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Malalai Joya Speaks at the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression

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Afghanistan remains one of the bloodiest countries for journalists and those who dare to voice the truth.

Global Forum on Freedom of Expression, Oslo, June 4, 2009

Dear Friends,

I am thankful to Norwegian PEN and The Freedom of Expression Foundation for inviting me to this forum which is an opportunity for me to share the painful story of my devastated country with you.

The topic of the forum is “freedom of expression”, a value that we in Afghanistan are deprived of it for decades while living under brutal and undemocratic regimes. In our country, to express your opinion and point of view openly, you have to face death threat and risks.

After 9/11, the Bush administration and allies invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban under the banner of “freedom”, “democracy” and “human rights”, but the US and allies fabricated the Northern Alliance criminal warlords with the mask of democracy and brought them to power. It is due to the wrong and devastating policies of the US government and NATO countries that unfortunately today Afghanistan is a mafia-state and ranked in top most unstable and corrupt countries in the world.

Despite many hue and cries about freedom of expression and press, Afghanistan remains one of the bloodiest countries for journalists and those who dare to voice the truth. Out of 169 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, Afghanistan is put low on the list in 142.

As an elected member of the Afghan parliament, my own case speaks for itself: for exposing the nature of the Afghanistan parliament which is full of warlords and drug-lords, I was threatened to be raped and even killed right inside the parliament house and finally unlawfully suspended. When freedom of expression does not exist in the parliament of a country for it elected representatives, one can easily feel what will be the situation for the ordinary people.

Afghanistan is a heaven for abusers of human rights and fundamentalist terrorists, but those who speak for justice and democracy are under much pressure. The Western countries are only supporting criminals in Afghanistan and are there for their own strategic, economic and regional interests for which they are sacrificing poor Afghan people.

The prominent case of Parvez Kambakhsh a young Afghan journalist has been publicized around the world which very well portrays the mockery of freedom and justice in Afghanistan. Kambakhsh was sentenced to death for downloading material from the internet that questioned the condition of women in Islam, which was termed anti-Islamic by the warlords and he was sentenced to death.

In a country where gun, drug-mafia, power and money have an upper hand and the whole nation is living under the shadow of war and fundamentalism; in a male-chauvinistic society where half of its populations, women are not considered human being and face tyranny and injustice, freedom of expression and other basic human rights are just mere slogans defined to nice words on paper.

In a country where it’s Culture and Information Minister belongs to the terrorist band of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which is in the black list of the UN, how can we expect to have freedom of speech and expression? This minister is so anti-women that he does not want to be photographed by a female photographer!

There are no human rights and democracy in Afghanistan, because there is a jungle law prevailed across Afghanistan and our legislation, executive and judicial bodies are infected with the virus of fundamentalism. The US and its allies are busy in warlordization, criminalization and drug-lordization of our wounded land and billions of money spent in the country only makes the warlords and human rights abusers more powerful than before.

Afghanistan has presidential election scheduled in few months time, but everyone knows that the election is also a show and throwing dust in the eyes of our people, and the actual choice is with the White House to select its next puppet in Afghanistan and gives him legitimacy through this show. Afghanistan constitution clearly ban those accused of war crimes from running for the election, but the list of candidates have many accused of serious war crimes and brutalities against our people. Hamid Karzai, who seems to be the choice of the White House, selected two infamous warlords as his vice presidents. Human Rights Watch have documented many crimes by these warlords and wrote about one of them recently: "To see Fahim back in the heart of government would be a terrible step backwards for Afghanistan… He is one of the most notorious warlords in the country, with the blood of many Afghans on his hands from the civil war…. He is widely believed by many Afghans to be still involved in many illegal activities, including running armed militias, as well as giving cover to criminal gangs and drug traffickers…. Karzai is insulting the country with this choice.”

But we Afghans know that despite international condemnation by human rights organization and protest by Afghan people, Karzai will be the next president, with the two criminals as his vice presidents.

Dear friends,

Unfortunately I have very little time to describe you what jokes are being made to my suffering and crying people under the banner of democracy and human rights. I just described few of the examples to show how “democracy” and “human rights” are tools in the hands of few enemies of these values to suppress our people, and it is painful to see that Western media also trumpet these disgusting shows as a sign of democracy in Afghanistan.

I think in countries like Afghanistan, where religious extremism controls the society; first of all we should establish secularism as integral part of democracy, otherwise religion can easily be misused to limit human rights and democratic principles.

Democratic and justice-loving institutions and individual of Afghanistan, despite limitations and pressures are working hard to uphold human rights and democratic values, but we need the help and support of human rights defenders around the world to carry on the task.

I am honored that my voice has become the voice of my oppressed and unfortunate people and they are supporting me. I announce from your tribune that I will not stop for a moment from telling the truth in the face of death threats and intimidations, as I know to achieving our rights requires efforts and risks and no one will donate us freedom of expression and other human rights unless we struggle for achieving them.

I believe in inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter... freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Malalai Joya