Malalai Joya – (Wikipedia) an Afghan activist, writer and former politician spoke this evening in Burlington on the UVM campus. She is an outspoken critic of the Afghan government and the warlords that are embedded within it, the Taliban and the US/NATO occupation. She planned to came to the US for a three week speaking tour, but missed the first week of the tour because the State Dept. refused to grant her a visa. After pressure from many groups, they relented and granted the visa.
She gave a short speech. Here are some of the highlights:
Afghanistan was attacked and occupied in the name of woman rights, but most woman have no rights, no justice. The warlords are back in power under the mask of democracy
The US used the umbrella of the UN to invade Libya, just like it did in Iraq. Obama rails against Gaddafi, but not the brutal regimes in Israel, Yemen, Syria and others.
Democracy doesn’t come by invasion, cluster bombs and war machines.
Many Afghan people, students rally against the occupation, but it is not reported.
There are three forces battling within Afghanistan – the Taliban; the government and warlords; and the US/NATO occupation. The US and NATO need to leave immediately so the people of Afghanistan can rebuild their nation.
Education is the key to emancipation
While there was great passion in her speech, there was very little emotion. I was a bit surprised by this. She took questions from the audience. The first questioner asked why she was in favor of the US leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban are against women’s rights and if the US leaves, they will retake control of the country.
When she started to answer his question, he interrupted her because she didn’t directly address his question right away. The crowd got a bit agitated, and Ms. Joya showed the spark that I expected to hear from what I had read about her. She showed pictures of the effects of US and NATO bombings on women and children. With great passion and emotion, she told the gentleman that the only way the people of Afghanistan can be in control is if the US and NATO leave. She knows that things will not change overnight, but she believes that the people of Afghanistan are ready to control their destiny.They have seen civil war and do not want it again. She told him to walk in her shoes and try to understand what it is like to live in a country where the people have no control over what happens.
Later, she talked about not trusting what you hear in the media about Afghanistan. The US interests are for control of bases in order to project power into the region and the ability to have access to minerals and central Asian oil.
Seek out media outlets that are not tied to the corporate power structure in the US. Here are some examples:
- Democracy Now!
- John Pilger
- Robert Fisk at the Independent
- The Guardian
- see others listed in the Activism section of my links
One of the audience members talked about the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. It is an online magazine that allows Afghan women to share their stories with the world. Please take the time to read some of their stories.
Watching Ms. Joya, I was reminded of a TED talk by the artist JR. He has spent time over the last few years documenting and photographing women around the world and created public art celebrating “Women are Heroes.”
To many, Ms. Joya is a hero for standing up to the warlords and corrupt Afghan government. I’ll end with her own words talking about her heroes.
“I started working as an activist when I was very young, grade 8. When I started working amongst our people, especially women, it was so enjoyable for me. I learned a lot from them, even though they were not educated. Before I started, I want to tell you, I didn’t know anything about politics. I learned from people who were non-educated, non-political people who belonged to a political situation. I worked with different committees in the refugee camps. I remember that in every house that I went everyone had different stories of suffering. I remember one family we met. Their baby was just skin and bones. They could not afford to take the baby to a doctor, so they had to just wait for their baby to die. I believe that no movie maker, no writer is able to write about these tragedies that we have suffered. Not only in Afghanistan, but also Palestine, Iraq…The children of Afghanistan are like the children of Palestine. They fight against enemies with only stones. These kinds of children are my heroes and my heroines.”
—Malalai Joya, November 5, 2007