Private Matthew Lambert became the 29th Australian solider to die in the war in Afghanistan on August 22. Most Australians disagree with the war, but the two big parties remain unswerving in their support of the US-NATO led occupation.
Malalai Joya, a former Afghan MP and outspoken anti-war activist, is visiting Australia for a third time on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.
The Sydney Stop the War Coalition, the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan - Australia are the hosts of Joya’s Australian tour.
Jason Motlagh from Russia Today interviewed Joya in June. An abridged version of the interview is below.
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You have often said that the US and NATO forces have pushed Afghans from the frying pan into the fire. What do you mean?
Politically, the Northern Alliance fundamentalist warlords are the same as the Taliban: they killed more than 65,000 people, destroyed our national unity, raped children of just four years old as well as grandmothers and committed many other crimes.
They may wear suits and ties but that is a mask. They are not democrats: that’s the situation in our country and it’s getting worse.
Is the situation for women in Afghanistan worse now than after the 9/11 terror attacks?
After the 9/11 tragedy and the invasion of my country some schools were built and some people did get access to jobs and education.
For some women, things improved.
But for most women, things have gone backwards — especially for women in remote areas where the situation is like hell because killing women is easy for the Taliban.
Every day, more women are raped, more suffer from domestic violence and schools for girls are burned.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the US-NATO occupying forces — including huge numbers of women and children.
Ten years ago, the US invaded Afghanistan chasing Osama bin Laden because they said the Taliban was sheltering him. He’s dead now. Does that change anything?
The United States government portrays itself as “heroic” for killing Osama bin Laden. It has used him as the nightmare to deceive the West about this criminal war and to drum up support for the so-called war on terror.
Those who gave shelter to Osama bin Laden all these years are also supporting the puppet regime of [Afghanistan’s Prime Minister] Hamid Karzai. They want to continue to deceive the world that Afghanistan is on its way to becoming a democratic nation.
You are a fierce critic of the war in Afghanistan. But what happens when the US leaves? Are you worried about civil war breaking out, or the return of the Taliban?
Governments that support the occupation of my country are liars. They tell us that they will leave Afghanistan by mid-2011, or mid-2012.
At the same time, Karzai is talking about US bases staying in Afghanistan for the long term. You cannot trust them.
It’s very easy for the West to invent an enemy to justify their ongoing war and occupation.
We wish the occupation forces would leave: my people now face three powerful enemies — the warlords, the Taliban and the US-NATO occupation forces.
A political reconciliation will have to include the Taliban, and that will demand compromises on civil freedoms — including for women. Would you be willing to negotiate with the Taliban?
It makes no sense to replace one bunch of terrorists — the warlords — with another bunch of terrorists [like] the Taliban.
We already know what they’re like [because] they have been in power before and some of them are in the current corrupt parliament.
We know their background and how bloody they are. We know they are misogynists. We know there will be more bloodshed and more violence against women, and more misery for our people.
Directly, these people have the support of a godfather: the US government. And indirectly, they have the support from Pakistan and the Inter Services Intelligence.
So it’s a choice between the bad, the US-NATO occupation, and worse, Taliban and warlords?
No. Our history shows that we will never accept occupation: the British wanted to occupy and they faced resistance from our people. The Russians wanted to occupy and our people gave them some very good lessons.
Day by day, people are showing their resistance. On campuses and on the streets, people are showing their opposition to the occupation — including their banners demanding “US out of Afghanistan”.
There used to be a time when Afghans supported the US being in their country. When did that start to change?
Because thousands of innocent American people were killed in 9/11, many Afghans thought that the US would be honest and remove the Taliban.
Unfortunately, they removed the Taliban and brought into power a photocopy of the Taliban.
Day by day, the situation is getting worse. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed. Millions suffer from extreme injustices including poverty, unemployment, cruelty and corruption. We are fed up with the occupation.
Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt country in the world. The Karzai government has been given more than US$62 billion in “reconstruction” funding. It is supposed to go to hospitals and schools.
Instead, most goes into the pockets of warlords, and even to the family of Karzai himself. There’s corruption from the palaces right down to the small offices.
Millions of Afghans now live below the official poverty line [of] $2 a day. Violence is increasing day by day against women. Over these past 10 years, thousands of innocent people have been killed — mostly women and children.
Democracy never comes with occupation. Democracy never comes through military invasion, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, massacres and the bombing of wedding parties.
You paint a pretty bleak picture right now. Are you hopeful about the future of your country?
As long as hope is alive, everything is possible. Democracy without justice is meaningless. Support my people with education because that is key as it works against the occupation and against ignorance.
You face constant death threats and many supporters have invited you to move abroad. Will you ever leave Afghanistan for good?
Never. I do receive death threats and I don’t live a “normal” life. I have to live underground and it is risky.
I’m no better than my people and I have to play my role. With their support I know how important my job is. I don’t fear death — but I do fear political silence against injustice.