Afghan feminist: ‘Kill team’ photos reveal truth of occupation

April 9, 2011
Malalai Joya.

The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published in March by the media are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public.

All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with these pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians.

I must report that Afghans do not believe this be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We that is part and parcel of the entire military occupation.

The photos are new, but the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes against civilians have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-US sentiments among ordinary Afghans.

I am not surprised that the mainstream media in the United States has been reluctant to publish these images of the US “kill teams” who made sport out of murdering Afghans.

There is, after all, a concerted effort to keep the reality of Afghanistan out of sight in the US. General David Petraeus, now in charge of the US-led occupation, is said to place great importance on the “information war” for public opinion.

Based on this strategy, the Pentagon has tried hard to cover up these crimes.

Although a few soldiers seen in these photos are being prosecuted, I think this is another effort to hide larger human rights violations carried out by the US in Afghanistan.

The US must first prosecute those responsible for killing 65 women and children in Ghaziabad, Kunar, in mid-February, for killing 150 civilians in Kunduz province in October 2009, for killing over 140 civilians in Balabluk, Farah province, in May 2009, for killing 100 children and women in Azizabad, Heart, in September 2008 and many more such inhuman crimes for which the Pentagon only said “sorry”.

If the US was really honest, then top US officials from defence secretary Roberts Gates to Petraeus, under whose command all of these war crimes take place, would be put on trial.

Yet while the US and NATO are busy committing war crimes in Afghanistan, they attack Libya to punish Gaddafi for human rights violations!

For us, this is a joke when we see the US government whole-heartedly supporting forces much dirtier than Gaddafi’s in our country.

In March, my initial application for a US entry visa was turned down, and so my ongoing book tour in the United States was delayed as supporters demanded my right to enter the country.

The US government was pressured to relent and allow my visit to go ahead. Ultimately, it will also be unable to block the truth about the war in Afghanistan.

The “kill team” images will come as a shock to many in Europe and North America, but to Afghans it is nothing new. For the past decade, we have seen countless incidents of US and NATO forces killing innocent people like birds.

For instance, they recently killed nine children in Kunar Province who were out collecting firewood in the mountains. Another, out of countless massacres of innocent civilians, took place in mid-February of this year when US-led forces killed 65 innocent villagers, most of them women and children.

In this case, as in many others, NATO claimed that it had only killed insurgents, even though local authorities acknowledged the victims were civilians.

To keep the facts from coming out, it arrested two Al Jazeera journalists who tried to visit and report from the site of the massacre.

The US and NATO have tried hard to hide these civilians deaths by calling the dead terrorists or insurgents. Afghans regard such lies as an insult to their loved ones who have been brutally killed.

Successive US officials have said they would safeguard civilians and they would be more careful. In fact they are only more careful in their efforts to cover up their crimes and stop their publication in the media — therefore many horrific killings are never reported.

The US and NATO, along with the office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, usually give statistics about civilian deaths that underestimate the numbers killed by the occupying forces.

The reality, however, is that civilian deaths are up since US President Barack Obama raised the number of US troops in Afghanistan. The president’s “surge” has only led to a surge of violence from all sides.

Believe it or not, the occupying armies have even tried to buy off the families of their victims, offering US$2000 for each member of a family killed.

Afghan lives are cheap for the US and NATO, but no matter how much they offer we don’t want their blood money.

Once you know this, you will understand more clearly why Afghans have turned against this occupation. The Karzai regime, which is full of the most infamous brutal warlords of the Northern Alliance, is more hated than ever.

It rules through intimidation, corruption and the help of the occupying armies. Afghans deserve much better than this.

However, this does not mean that more Afghans are supporting the reactionary so-called resistance of the Taliban, who also continue to kill innocent Afghans through suicide bombings.

We are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance, led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest the massacre of civilians, and to demand an end to the war.

Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Marzar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kunar, Herat and elsewhere.

This resistance is inspired by the movements in other countries like Egypt and Tunisia — we want to see “people power” in Afghanistan as well.

And we need the support and solidarity of peace-loving people power in the countries occupying Afghanistan as well.

Many new voices are speaking up against this expensive and hypocritical war in Afghanistan. This includes some soldiers from the NATO armies.

When I last visited Britain, I had the honour of meeting Joe Glenton, a conscientious objector who spent months in jail for his resistance to the war in Afghanistan.

Of his time in prison, Glenton said: “In the current climate I consider it as a badge of honour to have served a prison sentence.”

While the world looks in horror at the “kill team” photos, Joe’s courage and humanity is an important reminder that the war in Afghanistan need not last forever.

[Reprinted from Malalai Joya is an Afghan feminist and anti-war activist.]


Thanks for publishing this article glw. After reading Joya's words it is impossible to not come away with a deeper appreciation of the mammoth struggles facing ordinary Afghan people and with a deepened sense of scepticism about Western involvement. After reading this article I would suggest that ordinary Afghans should wear their ordinariness as a badge of honour. How any afghans manage to remain "ordinary" in any sense of the word after what they have been through is beyond my comprehension.
Afghanistan is way too complicated for the american military to act in any way that can be helpful to the people of afghanistan. The language, culture, and tribal relations are too confusing for your average american soldier to comprehend. The window of opportunity 2001-2006 has closed. The shift in focus to Iraq squandered an opportunity which is lost. Too many "accidents" have occured, all which MUST be avenged, to prevent violence from escalating out of control. It's a shame...but nothing good can come from 100,000 young americans with guns wandering around around Afghanistan. The young men of Afghanistan have no choice but to fight in order to maintain their dignity and honor. Unfortunately the Pakistani ISI has successfully screwed the Afghanis and the Americans again....
.... The people who read this woman's rhetoric could go to Afghanistan. Joya regularly speaks in Afghanistan, under the security that western involvement provides. I would love for her to give one of her "everybody love everybody, war is bad speeches" in miram shah or chitral, Pakistan. Funny, Joya never railed against the Taliban movement in the 90s. Shes no champion of what's good in the world, simply an opportunist.
It's extremely gratifying to see an article by Malalai Joya. Having read her autobiography I am a true admirer of this strong, intelligent woman and extremely proud to see that her article was published on an Australian website. Will definitely be returning to this website.

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