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Afghan activist calls for end to NATO ‘occupation’ of her country

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Joya asked Canadians to join antiwar organizations.

By Lea Storry, Postmedia News, The Vancouver Sun, October 11, 2010

Joya speaks at the University of Calgary
Malalai Joya, an outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan and the youngest woman elected to that country's parliament speaks at the University of Calgary on Sunday October 10, 2010.
Photograph by: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — The youngest woman ever elected to Afghanistan's parliament told a Canadian audience Sunday that the NATO occupation of her homeland is supporting a puppet government and making Afghanistan a haven for terrorists and drug-trafficking.

Malalai Joya, an outspoken critic of NATO and the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, was invited to speak at the University of Calgary on Sunday by the Afghan Canadian Students' Association.

On her first visit to Calgary, the 32-year-old said Afghanistan called on Canadians to support the fight for a lasting democracy in Afghanistan.

"We are in between two evil(s): the warlords and Taliban on one side, and the occupation on the other," Joya said. "The first step is to fight against occupation — those who can liberate themselves will be free, even if it costs our lives."

The soft-spoken Joya raised an uproar in Afghanistan in 2003 when she condemned the warlords at the Loya Jirga, the assembly of the most powerful political stakeholders in Afghanistan.

In 2005, she was elected to parliament but kicked out of office in 2007 after criticizing the Karzai government.

Joya has survived five attempts on her life but said she doesn't fear death and won't stop speaking out. She was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in the world this year.

"My biggest fear is political silence," said the activist, who has been teaching girls and women since she was 13 years old and living in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. "Education gives us hope and courage."

Joya said that, even though the U.S. has said it will start pulling out of Afghanistan in 2011, it'll leave a puppet government behind. She added that U.S. President Barack Obama's foreign policies, by propping up the Karzai government, are worse than those of former president George W. Bush.

To aid Afghanistan's move to true democracy, Joya asked Canadians to join antiwar organizations.

"Open the eyes and minds of the justice loving," she said.

Derrick O'Keefe, a Canadian journalist from Vancouver, co-authored a book based on Joya's experiences called Raising My Voice.

O'Keefe is also involved in the social justice movement and is co-chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

He noted that Canadians are slowly realizing who Joya is and listening to what she has to say.

"Most people I talk to know about the war but are confused about it and don't know what's going on. As Canadian casualties mount over the years, people are asking questions about what we're doing there."

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