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Afghan politician visits West to call for withdrawal of troops

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“My people are fed up. That is why we want an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.”

By Larry Johnson, Looking for Trouble, November 11, 2009

Malalai Joya, an Afghan politician who the BBC has called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” for denouncing the warlords in the parliament, was in Western Washington recently. You wouldn’t know it from reading any of our struggling online or print news media. The only coverage was an interview Wednesday on KUOW’s Weekday program with Steve Scher.

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One would think, with President Obama poised to send more troops to Afghanistan, that a book tour by a woman who became the youngest person to be elected to Afghanistan’s new parliament in 2005, would be a big deal for our local news folks. But, it wasn’t. I only found out about it after seeing a mention of it on an Afghan site, and then finding her itinerary on a local activist web page, Peace Action of Washington. The lesson, I guess, is that I should tune in to KUOW more often.

Malalai on Wednesday spoke about her country’s struggle and about her new memoir, A Woman Among Warlords at Antioch University, Pacific Lutheran University and at Seattle First Baptist Church. On Thursday, she spoke at Western Washington University. From there she is heading across Canada.

In May 2007, Malalai, who, incidentally, has survived five assassination attempts, was suspended from the parliament on the grounds that she had insulted fellow representatives (War lords and drug lords are a sensitive lot). Her suspension, which she is appealing, has been protested by lawmakers, activists and intellectuals around the world.

Since most of us missed her talks, I’m reprinting some of Malalai’s key messages, taken from an essay she wrote for Britain’s The Independent just after the August elections in Afghanistan and from an article she wrote for the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday:

“Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

“So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.

“In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.

“The worst casualty of this war is truth. Those who stand up and raise their voice against injustice, insecurity and occupation have their lives threatened and are forced to leave Afghanistan, or simply get killed.

“We are sandwiched between three powerful enemies: the occupation forces of the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban and the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai.

“Now President Obama is considering increasing troops to Afghanistan and simply extending former President Bush’s wrong policies. In fact, the worst massacres since 9/11 were during Obama’s tenure. My native province of Farah was bombed by the U.S. this past May. A hundred and fifty people were killed, most of them women and children. On Sept. 9, the U.S. bombed Kunduz Province, killing 200 civilians.

“My people are fed up. That is why we want an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.”