Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya, who will be 28 in April, is a slight woman who maybe reaches 5ft but against whom four assassination attempts have already been made.
This does not prevent her from speaking out, as she sees it, the candid, sometimes brutal, truth about her country, the government, its parliamentarians and the “terrible crisis” now faced by Afghanistan.
She called on Australia this week to adopt an independent policy towards her country and to listen to the wishes of the Afghan people. “They should know that bringing the Northern Alliance to power was the key to all the disasters we are experiencing today,” she said.
She told a Brisbane UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women breakfast on Wednesday that after the US and its allies removed the Taliban and its al-Qaida masters, they had brought back into power the Northern Alliance, who she claimed are, “as brutal and undemocratic as the Taliban and even worse,” and that Afghan people were now hostage to, “Mediaeval men responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people”.
“The US government keeps promising not to repeat its past mistakes ... but the US is making the same mistake, she is generously supporting the fundamentalists more than ever.” All justice-loving people and human rights organisations were demanding the trial of the war lords and former Moscow puppets but they had not been brought to justice. Instead, shamelessly they were offered higher positions and found their way into the parliament with the support of the US and allies, she said. It made a mockery of the war on terror.
Although praised by the western media, the elections in Afghanistan had been a sham. Some 20 per cent of those in parliament had been accused of things such as war crimes, drug-dealing and killing. She said her country was in the hands of bloody and fundamentalist terrorists.
A women’s activist, she is the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, and first spoke out publicly against the domination of the war lords in December 2003, as an elected delegate to the constitutional Loya Jirga, where tribal or regional leaders, political, military and religious figures, and government officials meet.
Because of the assassination attempts, she travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards. She said on Tuesday that one day they might kill her but they could never stop the truth.
UNIFEM organised the breakfast to mark International Women’s Day.
Malalai Joya told the hundreds of women present, including schoolgirls, a few men and at least one boy, how recently criminals, some of them parliamentarians, had been scared by the hanging of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and, as a result, a parliamentary Bill had been brought into parliament providing immunity to all criminals over the past 25 years. A UN report had expressed disapproval of the Bill.
“Today we have a drugs mafia in Afghanistan and the so-called government is deeply implicated in drugs and the war lords,” she claimed. Western governments and the western media underestimated Afghan’s problems. The appearance of “suits and ties” was a mockery of democracy.
Women’s rights were as catastrophic as they had been under the Taliban and the number of suicides had never been as high as they were today. She listed examples of recent violence against women and girls, including the case of an 11-year-old who was abducted, raped and then exchanged for a dog. The position of women would never change as long as the war lords were not removed from the political scene.
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