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Posts Tagged ‘world politics’

…and then they must resign.

Yikes.

President Horst Köhler made some remarks last week in Afghanistan. These remarks were * remarkably * honest:

A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes.”

I mean, to be clear on my part, this statement comes from a worldview which is deeply and profoundly misguided, if not just outright fucked up. The Milton Friedman, growth-at-any-price-regardless-of-reality, neo-colonialism attitude is absolutely everything wrong with our world. And it’s this attitude which we’re all confronted with in life: to choose between our wants and desires to have everything, to live luxuriously, or to live in peace and in harmony with our neighbors, identifying ourselves with them rather than using them as means to our ends.

But at least he was honest about it. Better the bitter truth, so people know the true philosophy they’re up against, then lies and platitudes.

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Malalai Joya is an advocate for women. She is an antiwar activist. She has strongly denounced corruption in her own government.  These are all excellent things. What makes Malalai Joya’s work stand out is that she is not doing all of this work in a western nation, where we happily let women, you know, talk and walk around. Malalai Joya is working and speaking out in Afghanistan.

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This is a pretty big accomplishment. I was, from the very very beginning, against the invasion of Afghanistan. It’s not that I’m an utter pacifist. It’s simply that anyone taking a step back and looking at the demographics of the population there would hopefully have come to the sane conclusion that bombing a nation of children is not the best way to promote democracy and end “terrorism.” The vast majority of children, nearly 100%, had witnessed an act of violence. Two-thirds of those acts involved seeing dead bodies. This information is from UNICEF in 1997. I can’t imagine what the statistics are like after the invasion. My personal beliefs tell me that murder is wrong. They also tell me that the murder of innocent civilians and children is especially evil. I am not interested in terms like “collateral damage.” People cannot, and never will be, collateral damage. My own logic also tells me, strangely enough, that to bomb, kill, and destroy usually does not win one too many friends. The people of Afghanistan who are now in their late 30s have been witnessing horrendous violence since they were pretty much in their infancy. I can’t imagine what the long-term effects of this shall be. I’m against sending more troops there. It is not the “good war.” It was a bad, shitty war in the first place that was followed by a war with absolutely no justification in the realm of human decency. The Taliban was (and is) an absolutely atrocious organization. I find some of the mujahedin to be terrifying (from what I understand of them). They also live in a region of the globe which has been subjected to so much violence and so much outside manipulation that no one living outside it can honestly understand what life has been like for them. To not even bother to understand the anger, rage, ignorance, tragedy, oppression is an act of supreme self-involvement. It stuns me that our culture is capable of constant innovation in computers, iPhones, fighter jets… and yet our answer to Afghanistan and Iraq is still to blow things up and drop bombs. On children.

With that in mind, one of the good things to have come out of this is the representative democracy set up in Kabul with a good deal of participation by women. Unfortunately the repression of women’s rights continues, and it will be a long struggle; possibly there will be some major set-backs in the years to come. Malalai Joya is a woman who exemplifies the current situation. She was a delegate to the 2003 Loya Jirga in Afghanistan (the Loya Jirga is a grand assembly used in times of transformation) and was then elected to Afghanistan’s National Assembly. Good! On the other side, though, there have been multiple attempts on her life, and she was suspended from the National Assembly for three years (she has the habit of pointing out the National Assembly includes criminals and warlords).

I’d like to point out some of the things Malalai Joya has said and done in one of the most dangerous political environments on the planet.

She spoke out on how the Northern Alliance, the group the U.S. helped take over things while the Taliban fled, are warlords and also repressive fundamentalists. Anyone reading anything about Afghanistan and not just listening to cable news, by the way, was aware of this:

Respected friends, over five years passed since the US-led attack on Afghanistan. Probably many of you are not well aware of the current conditions of my country and expect me to list the positive outcomes of the past years since the US invasion. But I am sorry to tell you that Afghanistan is still chained in the fetters of the fundamentalist warlords and is like an unconscious body taking its last breath.

The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the “Northern Alliance”, which is made up of the sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, and are as dark-minded, evil, and cruel as the Taliban.”

Being a woman from Afghanistan and daring to verbalize this is one of the reasons Malalai Joya has to fear for her life. The people she is speaking out against are still in power.

According to a UNIFEM survey, 65% of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide as the only option to get rid of their misery. UNIFEM estimates that at least one out of three Afghan women has been beaten, forced into sex or otherwise abused.

The gang-rape of young girls and women by warlords belonging to the “Northern Alliance” still continues especially in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. People have staged mass protests a number of times but no one cares about their sorrow and tears. Only a few of the rape cases find their way into the media. One shocking case was that of 11 year old Sanobar, the only daughter of an unfortunate widow who was abducted, raped and then exchanged for a dog by a warlord. In a land where human dignity has no price, the vicious rapist of a poor girl still acts as district chief.”

Malalai Joya also has addressed some of the attacks she has to live with:

A mafia system is in place in Afghanistan. The US backed president Karzai and his westernized intellectuals have joined hands with fundamentalists of all brands to impose this mafia system on our people. This is the main reason for today’s problems in the deadlocked Afghanistan. Those who speak for justice are threatened with death.

My voice is always being silenced even inside the parliament and once I was physically attacked by pro-warlord and drug-lord MPs in the parliament just for speaking the truth. One of them even shouted “prostitute, take her and rape her!” Despite hating guns, I need to live under the protection of armed bodyguards to survive.”

Ms. Joya has also forcefully condemned the continued occupation and airstrikes. I find the following excerpt a little frustrating, because the people who argue continually for our involvement there are the same people who A) know nearly nothing about the history of Afghanistan or the Middle East in general B) are certain military involvement is the way to change things and are loathe to discuss other options. Those without a grasp on historical knowledge and lacking in ideas constantly seem to be the ones who know the only way to do things. Ugh.

It is a shame that so much of Afghanistan’s reality has been kept veiled by a western media consensus in support of the ‘good war.’ Perhaps if the citizens of North America had been better informed about my country, President Obama would not have dared to send more troops and spend taxpayers’ money on a war that is only adding to the suffering of our people and pushing the region into deeper conflicts.

A troop ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, and continued air strikes, will do nothing to help the liberation of Afghan women. The only thing it will do is increase the number of civilian casualties and increase the resistance to occupation.

To really help Afghan women, citizens in the U.S. and elsewhere must tell their government to stop propping up and covering for a regime of warlords and extremists. If these thugs were finally brought to justice, Afghan women and men would prove quite capable of helping ourselves.”

Malalai Joya’s memoir will be released this October. Obviously she is a woman of great bravery. She has stood up to warlords and criminals, her own government and the most powerful government in the world. She speaks truth to power and lives with the dangers that creates for her. She tirelessly advocates for the rights of Muslim women and refuses to accept rationalizations of oppression on the grounds of religious fundamentalism. To live with the very real threat of death and to remain so outspoken and committed…

The fundamentalists are counting their days to kill me, but I believe in and follow the noble saying of the freedom-loving Iranian writer Samad Behrangi:

‘Death could very easily come now, but I should not be the one to seek it. Of course if I should meet it and that is inevitable, it would not matter. What matters is whether my living or dying has had any effect on the lives of others…’

Thank you.”

*Interesting bit of trivia: Malalai Joya shares a name with one of the female heroes of Afghanistan, Malalai of Maiwand. During the Second Afghan War (yeah, Britain invaded Afghanistan three times), the Afghani troops were falling back in a particular battle. Malalai, who had been tending the wounded, stood up and rallied the troops, charging into frey herself. She died, though the battle was won. I hope Malalai Joya is able to keep raising her voice and inspiring change, and hopefully one day she will live in a more peaceful nation where she won’t require bodyguards.

Also, I thought the pictures of Afghan women protesting the marital rape law, protesting with their faces exposed, should be seen by everyone. The law was supposed to be overturned, then it was supposed to be reviewed, and there is a powerful faction still advocating for the law. I don’t know what the current status of the law is, but the fact that this is even an issue is beyond horrible.

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All of Malalai Joya’s speeches can be found at this excellent website, as well as lots of other information on her doings.

Here is also some basic information on the horrific airstrikes in Farah, Afghanistan that took place in May.

I super-duper highly recommend reading Robert Fisk’s monumental epic The Great War for Civilisation. For some off-the-beaten track information on Afghanistan in particular, see Blue is the Colour of Heaven. By the way, is that the best book title in the world? Yes, yes it is.

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