Zoya is a member of the radical underground organization RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. She fled Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion but later returned to her country to document life under Taliban rule. She has been an outspoken critic of the US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to a voice from Afghanistan. Zoya is a member of the radical underground organization called RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. She was a child during the Soviet invasion of her country. As a teenager, the mujahideen or warlords killed her activist parents. She fled with her grandmother to a refugee camp in neighboring Pakistan but later returned to her country to document life under Taliban rule. She has been an outspoken critic of the US and NATO invasion of her country.
Zoya is on a national tour of the United States this month and is speaking at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York today. For her own security inside Afghanistan, she goes by the pseudonym Zoya and does not appear on camera.
Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat asked Zoya over the telephone Tuesday for her thoughts on this eighth anniversary of the US-led bombing of Afghanistan.
ZOYA: Unfortunately, in the past eight years, with thousands of troops, with billions of dollars poured in the country, and with the tens of countries present in Afghanistan, the foreign countries, we see that there’s no positive change in Afghanistan. Still our people are suffering from insecurity.
Our people are caught up from different sides by different enemies. From one side, our people are suffering from Taliban, who has almost 70, 80 percent of Afghanistan under their control. From the other side, the warlords and drug lords have a lot of power in different provinces. And from the third side, unfortunately, the US and NATO bombs are killing our civilians. So, the past few years, I think, taught the foreign countries a new lesson, that as long as they are not changing their policy of supporting and compromising with Northern Alliance fundamentalists, there would be no root change in the political situation.
Today we see that after eight years — or before, United States occupied Afghanistan under the three banners, under three justifications, which was bringing democracy, liberation of Afghan women, and war, so-called war, on terror. But today we see that terrorism is increasing day by day. The Taliban are much more powerful than before. They are increasing in number. They are getting more stronger.
And we cannot talk even about democracy, because — as election was the proof that we have no democracy. And also, there’s no freedom of speech. There’s no freedom of expression in the country. The journalists are suffering, and they have very — a tough life and very threatening life, as a single word against the warlords and drug lords can result to their murder.
We see the situation of women, as women liberation was used as a justification to occupy Afghanistan. But today we see that women are suffering from different sides, as I said, from one side from the Taliban and from their rules and laws and from their suicide bombs, and from the other side, the US-NATO bombs. And mostly, as we notice, that during the past eight years, they killed more civilians than Taliban and terrorists. Many children, many innocent women were killed. Many times our — they attacked the wedding ceremonies. They attacked the poor people’s houses.
So we see that for the reasons that they occupied Afghanistan, these reasons remain the same, and there’s no positive change. And even the situation is getting more worse.
ANJALI KAMAT: Speaking as an Afghan woman who’s lived under the Taliban, who’s now, you know, lived under the US occupation, the return of Northern Alliance forces, and during the period of rule by different warlords, what, in your opinion, has been the most difficult time for Afghan women?
ZOYA: Unfortunately, it’s very hard to compare, you know, the darkest history of Afghanistan during these thirty years. But I can, for sure, say that — I mean, we had, like, the Soviet invasion. We had the Northern Alliance fundamentalist invasion. And then we had Taliban. And now we have the occupation. One thing I can say, that compared to everything, the fundamentalist domination was the darkest period of our history, which has unfortunately — ’til today, is continuing, because these fundamentalist commanders and gunmen and warlords and war criminals have a lot of power and have key position today in the government. So I can say that fundamentalist domination of Afghanistan is the darkest period of our history.
ANJALI KAMAT: And would you describe the Taliban as fundamentalist, as well?
ZOYA: Exactly. We have two kind of fundamentalist groups. One is Taliban, and the other side is Northern Alliance fundamentalist groups, which call themselves a so-called jihadi group.
ANJALI KAMAT: And do you think US and NATO troops should withdraw from Afghanistan, or is there another mission that they can accomplish besides trying to fight terrorism?
ZOYA: Yeah, RAWA is in favor of withdrawal of the troops. And we think that if the United States government really feels sorry for the people of Afghanistan and really want to help, they can help us in some other ways. For example, they — first of all, they should disempower fundamentalist war criminals from the three organs of the government. They should disarm them, disarm their private armies and private, you know, soldiers that they have. They should change their policy of supporting fundamentalist groups in the past, you know, thirty years in Afghanistan. And still, they are doing the same thing. They should start supporting democratic parties and organizations.
So I think they have other alternatives if they really want to help us. And the troops have proved — there’s eight years’ proof that it’s already failed, and they will be failed. Even if they throw thousands and millions of other troops, the situation will be the same, because we need a change, a radical change, in the system, which is so corrupted. And it cannot be, you know, healed by throwing more troops. So we are in favor of withdrawal of the troops immediately.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Zoya, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, speaking with Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat.