malalai joya in toronto: report, part two

Initial thoughts here.

Part one here.

Joya speaks with great strength and forcefulness. And she talks fast. Allan said when she spoke in Pashto, you could practically see the words tumbling out of her mouth, and you were half-expecting the words to start tripping and falling on each other, but they never did.

I'm a great notetaker, but this time my notebook is a bunch of crazy fragments. Here are some of them.

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First Joya explained why she wrote the book. She became famous, she said, for standing up to the warlords and drug lords, who are just a copy of the Taliban, wearing the mask of democracy. "And sometimes through your own life, you can write about other lives." She noted that in a war, the first casualty is truth, and she wrote the book to tear the mask off the warlords who are deceiving people with propaganda, and to shine a light on the tragedy of Afghanistan's 30 years of war.

She is part of the pro-democracy, anti-misogynist, anti-fascist movement in Afghanistan, and this movement wants the withdrawal of all foreign troops. Since October 2001, 65,000 Afghanistan civilians have been killed, according to Human Rights Watch.

In some big cities, women have access to education and to jobs. But the vast majority of Afghan women live "in hell," with rape, abuse, violence, suicide and poverty as facts of everyday live. And it's worse than it was under the Taliban, because now democracy has made these crimes legal.

Karzai is a "shameless puppet" who passes misogynist laws. Women cannot see a doctor without their husbands' permission. Marital rape is legal. If a woman refuses her husband's sexual demands, he can legally withold food and shelter from her. [Remember, Canada knew about this law before it was passed.]

Young women have been raped by the sons of MPs, with complete immunity. Joya gave many examples, including the rape of girls as young as 8 and 10 years old.

She said: "Most women in my country are living in hell." There is widespread rape and other violence against women, and the laws make it legal.

There are some female members of Parliament, but they are "dinosaurs" who accept and internalize the oppression. These women say, "The Taliban is my father, the Taliban is my brother". So their presence is window dressing, if that.

NATO says now, for the first time, women in Afghanistan have rights. THIS IS A LIE. Women may not be wearing burqas, but they'd rather wear the burqa and be alive.

Women and men in Afghanistan suffer from the same horrors: poverty, injustice, violence, joblessness. And in addition to those, women suffer rape and violence on a daily basis.

Joya mentioned the revelations, only that morning, that Canadian troops were complicit in the torture of prisoners. [The Harper Government has already said it will not order an investigation, but that may change.] As bad as that is, she said, this is what women and all civilians in Afghanistan face, all the time.

The money that pours into Afghanistan - our tax money - lines the pockets of warlords and drug lords, while Kabul has become a city of beggars. People are now squashed between two powerful oppressors: the occupying forces led by the US and NATO on one hand, and the warlords on the other.

Since October 2001, about 2,000 Taliban fighters have been killed. 65,000 civilians have been killed.

Joya expressed deep condolences to Canadian mothers who have lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan. She said, "Your tears are not enough. You must raise your voices to stop the war!"

She recounted ceaseless bombings by NATO forces: bombing of wedding parties, more than once, where even the bride and groom were killed. "The White House apologized, and Karzai the mafia puppet said, that's okay. But people don't want apologies. They want the occupying armies OUT!"

In foreign policy, Joya said, Mr Obama is much like war criminal Bush. "If Mr Obama stood for peace, he would bring George Bush to international criminal court. But one of the first things he did when he took power was to rain more war upon my people."

Joya said the recent election in Afghanistan was "the most fraudulent and most ridiculous election in the world. It was nothing but a showcase of the US government's puppet regime. Everyone knew the winner would be picked by the White House. There is a saying in my country: it's the same donkey with a different saddle. And I hope that is not an insult to those very good and hard-working animals.

"Of course the US puppets won. Most people wanted nothing to do with the ridiculous election, knowing it was not real, they wanted no part in it. Because it's not important who is voting, it's important who is counting the votes."

The Western media, Joya reminds us, presents Abdullah Abdullah as an independent, and a rival to Hamid Karzai. But in reality Abdullah and Karzai are both puppets, both misogynists, both mouthpieces for the corrupt drug lord mafia. There is no different in policy between them. Their "competition" is only about power.

Over and over, Joya referred to the "corrupt misogynist warlord drug lord mafia", often describing them as "photocopies of the Taliban". She told of rapes and murders of women, not punished, not even considered crimes. Women denied health care, education, jobs, and all basic human rights.

She said the picture she painted for us was but the tip of the iceberg of the sorrows and tragedies of her country. "We need your help. But not by occupation. Occupation has never brought about liberation."

Joya emphasized that education is a key component to the Afghan liberation struggle. Now, people who are not educated, who have low literacy and few skills, are still out there in the streets, doing struggle, making resistance. But with education, they could do so much more!

"We know what to do with our own destiny. Our freedom is our own responsibility. Canada says it will leave in two years. But we don't need this kind of so-called help. If Canada wants to help us, it must leave my country NOW!"

* * * *

Tip of the iceberg, indeed. That's all these notes are.

After Joya finished, she asked her co-author, Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe to speak.

O'Keefe reminded us that this extraordinary woman, who became a secret teacher of girls at age 15, and the director of a women's health clinic at age 25, was donating all the proceeds of this book to humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Joya herself cannot return to her home province, because of the extreme danger to her life. The Afghan puppet government cut off her security budget before expelling her from Parliament. Stephen Harper was in Afghanistan at the time. He said nothing about it then. He has said nothing about it since.

The drug lords have Blackwater security and well-organized armed guards. Supporters of Joya's raise money for her guards, and a trusted uncle vets them. Her life is in constant danger.

During the question-and-answer portion, Joya said, "I do not fear death. I fear political silence."

Meanwhile, our tax dollars build mansions for drug lords, and pay staff salaries for phony NGOs who are puppet-fronts for the warlords.

O'Keefe said that the Canadian Peace Alliance is raising money for Joya's health clinic. On her last trip to Canada in 2006, Canadians sent her home with $20,000. This time they are trying to double that. (You can send a cheque with "Malalai Joya" in the memo area.)

"We have two choices. We can sit in silence. Or we can do struggle. Raise our voices. Make resistance."

* * * *

Recommended by Malalai Joya:

I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan by Kathy Gannon

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Alex Berenson

Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence by Sonali Kolhatkar

RAWA: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.

Her most recent book:

A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice by Malalai Joya

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