Afghani feminist MP condemns civilian massacres

May 23, 2009

Malalai Joya is the youngest elected representative to Afghan's parliament. In 2007, she was unjustly suspended for "insulting" other members of the parliament. Joya is an opponent of the US-led occupation and a strong supporter of women's rights. She opposes the brutal, misogynistic polices of both the Taliban and the fundamentalist forces the US have installed. Her memoir, Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, is due to be released later this year.

As an elected representative for Farah, Afghanistan, I add my voice to those condemning the NATO bombing that claimed over 150 civilian lives in my province earlier this month. This latest massacre offers the world a glimpse of the horrors faced by our people.

The US military authorities do not want you to see this reality. As usual, they have tried to downplay the number of civilian casualties, but I have information that as many as 164 civilians were killed in the bombings.

One grief-stricken man from the village of Geranai said he lost 20 members of his family in the massacre.

The Afghan government commission, furthermore, appears to have failed to list infants under the age of three who were killed. The government commission that went to the village after three days — when all the victims had been buried in mass graves by the villagers — is not willing to make their list public.

How can the precious lives of Afghans be treated with such disrespect?

The news is that the US has replaced its top military commander in Afghanistan. I think this is just a trick to deceive our people and put responsibility for their disastrous strategy on the shoulders of one person.

The Afghan ambassador to the US said in an Al Jazeera interview that if a proper apology is made, then people will understand the civilian deaths. But the Afghan people do not just want to hear "sorry". We ask for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan and a stop to such tragic war crimes.

The demonstrations by students and others against these latest air strikes, like the April protests by hundreds of Afghan women in Kabul, show the world the way forward for real democracy in Afghanistan.

In the face of harassment and threats, women took to the streets to demand the scrapping of the law that would legalise rape within marriage and codify the oppression of our country's Shia women.

Just as the US air strikes have not brought security to Afghans, nor has the occupation brought security to Afghan women. The reality is quite the opposite.

This now infamous law is but the tip of the iceberg of the women's rights catastrophe in our occupied country. The whole system, and especially the judiciary, is infected with the virus of fundamentalism. In Afghanistan, men who commit crimes against women do so with impunity.

Rates of abduction, gang rape, and domestic violence are as high as ever, and so is the number of women's self-immolation and other forms of suicide. Tragically, women would rather set themselves on fire than endure the hell of life in our liberated country.

The Afghan constitution does include provisions for women's rights. I was one of many female delegates to the 2003 Loya Jirga who pushed hard to include them.

But this founding document of the new Afghanistan was also scarred by the heavy influence of fundamentalists and warlords, with whom President Hamid Karzai and the West have been compromising from the beginning.

In fact, I was not really surprised by this latest law against women. When the US and its allies replaced the Taliban with the old notorious warlords and fundamentalists of the Northern Alliance, I could see that the only change would be from the frying pan to the fire.

There have been a whole series of outrageous laws and court decisions in recent years. For instance, there was the disgusting law passed on the pretext of national reconciliation that provided immunity from prosecution to warlords and notorious war criminals, many of whom sit in the Afghan parliament.

At that time, the world media and governments turned a blind eye to it.

My opposition to this law was one of the reasons that I, as an elected MP from Farah province, was expelled from parliament in May 2007.

More recently, there was the outrageous 20-year sentence handed down against Parvez Kambakhsh, a young man whose only crime was to allegedly distribute a dissenting article at his university.

We are told that additional US and NATO troops are coming to Afghanistan to help secure the upcoming presidential election. But frankly, the Afghan people have no hope in this election. We know that there can be no true democracy under the guns of warlords, the drug-trafficking mafia and foreign occupation.

With the exception of Ramazan Bashardost, most of the other candidates are discredited faces that have been part and parcel of the mafia-like, failed Karzai government. We know that one puppet can be replaced by another puppet, and that the winner of this election will most certainly be selected behind closed doors in the White House and the Pentagon.

I must conclude that this presidential election is merely a drama to legitimise the future US puppet.

Just like in Iraq, war has not brought liberation to Afghanistan. Neither war was really about democracy or justice or uprooting terrorist groups; rather they were and are about US strategic interests in the region.

We Afghans have never liked being pawns in the Great Game of empire, as the British and the Soviets learned in the past century.

It is a shame that so much of Afghanistan's reality has been kept veiled by a Western media consensus in support of the good war.

Perhaps if the citizens of North America had been better informed about my country, Obama would not have dared to send more troops and spend taxpayers money on a war that is only adding to the suffering of our people and pushing the region into deeper conflicts.

A troop surge in Afghanistan, and continued air strikes, will do nothing to help the liberation of Afghan women. The only thing it will do is increase the number of civilian casualties and increase the resistance to occupation.

To really help Afghan women, citizens in the US and elsewhere must tell their government to stop propping up and covering for a regime of warlords and extremists. If these thugs were finally brought to justice, Afghan women and men would prove quite capable of helping ourselves.

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