The women of Afghanistan, after eight years of occupation, offer conflicting advice, depending on their position in society. If the women are in Kabul, are educated and affluent, and have family members in office or are part of the government, they sometimes say, “our safety is in danger if U.S. troops leave." If the women are in the countryside (and 90% are) they say, “get the troops out now. Our rights, our freedoms, our safety have not improved in eight years of occupation — and the occupation fuels the insurgency.” In this complex war-torn nation, both opinions are valid. But according to MP Dr. Roshnak Wardak, all women in Afghanistan still lack basic rights except on paper, and all women in Afghanistan live in an ever-escalating war zone. As another brutal winter approaches, the humanitarian crisis of Afghanistan worsens—people resort to eating grass and they shiver in canvas tents.
During October, RAWA (the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) sponsored a speaking tour of the U.S. RAWA is the oldest women’s organization in Afghanistan, founded in 1977 to work for women’s rights and education, and is a very credible source. Their members risk personal safety and dedicate their lives to improving conditions for all Afghan women; many have been assassinated, included RAWA’s founder, Meena.
Zoya is a RAWA member whose parents were killed by extremists in Afghanistan when she was in her teens. She honors her mother’s work for women’s rights by continuing in her footsteps. Education of women, often in refugee camps and orphanages, has produced a generation of women like Zoya who are able in turn to educate us about conditions in their country. On an October 25 conference call, Zoya said, “It’s the same now as RAWA was saying eight years ago. It is impossible to import democracy. Democracy must be achieved by the people. Thousand of troops and billions of dollars have not achieved any positive change. Democracy cannot be practiced in a country ruled by warlords and drug lords.” She has seen the U.S. supporting the war criminals of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, but “the Northern Alliance are also terrorists, and so they are happy with the presence of the Taliban. They may even be helping to arm the Taliban. We are tired of this deception.” She added more on this topic during a speech at Boston’s Oct 17 antiwar rally in Copley Square.
Zoya thanked antiwar activists for speaking out and supporting self-determination for Afghanistan. She said she has met many Americans who are not aware of the true situation because “the media misled them.” Her call? “Educate! Organize! Expose the truth of the occupation!”
Malalai Joya is an Afghan woman who rocketed to fame when she was ejected from Afghanistan’s constitutional assembly in 2003, silenced for complaining that there were war criminals among her fellow delegates. She was later elected to Parliament and then thrown out in 2005 for making the same statement. On tour in the U.S. during October, in an interview with Laura Flanders on GritTV, Malalai had this advice for antiwar Americans: “First you should raise your voice very strongly against occupation in Afghanistan, against the war crimes of your government. Support the democratic kind of people in my country…morally support them, financially support them, and support education. And, why not put Bush in the International Criminal Court?”
Both Zoya and Malalai must live in safe houses and move frequently, as their truth-telling has resulted in death threats against them. Yet asked what she fears, Malalai said: “I don’t fear death. I fear political silence against injustice.” And from her website Malaijoya.com this statement, echoes fears raised during the rise of fascism in 20th century Europe: “The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.”
In January, 1980 during the first month of what would be a decade of Soviet occupation, an Afghan man in Kabul told me fiercely: “As long as there is ONE Afghan still alive, the Russians will NEVER rule our country!” Empires that have failed to subdue Afghanistan include the Macedonians under Alexander, the Safavid Persians, the Romans, the British, the Russians, and now, the U.S. Although our robotic killer drones strike wedding parties and funerals, crossing into Pakistan freely, the insurgency grows. We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them. But maybe that’s the real goal?
Speak up and expose the so-called war on terror for what it really is: a marketing strategy for corporate profits.
Call on your government to ground the drones and bring the troops home now!