Malalai Joya, dissident author and former member of the Afghan parliament, addressed a packed Marrickville Town Hall on September 9. More than 500 people braved the cold to hear Joya speak defiantly about the war waged on her country by US/NATO forces for the past decade.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which became the pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan less than a month later, Joya advocated for immediate removal of all occupying troops.
“I agree with my people that democracy never comes by bombing wedding parties, by committing war crimes,” she said.
Joya exposed Obama’s much-publicised “troop draw-down” as a mere exercise in “image-management”. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to permanent US control of military bases in the nation.
She said “they don’t want to leave Afghanistan because it’s in the middle of Asia, so it’s a base for US control in the whole region”.
Refuting Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s claim that removing the troops will leave Afghanistan in the hands of the terrorists, Joya said: “Someone should tell Gillard that Afghanistan is already in the hands of terrorists.”
Joya was famously expelled from her parliamentary position after denouncing the warlords and war criminals holding seats in the Afghan parliament.
She identified three forces embattling her people’s lives: the warlords, the Taliban, and occupying troops.
While the Taliban posed right-wing resistance to the occupation, it is “the resistance of ordinary Afghani people that gives hope for the future”.
Joya openly acknowledged that Afghanistan would still face problems even after the removal of troops, and appealed for humanitarian support.
“Nobody says when occupying troops leave, it will be heaven,” she said. “There’s no question we need a helping hand, but that never means we want occupation.
“We don’t want troops, but we want your solidarity — we need educational support, teachers, health clinics … When war-makers and fundamentalists can unite, so can we.”
The Stop the War Coalition Sydney, which organised the public meeting, announced a protest to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion, on October 8 at noon, Sydney Town Hall.
[The September 9 event was supported by the Marrickville Community Peace Group, the Sydney Peace Foundation and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. Malalai Joya's trip to Australia was organised by Stop the War Coalition Sydney and Melbourne Writers Festival. For more information about Stop the War Coalition Sydney visit its website.]