of Hezb-e Islami), a fanatic who in the early 1970s ordered his followers to throw acid into the faces of Afghan women who refused to wear burkas in Kabul.
The U.S. government supported and nourished these fundamentalists to kill democratic, leftist, secular and progressive people in Afghanistan. Eight fundamentalist parties were created — seven in Pakistan and an eighth in Iran — and each of them wanted to be the one in power. After they ousted the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, they conducted a brutal civil war among themselves in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996. Alone in Kabul the warlords killed more than 65,000 innocent people and turned the city into ashes.
In the 1990s, the CIA provided financing to the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban and encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to support the Taliban in their drive to power; in 1996, the Taliban defeated the warlords and ruled Afghanistan for five years.
In 2001, after ousting the Taliban regime with the help of the warlords, the U.S. government announced that it had learned from past mistakes and would not empower Islamic fundamentalism again. But in reality they are still helping the brutal fundamentalists and imposing the old criminals and looters upon us. Islamic fundamentalism is once again the main tool in the hands of the U.S. to control Afghanistan, to suppress progressive and freedom-loving forces of my country, and to stop the emergence of a powerful democratic anti-occupation movement.
The power of media has been another effective way for the U.S. to mislead Afghans, especially the youth, to say “yes” to the occupation and to the continuing presence of foreign military bases in Afghanistan. Over the past eleven years, the U.S. has promoted media in Afghanistan and has spent large sums of money on propaganda and “soft war.” Almost all the major media outlets in the country are under U.S. control. A large majority of the Afghan people is illiterate, and we have no independent, progressive media to neutralize and counteract the pro-U.S. media. (note. The situation is not very different in the West where people may not be illiterate but the progressive media is effectively dwarfed by the corporate media).
The NGOs (Non Giovernment Organizations) are another tool of the U.S. and other NATO countries in Afghanistan. Through financing NGOs, they buy the loyalty of some Afghans and use them as their puppets to advance their. agenda in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, there are many Afghans, especially intellectuals, who are paving the way for a continued U.S./NATO occupation. (In the US the counterpart is the “university” intellighentia).
Interviewer. There are many reports that the U.S. and NATO want to keep a significant “troop presence” in Afghanistan well after 2014. But if all the foreign troops were to leave, would there be civil war in Afghanistan?
Malalai. There is already a civil war, a dangerous civil war. Whether the foreign troops stay or leave, war is going on. The presence of foreign troops only makes our struggle for justice harder, because the occupiers empower reactionary warlords — and now also empower Taliban, along with killers from the past Russian puppet regime. At least if the foreign troops leave, one of the biggest evils will be gone. Then we will face internal enemies. If the occupation leaves, at least the Taliban will not get more powerful. If the troops honestly leave, the backbone of these terrorists will break. They will become like orphans, because their godfather is the U.S., which was also the godfather of Al Qaida.
We are fed up with the so-called helping hand of the U.S. and NATO that is used to justify occupation. The mother and father of all these tragedies is the occupation itself and the U.S./NATO support of the killers of my people. When the occupation leaves, these fundamentalists will get weak. They have no roots in the heart of the people, and their backbone will break. If the U.S. stops helping terrorists and killers, then they may not be in a position to wage a civil war and destroy Afghanistan like they did in 90’s.
So the first request of the people is: Leave Afghanistan and stop supporting our enemies.
Interviewer. Have you seen any improvements at all for the people under the U.S./NATO occupation, for example in the situation of women?
Malalai. The situation of women in Afghanistan was used as an excuse for the U.S. and NATO to occupy our country. But it is clear they were not fighting on behalf of women, because they have put into power the reactionary warlords who are sworn enemies of women. If your family were bombed in a wedding party or your daughter raped by Taliban, what would be your reaction? And you want to negotiate with them?
There is no question that s some money has been given to the Karzai regime for projects on behalf of women’s and human rights. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of civilians, most of them women and children, have been killed during these eleven years of occupation. They even used white phosphorous; they even bombed wedding parties.
The media don’t write much about the many women who are raped or stoned to death in public. Hundreds of schools have been closed, and even in Kabul women don’t have security going to school; in many provinces acid is thrown in their faces. In most places killing a woman is still as easy as killing a bird.
Due to lack of justice and pressure on women, last year 2300 suicide cases were recorded among Afghan women, which has no parallel in our history.
These warlords are misogynists, just like the Taliban, and they don’t want women’s rights in Afghanistan; a few token fundamentalist ladies wearing beautiful clothes should not fool people. And many of the women who have positions, who run NGOs, are corrupt and have received money from the occupation; they betray the truth and justify the U.S. occupation and are even ready to negotiate with the Taliban. Through this, the situation of women will become more bloody and more of a disaster.
Under the U.S./NATO occupation, there is day by day a widening gap between rich and poor. A small percentage of drug-lords, warlords and corrupt officials have everything in their hands while a large majority of the people suffers from poverty and unemployment. Under the occupation, Afghanistan has become the biggest producer of opium and heroin in the world. With the efforts of the U.S. and NATO, Afghanistan has become the capital of the world drug Mafia and also now tops the list of the world’s most corrupt countries (according to a recent study by Transparency International). All of the “achievements,” if any, that can be attributed to the occupation are spoiled by these shameful epidemics that have had and will continue to have a long-run disastrous effect on the whole society.
The Afghan people are fed up. Fundamentalism and occupation are no longer accepted among the common people because of the brutalities and savagery they have experienced over the past decade. There is more openness, now, to progressive and democratic organizations and ideas. With the passage of time, I hope for the emergence of a powerful justice-loving alternative in Afghanistan. The U.S. is the main obstacle towards the development of such democratic forces.
In different parts of Afghanistan there are small protests — in Kabul, in Jalalabad, in Helmand Province and in Farah Province, and in many other places — and for the first time women are joining these protests. I hope that with time, there will be a broader movement in Afghanistan like in many of the Arab countries. It will take time.
As the great German writer Bertolt Brecht said, “Those who struggle may fail. Those who do not struggle have already failed.”
Interviewer. f you were invited to speak to the U.S. and NATO officials, what would you say?
Malaila. Stop this criminal war in my country as soon as possible. Your war, waged under a fake banner of human rights and democracy, is in fact a war against poor Afghan people. You are not only traitors to the Afghan people, but to your own people as well. You are stealing from the pockets of poor Americans and Europeans and wasting billions of dollars on killing and looting in order to safeguard only the interests of a very small, elite minority. You have a massive war and propaganda machine to sell your lies. But the world’s conscience, which includes a large number of U.S. antiwar veterans, is against you: you can’t overturn it by any means. So your war machinery is doomed to fail, and the toiling people of the world will win.
Suggestion for use. Introduction to a speech in honor of a courageous person.
In the play. Although Coriolanus refuses praise for his victory at Corioli, Cominius says he deserves it.