“You have to put more pressure on your government to allow Afghans to decide their own future,” Afghan democracy activist and former MP Malalai Joya told a 150-strong public forum on April 11.
“No nation can liberate another nation,” Joya said. “Ten years of war should have made this clear. It's better the troops leave.”
The public meeting, organised by Sydney Stop the War Coalition, was chaired by human rights activist and lawyer Kellie Tranter. Tranter told Green Left Weekly: “It's important to listen to Malalai Joya because she is the voice of a vast network of ordinary people across Afghanistan who are saying the foreign troops have to get out.”
Fielding questions from the audience, Joya said the Australian government was following the “wrong policy” of the US which is “not only a mockery of democracy for you, it’s a monstrous war crime against our people”.
The pro-war media stays silent on the atrocities in Afghanistan, but Joya showed graphic pictures of the reality: “Air strikes by the US-NATO forces have killed thousands. Cluster bombs, phosphorus and other harmful chemicals leave our innocent people with horrible injuries.”
Joya also spoke about the atrocities committed by warlords, the Taliban and al-Qaeda – “all products of the White House’s Cold War”. She demanded the West stop backing Afghanistan’s murderous warlords.
She pointed to the Australian government’s support for Matiullah Khan – a warlord who is now chief of police in Oruzgan province where Australian troops are stationed. The Dutch forces refused to work with him, but the US and Australian troops have no such qualms.
Joya said: “Day by day, this war criminal is getting more powerful. He receives $340,000 each year from the Australian, US and other Western governments. It appears that some of Matiullah Khan’s fighters have even been receiving military training in Australia.”
Joya urged Australians to prevent such people from visiting and pointed to the recent successful campaign to prevent Mohammed Mohaqiq, leader of the fundamentalist Hezb-e-Wahdat Party, from speaking at a conference in Rome.
Mohaqiq, one of the most bloodthirsty militia commanders during the civil war of 1992-1996, was also a sponsor of a reactionary Afghan law authorising rape in marriage.
Asked if the Australian troops were doing any good in Afghanistan, Joya replied: “There is no difference between Australian occupation forces and others: all of them are following the same policy and betraying our people.”
She slammed the notion that the occupation is helping Afghan women achieve their rights. “Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed — wedding parties are bombed and many women and children are the victims of cluster bombs and white phosphorous.
“Between 2010 and 2011, the BBC recorded 2300 women [killed themselves]. People are starving and have to resort to selling their babies.
“Afghanistan is still the second most corrupt country in the world. Despite receiving more than US$60 billion in aid, more than 9 million people go short of food, not to mention other hardships.”
But Joya praised the bravery of the women and men who are resisting, pointing to numerous examples of people taking to the streets with banners demanding the occupation troops leave. A recent example Joya gave was when thousands of people took to the streets after occupation forces in Helmand province killed civilians after US forces had burned the Koran.
She said: “Brave people risk their lives by demonstrating. There are protests all over Afghanistan every day by democratic groups including the six-party alliance of the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan and the Social Association of Afghan Justice Seekers.
“In the Taliban’s time, we had one enemy. But after 10 years of war, we now have three — the warlords, the Taliban and occupation forces.”
Joya said that life in Afghanistan will be “no picnic” when the occupation forces finally leave. But she insists that this is the first and necessary step towards justice. “Democracy without justice is meaningless,” she repeated.
She summed up her main message to the crowd: “Democratic Australians must join forces with like-minded Afghans to stop this war. Pressure your government to let the people of Afghanistan decide on their own future. That’s real self-determination.”