Learning

Malalai Joya: The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan

Malalai Joya, at only 30 years of age, has been called “the most famous woman in Afghanistan” and compared to democratic leaders such as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Born in Afghanistan’s remote Farah Province, she grew up in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan before returning to Afghanistan as a social activist and a … Continued

Malalai Joya, at only 30 years of age, has been called “the most famous woman in Afghanistan” and compared to democratic leaders such as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Born in Afghanistan’s remote Farah Province, she grew up in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan before returning to Afghanistan as a social activist and a teacher at underground girls’ schools during the Taliban’s reign. In 2003 she was elected to Afghanistan’s constitutional assembly and, two years later, was the youngest person elected to Afghanistan’s new Parliament, a post from which she was suspended in 2007 for her regular denunciation of the country’s warlords and their cronies in government.

Malalai Joya’s 2003 historic speech delivered to the Loyta Jirga in Kabul

Visit Malalali Joya’s Defense Committee website: http://www.malalaijoya.com

Become a friend and supporter of Malalai Joya at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5583603994&v=wall

Learn More about Malalai Joya

Inspired in part by her father’s activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls’ schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn’t find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl’s family members sold her into marriage.

While many have talked about the serious plight of women in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya takes us inside the country and shows us the desperate dayto-day situations these remarkable people face at every turn. She recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change the country — the women who bravely take to the streets in peaceful protest against their oppression; the men who step forward and claim “I am her mahram,” so the fundamentalists won’t punish a woman for walking alone; and the families that give their basements as classrooms for female students.

A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no matter the cost.

An Introduction to Malalai Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warloards:

Dust in the Eyes of the World

I come from a land of tragedy called Afghanistan.

My life has taken some unusual turns, but in many ways my story is the story of a generation. For the thirty years I have been alive, my country has suffered from the constant scourge of war. Most Afghans my age and younger have only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation. When I was a baby in my mother’s arms, the Soviet Union invaded my country. When I was four years old, my family and I were forced to live as refugees in Iran and then Pakistan. Millions of Afghans were killed or exiled, like my family, during the battle-torn 1980s. When the Russians finally left and their puppet regime was overthrown, we faced a vicious civil war between fundamentalist warlords, followed by the rule of the depraved and medieval Taliban.

After the tragic day of September 11, 2001, many in Afghanistan thought that, with the ensuing overthrow of the Taliban, they might finally see some light, some justice and progress. But it was not to be. The Afghan people have been betrayed once again by those who are claiming to help them. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, we are still faced with foreign occupation and a U.S.-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans.

You may be shocked to hear this, because the truth about Afghanistan has been hidden behind a smoke screen of words and images carefully crafted by the United States and its NATO allies and repeated without question by the Western media.

You may have been led to believe that once the Taliban was driven from power, justice returned to my country. Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the U.S. military has brought democracy and women’s rights to Afghanistan.

But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world.

I am the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, but I have been banished from my seat and threatened with death because I speak the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. I have already survived at least five assassination attempts and uncounted plots against me. Because of this, I am forced to live like a fugitive within my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards, and we move to different houses almost every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies.

To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burqa, which to me is a symbol of women’s oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret classes. But today I don’t feel safe under my burqa, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons, and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs. I cannot tell you my family’s name, or the name of my husband, because it would place them in terrible danger. And for this reason, I have changed several other names in this book.

I call myself Joya — an alias I adopted during the time of the Taliban when I worked as an underground activist. The name Joya has great significance in my country. Sarwar Joya was an Afghan writer, poet, and constitutionalist who struggled against injustice during the early twentieth century. He spent nearly twenty-four years of his life in jails and was finally killed because he would not compromise his democratic principles.

I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists or soften my speeches denouncing them, I, too, may join Joya on the long list Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it would advance the cause of justice. Even the grave cannot silence my voice, because there are others who would carry on after me.

The sad fact is that in Afghanistan, killing a woman is like killing a bird. The United States has tried to justify its occupation with rhetoric about “liberating” Afghan women, but we remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that “a woman should be in her house or in the grave.” In most places it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day.

For both men and women in Afghanistan, our lives are short and often wracked by violence, loss, and anguish. The life expectancy here is less than forty-five years — an age that in the West is called “middle age.” We live in desperate poverty. A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. And it is estimated that more than half of Afghan men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. In the past few years, hundreds of women have committed self-immolation — literally burned themselves to death — to escape their miseries.

This is the history I have lived through, and this is the tragic situation today that I am working with many others to change. I am no better than any of my suffering people. Fate and history have made me in some ways a “voice of the voiceless,” the many thousands and millions of Afghans who have endured decades of war and injustice.

For years, my supporters have urged me to write a book about my life. I have always resisted because I do not feel comfortable writing about myself. I feel that my story, on its own, is not important. But finally my friends persuaded me to go ahead with this book as a way to talk about the plight of the Afghan people from the perspective of a member of my country’s war generation. I agreed to use my personal experiences as a way to tell the political history of Afghanistan, focusing on the past three decades of oppressive misrule. The story of the dangerous campaign I ran to represent the poor people of my province, the physical and verbal attacks I endured as a member of Parliament, and the devious, illegal plot to banish me from my elected post — all of it illuminates the corruption and injustice that prevents Afghanistan from becoming a true democracy. In this way it is not just my story, but the story of my struggling people.

Many books were written about Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy, but only a few of them offer a complete and realistic picture of the country’s past. Most of them describe in depth the cruelties and injustices of the Taliban regime but usually ignore or try to hide one of the darkest periods of our history: the rule of the fundamentalist mujahideen between 1992 and 1996. I hope this book will draw attention to the atrocities committed by these warlords who now dominate the Karzai regime.

I also hope this book will correct the tremendous amount of misinformation being spread about Afghanistan. Afghans are sometimes represented in the media as a backward people, nothing more than terrorists, criminals, and henchmen. This false image is extremely dangerous for the future of both my country and the West. The truth is that Afghans are brave and freedom-loving people with a rich culture and a proud history. We are capable of defending our independence, governing ourselves, and determining our own future.

But Afghanistan has long been used as a deadly playground in the “Great Game” between superpowers, from the British Empire to the Soviet empire, and now the Americans and their allies. They have tried to rule Afghanistan by dividing it. They have given money and power to thugs and fundamentalists and warlords who have driven our people into terrible misery. We do not want to be misused and misrepresented to the world. We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, but not this endless U.S.-led “war on terror,” which is in fact a war against the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not terrorists; we are the victims of terrorism. Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs — when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.

I was also reluctant to write this memoir because I’d always thought that books should first be written about the many democratic activists who have been martyred, the secret heroes and heroines of Afghanistan’s history. I feel the same way about some of the awards that I have received from international human rights groups in recent years. The ones who came before me are more deserving. It is an honor to be recognized, but I only wish that all the love and support I have been shown could be given to the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. For me, the awards and honors belong to all my people, and each distinction I receive only adds to my sense of responsibility to our common struggle. For this reason, all of my earnings from this book will go toward supporting urgently needed humanitarian projects in Afghanistan aimed at changing lives for the better.

As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.

Joya, Malalai. A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner, 2009).
Afghanistan is Fed Up with Occupation
Malalai Joya Among Warlords

By MIKE WHITNEY

“Afghans live under the shadow of the gun with the most corrupt government in the world.”

— Malalai Joya

It’s too bad Barack Obama didn’t consult with Malalai Joya before giving his Nobel acceptance speech on Thursday. The ex-Afghan Parliamentarian could have helped the president to see that the ongoing US occupation is damaging to both American and Afghan interests. Afghanistan is not the “Just War” that Obama defends so passionately in his speech. It’s part of a larger US geopolitical strategy which Joya outlines in her new book “A Woman Among the Warlords: The extraordinary story of an Afghan who dared to raise her voice”. US policymakers have decided to establish a beachhead in Central Asia to monitor the growth of China, surround Russia, control vital resources from the Caspian Basin, and provide security for US mega-corporations who see Asia as the “market of the future.” It’s the Great Game all over again. “Victory” in Afghanistan means that a handful of weapons manufacturers, oil magnates, and military contractors will get very rich. It has nothing to do with al-Qaida, “democracy promotion” or US national security. That’s all just public relations pablum.

“A Woman Among the Warlords” is an explosive narrative that takes a scalpel to many of the illusions surrounding the US invasion of Afghanistan. For example, most Americans have never heard about the “Warlord Strategy”, a term that is commonplace among Afghans. That’s because it doesn’t mesh with the media’s story about Afghan “liberation”. The truth is, US war-planners, led by Sec Def Donald Rumsfeld, settled on a plan to hand over entire regions of Afghanistan to the warlords even before the first shot was fired. The whole “liberation”-meme was just a ruse to elicit support for the war.

Here’s how Joya sums it up in her own words:

“The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the occupation of their country and with the corrupt, Mafia-state of Hamid Karzai and the warlords and drug lords backed by NATO…. It is clear now that the real motive of the U.S. and its allies, hidden behind the so-called “war on terror,” was to convert Afghanistan into a military base in Central Asia and the capital of the world’s opium drug trade. Ordinary Afghan people are being used in this chess game, and western taxpayers’ money and the blood of soldiers is being wasted on this agenda that will only further destabilize the region….Afghan and American lives are being needlessly lost.”

Joya is focused and uncompromising; a one-woman wrecking crew. She’s also an electrifying speaker who can bring an audience to their feet when she rails against the war. People can sense her intensity, her honesty, and her unwavering commitment to justice. Unlike Obama, she isn’t disposed to lofty-sounding platitudes that only serve to perpetuate war and suffering. Joya’s goal is peace; an end to 30 years of war, an end to US occupation and religious fanaticism. Regrettably, Obama’s military escalation ensures that the conflict will drag on for years to come bringing misery to even more people.

Malalai Joya:

“As I write these words, Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. We are caught between two enemies: the Taliban on one side and US/NATO forces and their warlord hirelings on the other…. Obama’s military build up will only bring more suffering and death to innocent civilians…. I hope that the lessons in this book will reach President Obama and his policymakers in Washington, and warn them that the people of Afghanistan reject their brutal occupation and their support of the warlords and druglords.” (“A Woman Among the Warlords”, p. 5)

“A Woman Among the Warlords” gives readers a glimpse of the vast destruction brought on by the US invasion. Joya repeatedly denounces Rumsfeld’s strategy which replaced the fanatical Taliban with war criminals and human rights abusers. She also takes aim at the media which gave cover to the warlords by referring to them as the “Northern Alliance”–or the equally misleading–“United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan”. As Joya points out, attitudes about the conflict have largely been shaped by disinformation, omissions and propaganda. Obama’s Noble speech proves that those same lies will now be delivered by a more competent spokesman.

Malalai Joya:

“While the United States bombed from the sky, the CIA and special forces had already arrived in the northern provinces of Afghanistan to hand out millions of dollars in cash and weapons to Northern Alliance commanders. They were the same extremists whose militias had pillaged Afghanistan during the civil war: Dostum, Sayyaf, Khalili, Rhabbani, Fahim, General Arif, Dr. Abdullah, Haji Qadir, Ustad Atta, Mohammad, Daoud, and Hazrat Ali among others. …Fahim, another ruthless man with a dark past. The western media tried at the time to portray these warlords as “anti-Taliban resistance forces and liberators of Afghanistan,” but in fact Afghan people believed they were no better than the Taliban.” (Ibid, p. 52)

As the Taliban fled across the Pakistan border amid heavy aerial bombardment, the warlords seized entire provinces reestablishing their iron-fisted rule over the local population. No attempt was ever made to establish democracy. Even today, many of the warlords are still on the US payroll, a point which Obama somehow failed to mention in his “Peace Prize” speech.

From the New York Times November 19, 2001: “The galaxy of warlords who tore Afghanistan apart in the early 1990s and who were vanquished by the Taliban because of their corruption and perfidy are back on their thrones, poised to exercise power in the ways they always have.”

Joya provides biographical sketches of many of the warlords, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a rabid fundamentalist “who massacred thousands in Kabul during the 1990s.” In one Kabul purge he ordered his soldiers, “Don’t leave anyone alive–Kill them all.” Sayyaf was “the person who invited international terrorist Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan during the 1980s. He also trained and mentored Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , the man who the US claims was the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks.” (p 67)

How many people would continue to support the war if they knew they were protecting friends of bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Malalai Joya again: “Most people in the west have been led to believe that intolerance, brutality, and severe oppression of women in Afgahnistan began with the Taliban regime. But this is a lie, more dust in the eyes of the world from the warlords who dominate the American-backed, so-called democratic government of Hamid Karzai. In truth, some of the worst atrocities in our recent past were committed during the civil war by the men who are now in power.”

During the blackest days of the Afghan civil war in 1992, a group of warlords seized Kabul razing much of it to the ground. “The militias of Dostum, Sayyaf, Massoud, Mazari, and Hekmatyar pillaged the city, robbing families and slaughtering and raping women. Eventually, anywhere from 65,000 to 80,000 innocent people were killed in Kabul alone, though there are no official figures for the staggering death toll. According to the United Nations, more than 90 percent of the city was destroyed. (Eventually) “the country was split up into fiefdoms, ruled by the whims of rival thugs and warlords.” (Ibid p26)

These are the monsters the US continues to support in Afghanistan today.

JOYA’S SOLUTION: “Withdraw All Foreign Troops”

Malalai Joya: “Some people say that when the troops withdraw, a civil war will break out. Often this prospect is raised by people who ignore the vicious conflict and humanitarian disaster that is already occurring in Afghanistan. The longer the foreign troops stay in Afghanistan, the worse the eventual civil war will be for the Afghan people. The terrible civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal certainly could never justify… the destruction and death caused by that decade-long occupation.” (p 217)…Today we live under the shadow of the gun with the most corrupt and unpopular government in the world. (p 211)

The war that one reads about in the media, is not the real war. It’s a fiction created to justify occupation. “A Woman Among the Warlords” shreds many of the myths surrounding the war and reveals the truth behind the hype; that the United States deliberately handed over Afghanistan to a group of genocidal maniacs. The same policy persists to today, which is why it’s time to bring the troops now.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com

Apology to Malalai Joya and the People of Afghanistan

U.S. Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, 25, was in military service for many years before he came to the conclusion that the wars and occupations in Iraq and in Afghanistan are wrong and found the courage to speak out. Since last summer he has been a key activist in the U.S. veterans’ organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).


From April 1st to 5th, Chiroux and Malalai Joya joined peace activists in Germany and France to speak out against NATO and the war and occupation in Afghanistan.

On April 4th, at a large demonstration in Strasbourg, France, Chiroux planned to publicly apologize to Afghan peace activist Malalai Joya for participating in the occupation of her country; however, before he could do so, the demonstration was disrupted by attacks of the French police. He made his apology instead on April 5, 2009, at the NATO Congress in Strasbourg.

Matthis Chiroux: I want to tell you, Malalai, how sorry I am for the violence that my Army has done to your people, to your country. I want to apologize to you for the role that I played in it. Malalai Joya: And I want to tell you that it is your government that must apologize first of all to great people like you: they are deceiving you and they use you for not a good cause; they use you for a war.

A Song Dedicated to Malalai Joya by written by the Italians Flavio Oreglio and Dario Canossi

Oreglio and Canossi in a dedication to Malalai Joya wrote:

We wrote the song Kabul after reading by chance an article talking about you. We took interest in your story and searched news concerning you in internet. In every line we read, we found in you the only real novelty in the new story of Afghanistan, the only sign of a possible change, the only path leading out of the dark ages.

Your bravery in facing openly power, of the Taliban and of those who sat next to you in the Loya Jirga, has filled our hearts.

The price you are now paying deserves more than a song but this is the only way we have to make people know your dreams and your story. If this may help you, you must know that we are standing by you.

Lyrics

English

Her eyes were big as those of real women
Hands waving as flags
Her words killed more than guns
Her words fired to not die

In Kabul, in Kabul

A butterfly flying over memory
Lions too old who don’t know history
You can cut a flower but not the spring
You can shut a light but the night will not come

In Kabul, in Kabul

The men with turbans in Kabul
Have said that she must speak no longer
The men with beards in Kabul
Have said that she must die

But you can’t stop snow
And every tear becomes a flower
For every petal a child is born
For every shot a child dies

But you can’t stop snow
And every tear becomes a flower
For every petal a child is born
For every shot a child dies

In Kabul, in Kabul

If ruins could speak
The mountains would cry for pain
Doesn’t move a finger against the talebans

In Kabul, in Kabul

War is war and it has no colour
Earth is earth and it has no flag
Religion is opium and opium is religion
Burqa has cancelled reason

In Kabul, in Kabul

The men with turbans in Kabul
Have said that she must speak no longer
The men with beards in Kabul
Have said that she must die

But you can’t stop snow
And every tear becomes a flower
For every petal a child is born
For every shot a child dies

But you can’t stop snow
And every tear becomes a flower
For every petal a child is born
For every shot a child dies

In Kabul, in Kabul


Italian


Aveva gli occhi grandi delle donne vere
Le mani sventolavano come bandiere
Parole che uccidevano più di un fucile
Parole che sparavano per non morire

A Kabul, a Kabul

Una farfalla vola sopra la memoria
Leoni troppo vecchi che non san la storia
Si può tagliare un fiore non la primavera
Puoi spegnere la luce ma non viene sera

A Kabul, a Kabul

Ma gli uomini col turbante di Kabul
Han detto che non deve più parlare
E gli uomini con la barba di Kabul
Han detto che oramai deve morire

Ma la neve non si può fermare
Perché ogni lacrima diventa un fiore
Per ogni petalo un bimbo nasce
Per ogni sparo un bimbo muore

Ma la neve non si può fermare
Perché ogni lacrima diventa un fiore
Per ogni petalo un bimbo nasce
Per ogni sparo un bimbo muore

A Kabul, a Kabul

Se le rovine poi potessero parlare
I monti griderebbero per il dolore
Hamid che veste Armani mani nelle mani
Non muove un solo dito contro i talebani

A Kabul, a Kabul

Perché la guerra è guerra e non ha colore
Perché la terra è terra e non ha bandiere
La religione è loppio e loppio è religione
per chi col burka ha cancellato la ragione

A Kabul, a Kabul

Ma gli uomini col turbante di Kabul
Han detto che non deve più parlare
Ma gli uomini con la barba di Kabul
Han detto che oramai deve morire

Ma la neve non si può fermare
Perché ogni lacrima diventa un fiore
Per ogni petalo un bimbo nasce
Per ogni sparo un bimbo muore

Ma la neve non si può fermare
Perché ogni lacrima diventa un fiore
Per ogni petalo un bimbo nasce
Per ogni sparo un bimbo muore

A Kabul, a Kabul

Visit Flavio Oreglio at: http://www.flaviooreglio.com/

Previous

Words from Michael Jackson and Princess Diana Spencer

Back to Learning
Next

Bullying the Planet: Is There An Antidote?