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Ex-Afghan MP to speak in Victoria believes 'occupation' is no answer

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Joya is a fierce critic of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, which she said is fraught with crime and corruption.

By Katie Derosa, The Victoria Times Colonist, November 12, 2009

Malalai Joya in Victoria
2007: Afghan activist Malalai Joya addresses an anti-war rally in Victoria two years ago. She returns to the city today for a talk at the University of Victoria.
Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist

Canada must pull its soldiers out of Afghanistan and let the people of the war-torn nation overthrow the "corrupt Mafia system" that has been allowed to rule, says a former Afghan member of Parliament whose fierce criticisms of her government almost cost her her life.

"No nation can deliver liberation by occupation," said 31-year-old Malalai Joya, an outspoken Afghan social activist and politician who is in Victoria today as part of a two-week Canadian speaking tour.

Reached by phone in Vancouver yesterday, Joya is promoting her new book, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, co-written with Canadian Peace Alliance co-chairman Derrick O'Keefe. "It is much easier [for the Afghan people] to fight one enemy instead of two," said Joya, referring to both the Taliban and NATO-led troops as enemies.

She said her country will be better off once the occupation is over, pointing to the thousands of civilians who have been killed as a result of insurgent and foreign military strikes.

"The situation will be more black, with more disaster" if the troops remain, she said. "Democracy never comes by barrel of gun, by war."

U.S. President Barack Obama's policy of sending more troops to Afghanistan is worse than policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, said Joya, who rejects suggestions the quality of life for women and children in Afghanistan has improved since Canada's involvement in 2001.

In 2005, Joya was the youngest person elected to the new Afghan parliament. But she was suspended for three years after she spoke out publicly against the warlords that she says dominate the government. She has survived multiple assassination attempts and travels through Afghanistan under the protection of armed guards.

Joya is a fierce critic of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, which she said is fraught with crime and corruption.

She responded to recent statements by Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay that Karzai's recent re-election will help stabilize the country before Canadian troops withdraw in 2011, saying after the "most fraudulent election in the world," Afghans have little hope of achieving true democracy under his reign.

In her book, Joya outlines steps for building an independent and democratic Afghanistan. She said Canadians should "help us financially to provide education support and support for the voiceless people of my country."

Joya is expected to speak at the University of Victoria today at 2 p.m. in the David Lam auditorium.