- Malalai Joya
former Afghan member of parliament and outspoken critic of warlords, fundamentalists, the Taliban, and of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. She is touring the United States to promote the second edition of her autobiography, A Woman Among Warlords.
U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan fear increasing opposition after photographs of U.S. troops posing over dead Afghan civilians were published last week by German news magazine Der Spiegel and broadcast by Democracy Now! Rolling Stone magazine has just published 18 additional images. The photographs are graphic and have been compared to images 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. NATO air strikes have also recently led to more than 15 civilian deaths in the past month. We get reaction from former Afghan member of parliament, Malalai Joya. [includes rush transcript]
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.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation today in Afghanistan, the series of killings of civilians that the U.S. has had to apologize for, the person in charge, General David Petraeus, having to issue an apology for the first time a few weeks ago, especially around the killing of children. What’s happening?
MALALAI JOYA: You know, our people now, they’re fed up from listening apologies from the White House, these warmongers and NATO governments, and also the puppet regime, mafia corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai. We want the end of this brutal war, this disgusting war, this occupation, as soon as possible. During these 10 years, tens of thousands innocent civilians has been killed, most of them innocent women, children and men. And even they — during these nine years of their occupation, they used white phosphorus cluster bomb. They are bombing our wedding parties. Maybe you heard, as you earlier mentioned the report of Der Spiegel, that even they insult with the dead bodies of my people; these occupation forces make fun with these dead bodies. And their government, when they kill innocent civilians, doing massacres, they pay $2,000, these bloody dollars, to each victim’s family, it means that the lives of Afghans is equal to $2,000 for these warmongers, and while most time my people reject these monies.
Unfortunately, when Obama took office, his first news for my people was more conflict, more war, because he says more troops in Afghanistan. And the result of this was more miseries, more massacres, more tragedies. And also, when compared with the Bush administration, 24 percent civilian deaths increase. And many other miseries, violence are still going on in my country. And for thousand time, the recent report proves that today in Afghanistan, especially these nine years, the killing of my people for them is like killing the birds. But unfortunately, mainstream media, always they slide the truths, and they shamelessly decrease the number of civilian deaths and call them insurgents, terrorists.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned — you said the "die teams," what’s called the "kill team," the soldiers that are on trial right now in the United States, these photographs that Democracy Now! has broadcast, these horrendous photographs. And I urge people — I warn you, as we show these photographs, that Der Spiegel showed first, of these so-called kill teams that murdered unarmed Afghan civilians at random and collected body parts as trophies. How much attention is this getting in Afghanistan right now?
MALALAI JOYA: These photos, not only for Afghans, I believe for millions around the world as human being, for justice-loving people around the world, is heartbreaking. And it was not new for our Afghan people, as every day they are bombing, killing civilians, under the name of these terrorists, now negotiating with these fascist Taliban, terrorist Taliban, and also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. These terrorists come in power, the situation will be more bloody, more disaster for my people.
That’s why every day when they are bombing, when our people know this news, there are many demonstration in Afghanistan. There are right now two kind of resistance in my country. One is the reactionary resistance of these terrorist Taliban that always mainstream media, U.S. government try to make a mountain out of a molehill. Another is resistance of ordinary Afghan people, the students of the universities, democratic-minded parties that we have. For example, Afghanistan Solidarity Party is a democratic-minded party, secular party, that recently they did a demonstration in different part of Afghanistan — in Mazar-i-Sharif, in Kabul, in Jalalabad, in Herat, in Farah province. Hundreds of people joined their demonstration with banners — "U.S. out of Afghanistan" — and against their brutalities, with the pictures of the victim civilians. But nobody listened to their voice, even not only the media in Afghanistan, which is not free and therefore this mafia media give report, also the mainstream media never give report the resistance of these people to justice-loving people around the world. They are the one who should be supported, these democratic-minded parties, intellectuals, activists that we have in Afghanistan. Still they are underground, but they never sit silent through struggle. Let’s support them as much as you can and put pressure on your government, that stop this wrongdoing, this war crime under the name of democracy and women’s rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who exactly the U.S. is working with and negotiating right now with in Afghanistan? With all that is happening in Libya and the Middle East, it seems that Afghanistan, coverage of Afghanistan, has even fallen farther off the radar, if that’s possible, astounding that the U.S. is conducting such a war and there’s so little coverage of it in Afghanistan.
MALALAI JOYA: They want to negotiate with Taliban and also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one bunch of terrorists like Northern Alliance who are mentally same like Taliban, only physically has been changed after 9/11. These warlords, their background, you can see on Human Rights Watch website. Many book has been written about them, like I Is for Infidel, Ghost Wars, Bleeding Afghanistan, like Devil’s Game book. If you read, it will help you to know better about these warlords who committed crimes against my people, the civil war from '92 to ’96, before domination of the Taliban. But after 9/11, they imposed on my people with the mask of democracy. That's why Afghanistan, day by day, goes from — the situation goes from worse to worse. And U.S. and NATO, especially U.S. government, created, supported these fundamentalists since Cold War and still don’t want to lose them.
And now these bunch of terrorists, that these 10 years, they become powerful, with suit and tie, with bloody hands. They invite another bunch of terrorists, like Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, that the U.S. government in the past put his name on the blacklist as a wanted criminal. Without to say apologies to my people, these terrorists invite them to join this mafia corrupt regime. Mullah Omar is not moderate, that your government — I mean, U.S. government says to justice-loving people of the U.S., around the world, "We are negotiating with moderate Talib." We have no moderate Talib. How do they recognize that when this terrorist is moderate, another one is a not moderate? And Mullah Omar is a terrorist, and if people wish, all of these bunch of killers, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Qanooni, Mohaqiq, Dostum, Khalili, Ismail Khan, Gulabzoi, Olumi, many other killers who also right now already they are in power and have high posts in Karzai’s regime — they should be brought to the national — International Criminal Court for the war crimes that they committed for all of these brutalities.
Now, these 10 years, they changed my country to the center of the drugs. Since 2001 until now, 4,400 percent opium increased in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt country in the world. There’s $2 billion the government of Karzai received from the so-called international community, but on there, my people even don’t have enough food to eat. More than 80 percent people are now jobless in Afghanistan and suffer from many other miseries.
It seems the shedding the blood of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan was not enough for U.S. government, that now, under the shadow or umbrella of U.N. now, invade Libya, as well, under the beautiful banner of women’s rights, human rights. And again, my message to justice-loving people of U.S., around the world, is that, please raise your voice against this wrong policy. When you see that while Obama’s administration raise hue and cry against Gaddafi regime and its crimes, but in the meantime supporting the dirtiest, much more dirty Gaddafi regime in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Israel, in Saudi Arabia, in many other countries.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, Malalai Joya. The withdrawal beginning in July, do you believe this will be happening? And what would it mean if U.S. troops left?
MALALAI JOYA: It is just big lies. From one hand, the U.S. and NATO, they tell — the fool not only Afghan people, their own people too, by telling, "We will leave by the middle of 2011." But form another side, a U.S. puppet regime, Karzai’s regime, is talking about permanent U.S. military bases in my country, which is clear they will not leave my country soon. They are there because of their own strategic regional and economic interests.
We want the withdrawal of the troops because their presence, they double our miseries, create more obstacles, problems for the justice-loving, democratic-minded parties that we have, intellectuals, innocent people of my country — day by day getting powerful, eliminate them. So we are squashed between three powerful enemies: warlords, Taliban, occupation forces. With the withdrawal of occupation forces, we will fight two internal enemies. If the occupation forces leave, stop arming the warlords and Taliban, the backbone of these criminals will break. And of course, fight against Taliban and warlords is not easy, but the hopeful point is that — positive point is that my people hate the Taliban and also the warlords. If U.S. and NATO let us a little bit breathe in peace, then we know what to do with our destiny.
They are telling you that "Civil war will happen if we leave Afghanistan," but nobody is talking about today’s civil war. As long as these occupation forces will be there, the worse civil war will be. Democracy never come by military invasion. Democracy never come by bombing, killing innocent civilians, by cluster bomb or white phosphorus. Anyway, we’re fed up from this occupation. Now, my message of my people is this: we don’t want anything good from you, just stop wrong thing, just stop these massacres, just stop support of these criminals, these terrorists. And in the meantime, I’m asking for the solidarity and support of justice-loving people around the world, their moral support, educational support, because it’s the key to world emancipation.
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai Joya, I want to thank you for being with us, former member of the Afghan parliament, has survived numerous assassination attempts. Her book is called A Woman Among Warlords. Malalai Joya was named by Time magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world.