High school student Malalai Noori gave the below speech to an October 10 rally against Australia's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
First, I would just like to thank you for coming here today and supporting us in voicing the sufferings and untold stories of the Afghan people. For decades, Afghanistan has been subjected to war and destruction, making it impossible for the country to pursue its potential.
In 2006, then US President George W. Bush said: "Difficult challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but America is safer, and the world is more secure, because these two countries are now democracies — and they are allies in the cause of freedom and peace."
Now, for ordinary Afghans, this rosy picture bears little resemblance to the grim reality they face day in and day out.
This September marked the eighth year of this "war on terror" — or as we've come to know it — a "war of terror", which knows no boundaries and has no end.
Nothing has changed in Afghanistan in terms of minimal education, human rights abuses, little aid and widespread government corruption. In fact, it's become worse. Afghanistan is no safer now than it has been in the past decade.
Every day, every hour and every minute, innocent Afghan civilians are subjected to bombardment and mass destruction through no fault of their own.
Hundreds of thousands have already died. How many more innocent lives need to be lost before we all come to our senses and this brutal bloodshed is stopped?
I'm an Afghan-born Australian and have lost a lot of family members to the brutality of war. Brothers, sisters and my father all perished due to the bad conditions that war brought upon us.
Safety is unknown to the people of Afghanistan and has been for decades. But fear … fear is a feeling passed down through generations.
Those Afghans who have witnessed the effects of war and had the luck of escaping the country in fear of their lives take that feeling of fear with them no matter where they go or how much freedom and democracy they see.
My mother, having escaped with her two infant children, was welcomed to Australia with open arms, but kept that imprinted feeling of fear. Even to this day, the loud sounds of fireworks and celebrations remind her of the bombs hitting schools and houses, wiping out whole villages and killing her husband and children.
We were lucky, we had a second chance to live. The Afghan people also deserve a second chance, to live peacefully in their own country.
Although the Australian government has helped me, we as Australians can help on a greater scale by stopping this war and stopping the bloodshed and division that have been created in Afghanistan.
I visited Afghanistan in 2008 and was horrified by the state it was in. Handicapped labourers filled the streets in hope of any money a passing tourist may throw towards them.
Orphan children and widowed women had lost their status for sympathy in society because of the increasing number of women and children who were losing their husbands and fathers to the clutches of war.
Yet, still, at a time of hardship and struggle, the Afghan people did not once lose their integrity and pride in having not surrendered to the foreign troops and their forceful ways of change.
I can now tell you that my people do not adhere to change by force! Historically a foreign invader has never conquered them. And it doesn't seem like they will be this time either.
The war has brought fear, death, corruption, and poverty, but not positive change, which was what the invading governments originally promised. It's brought anything but positive change.
Clearly this shows that the strategy of invading Afghanistan and killing innocent people in the name of democracy and civility has not worked. So we are here today to call on the Australian people to join us in bringing our troops home and allowing the Afghans to live in peace without that continuing feeling of fear and suppression.