Afghanistan: Caught between extremes
Malalai Joya: Afghan woman parliamentarian speaks out
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: At age 29, Malalai Joya is the youngest member of the Afghan parliament. She was elected in September 2005, receiving the second most votes in Farah province. She’s gained international recognition for speaking out against corruption in Afghanistan and has been the target of numerous death threats. On May 22, 2007 she was suspended from parliament for her criticism of warlords and the central government. Senior news editor Paul Jay recently spoke to Malalai Joya in our studio.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR NEWS EDITOR: Malalai, when I was in Afghanistan in the spring of 2002 making a film, people were optimistic. I would say I heard two things. One, people were overjoyed that the Taliban was gone and they were hopeful for some change. But if I heard one thing more than anything else is that if the U.S. and the western troops are serious, then the first thing they’ll do is disarm the warlords. What’s happened since then? Because I know I don’t think I would even have the courage to go make a film in Afghanistan now, it’s become so dangerous.
MALALAI JOYA, MEMBER OF AFGHANI PARLIAMENT: The feeling of our people when the domination of Taliban has been destroyed was same when Russia attacked Afghanistan and they become failed and Mujahideen come in power. People were so happy: maybe these Mujahideen they come in power, maybe they will bring, first of all, security, then democracy, women’s rights, and these values in our country. But, unfortunately, these groups, they are not real Mujahideen, they are fundamentalist Mujahideen, and the foundation of these about seven, eight parties was in the pocket of CIA and ISI [Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-services Intelligence]. That’s why every one of them, because of power, they started fighting against each other. And from ’92 to ’96 that, alone in Kabul, they killed 65,000 innocent people, and they did many violences against women’s rights, human rights. Anyway, same crimes like Taliban. And this was the time that our people, they become hopeless. And after the domination of Taliban, our people, they were so hopeful that good people will come in power, democratic-minded people will come in power.
JAY: But when we look at media reports in North America about Afghanistan, the basic story we hear is the struggling democracy besieged by these extremist Taliban; Canadian, American troops fighting to defend this democratic government. That’s kind of the narrative. What do you make of the media coverage that North Americans are hearing?
JOYA: This is the policy of the U.S. that they want to put dust on the eyes of the people around the world, to deceive them that it’s good to troops to be in Afghanistan, to go there for liberating Afghan people like this. But, unfortunately, they not only they didn’t brought security, even they sacrificed our security. We did survey in Afghanistan, and most of them are saying the foreign troops — good. But first of all I want to say that this survey didn’t conducted all over Afghanistan. Why? Because today the Government of Karzai have no control outside of Kabul. In the faraway provinces, I’m sure that these people who did survey, they cannot go today because of security reasons.
JAY: People in the south, around Kandahar and such, I hear they, on the whole, a majority, probably do now want foreign troops to leave. But in Kabul, is it not a much more complicated situation? Do they want foreign troops out, the people of Kabul?
JOYA: So our people, they are the victim. If foreign troops leave out Afghanistan, civil war will start in Afghanistan. But if these foreign troops will be in Afghanistan and continue the strong policy of the U.S., which is mockery of democracy and mockery of war on terror tomorrow another 11 September will happen in the world. That’s why we are saying let’s choose another alternative, that to, at least to minimize the happening of the civil war.
JAY: What should Canadians say to their government? What should the Americans say to their government? What do you think Afghans want from people outside Afghanistan?
JOYA: Yeah. You know I know Afghan people. They want liberation. They don’t accept occupation. As I said earlier about, briefly about, the history of our country, and our history shows they don’t accept occupation. If U.S. and its allies continue the strong policy, one day I’m sure they will face with the resistance of our people. But in the faraway provinces the situation is getting worse and worse, especially security, how much important for our people. Today our people, they are between two powerful enemies. They are like sandwich between, in one side, these Northern Alliance, who mentally seem like Taliban, and they come in power because of the own strategy policy of the U.S. people do not support this corrupt warlord, drug lord government, And today, Rashid Dostrum, one of the wanted criminal even announced by Human Rights Watch. He has his own government, and do not obey the government. They have their own personal jails, like, say, other fundamentalists, like Sayyaf, like Rabbini—and this list can be prolonged—these Northern Alliance who today control Afghanistan. That’s why we are saying they are more risky than Taliban.
JAY: What can people here do to help your work and people like you?
JOYA: Of course this act of the parliament is completely an illegal act, anti-freedom of speech. When they are making amnesty with criminals, they themself, they forgive themselves. Of course it’s easy for them to. Today they expelled me; tomorrow they will expel another democrat MP if they stand up against them. Anyway, for me this is not the first time they suspend me. From the beginning of parliament they suspend me. Why? Because every time when I want to talk, they turn off microphone. Just for telling the truth. They threaten me to death. Even Sayyaf himself once in parliament said, "Beat her a few times with knife after that she will know who are Mujahideen." And they control Afghanistan. Some of them are MP, some of them are minister, governor, ambassadors, commanders, and they control Afghanistan. And our people, they are like hostage in the hands of them. This is the situation.