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2011-03-28

Obama Administration Relents and Grants Visa to Leading Afghan Antiwar Campaigner Malalai Joya for U.S. Trip

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Former Afghan member of parliament, Malalai Joya, joins us for her first broadcast interview since arriving in the United States on Friday after officials initially denied her application for a travel visa. Her visa was approved Thursday following a protest campaign that included letters from the American Civil Liberties Union and nine members of Congress. Asked why the United States at first refused her visit, Joya says, “I’m talking about the blind bombardment of the U.S.A.-NATO forces, these occupiers, about the occupation of my country... These are, I think, the reasons that the U.S. and NATO, they’re afraid of me.” [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Afghanistan, U.S.-led NATO forces fear increasing opposition after photographs of U.S. troops posing over dead Afghan civilians were published last week. The U.S. Army issued an apology after the images were published in the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Democracy Now! also broadcast the photos last week. And on Sunday, Rolling Stone magazine published similar images and videos in a special report on their website. The photographs are graphic and have been compared to the pictures that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The soldiers in the photographs are on trial for forming a secret "kill team" in Afghanistan that murdered unarmed Afghan civilians at random and collected body parts. The images were entered as evidence into the trial.

NATO air strikes have also recently led to civilian deaths. On Friday, NATO air strikes killed seven civilians, including three children, in Helmand province. Earlier in the week, NATO says two civilians were accidentally killed in an air strike in the province of Khost. Two children were killed in another NATO attack last week, and nine boys died in another attack earlier this month.

To discuss the situation in Afghanistan, we’re joined by activist and former Afghan member of parliament, Malalai Joya. The U.S. government initially denied a travel visa to Joya, who has been a vocal critic of the war. Supporters in the U.S. then mounted a protest campaign that included letters from the ACLU, groups of writers and academics, and nine members of Congress, and a mass phone-in to the State Department last Wednesday. On Thursday, consular officials allowed Joya to re-apply without the normal waiting period, and her visa was approved.

Malalai Joya is an outspoken critic of warlords, fundamentalists, the Taliban, and of the US occupation of Afghanistan. She is touring the United States to promote the second edition of her autobiography, A Woman Among Warlords. In 2010, Time magazine named Joya one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has survived numerous assassination attempts. And she’s joining us right now from Burlington, Vermont.

Malalai Joya, welcome to Democracy Now! First, why did the U.S. government deny you a visa to come into this country?

MALALAI JOYA: Hello, Amy and also to all listeners. Thanks for this interview.

Because I exposed the wrong policy of the U.S. government to justice-loving great people of the U.S., and also I informed them about the wrongdoing of their government, that they’re killing innocent people under the name of the so-called war on terror. And I tell to justice-loving people of the U.S. that their taxpayer money, billions of dollars that their government pay, goes into pocket of the warlords, drug lords and criminals, and now negotiating with the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, these terrorists, as well. So, they are not honest for our people. And I’m talking about the blind bombardment of the U.S.A.-NATO forces, these occupiers, about the occupation of my country to great people of the U.S. These are, I think, the reasons, briefly what I said, that the U.S. and NATO, they’re afraid of me, and now they denied to give me visa. But I’m happy and honored for peace-loving, justice-loving people of the U.S. who put pressure on their government and showed their solidarity with my people once again. And that’s why finally they gave me visa. And I came here to bring the message of my people against occupation, for democracy and peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Malalai, is it true that when you went to the U.S. embassy to get your visa when you were in Afghanistan, they said they were denying it because you were unemployed and live underground?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, it was true reasons. I think it was just a mere excuse, that. Also, it was not just something — surprise for me. I could expect that they will refuse to give me visa, because I exposed the wrong policy of these warmongers and their war crime, that what they are doing, under the name of democracy, women’s rights, human rights, against my people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain the living underground. Are you living underground? And what does that mean?

MALALAI JOYA: Underground, yeah, because they are — not only me, most of my people, millions of Afghan, by presence of tens of thousands troops, they don’t have security, which is important, more than food and water. They suffer from injustice, corruption, joblessness, poverty and many other miseries. So, my life, after my speech in 2003, that has been changed, because of telling the truth and I exposed the mask of these fundamentalist warlords, who are a photocopy of the Taliban. And day by day, it is getting risky, because I never do compromise with them, I never sit silent. I even — they want to eliminate. That’s why I have to be underground.

Today, most of women of Afghanistan, not only me, even despite wearing burqa, we are not safe there. This disgusting burqa, which is symbol of oppression, today gives safety to many other Afghans, especially activist women. And despite burqa and bodyguard, not now safe, my life not safe in Afghanistan, as changing the houses. So many other obstacles, not only for me, for other democratic-minded parties, intellectuals, activists that we have, and still they are underground.

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