INTERVIEW: “Afghanistan’s bravest woman”

This interview with Afghan activist Malalai Joya was originally conducted for Danish magazines Gaia and Opinionen. Below is a translation.

In March this year, world-renowned Afghan activist Malalai Joya made a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark. During her stay I had the chance to talk with her about her activism, the occupation of Afghanistan and the future of the country.

Malalai was born in 1979 and is part of the Afghan war generation. Today, she is living underground in Kabul after experiencing several death threats and assassination attempts. From here, she is leading a dangerous struggle against fundamentalism in Afghanistan and is fighting for justice and human rights, focusing mostly on Afghan women.

Malalai Joya during her visit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo – Mir Jalali.

War against terror is war against Afghan civilians

– I was born only three days before my country was occupied by the Russians. The situation back then is the same today. The only thing that has changed is the name of the enemy. The Russians for example commited their crimes in the name of Socialism, followed by the extremists and fundamentalists who does it in the name of Islam, and today, we have the 15-year-long occupation being commited in the name of democracy. We are a political general – we’ve been raised in war.

Which consequences has the invasion of Afghanistan had?

– In the history of Afghanistan we’ve dealth with several invasions by foreign powers, but every time they’ve had to feel the resistance of the Afghan people – women and men, young and old. The Brits went through this, then the Russians, and today, the Americans. The latest invasion – the American – has brought our country into a catastrophical situation. The consequences of their invasion has been only further bloodshed and violations of human rights. Tens of thousands of people have been murdered in this 15-year long so-called “war on terror” – something I’d rather call “war on innocent Afghan civilians”.

Has the occupation powers not made any effort in the fight against the Taliban and terrorism?

– During the 15-year long occupation, the US and NATO has directly and indirectly supported the Taliban. I have repeatedly been telling my people that they [the US, NATO] have not been serious in their fight against them. They are simply playing “Tom and Jerry” with these terrorists and are investing millions of dollars in the warlords since the Cold War. The US are using them and their crimes as an excuse to stay in Afghanistan. They are claiming that if they leave, it will result in a civil war. But what about the war that has been taking place the last 15 years where people have been caught between the warlords, the Taliban, and the occupation power?

Malalai Joya in front Christiansborg Palace during her visit in Copenhagen, 2016. Photo- Mir Modaser Jalali.

The women against the terrorists

How is the situation for Afghan women?

– The warlords and the Taliban are enemies of democracy and makes life for women a living hell. One example is the 27-year old Farkhunda who was brutally murdered and burned publicly despite the police and foreign troops being present. The foreign powers speak constantly about the Taliban but forget the misogynist, extremist warlords who sits in power and acts like wild animals in the name of democracy. The occupiers has worsened our problems to a degree that people has begun to loose faith in foreign powers.

Do you see any hope for the future of Afghanistan?

– We have a long, proud history of brave people in Afghanistan who gives us hope. Men and who’ve all been fighting against injustice. These heroes gives me hope and in the same time gives us more responsibility on our shoulders. We should learn from their history and their resistance. I am also filled with hope when I hear about the brave Kurdish women in Rojava and Kobane and their fight against Daesh. Even terrorists like these, who doesn’t see women as human beings, are afraid of the resistance of these brave women.

When I was invited to Denmark by the two Danish organisations, NASIM and AYAD, I was extremely happy to see the young generation being so active. We need the international support and solidarity from peaceloving citizens all over the world. This time I can return home with an improved feeling of strength, hope, and bravery, because you’ve showed me that I am not alone.

We have a resistance to fight and the more barbary taking placing, the more resistance there will be. The people, both inside and outside of Afghanistan, should focus their fight against the two main enemies – extremism and occupation. One day we will win. I am sure of that.

In 2005, Malalai was elected to the Afghan parliament but was excluded two years later. She is also author of the book ‘Raising My Voice’, and was in 2010 listed in Time Magazine’s list over the 100 most influential people in the world.

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