Transcript of a speech by RAWA member Zoya at a benefit for RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), called “Breaking the Propaganda of Silence,” organized by the Afghan Women’s Mission on October 7, 2006.
Download an mp3 of the speech: [64 Kbps] [128 Kbps for radio].
October 7th 2001 is a day that many believed to be the beginning of a “new” Afghanistan as the US and its allies started their “War on Terror.” Terror was unknown to the US until the 9/11 tragedy, but for RAWA and the vast majority of our people it was the beginning of another tragedy for Afghan people. Looking back to the US involvement in Afghanistan, one could not expect that the US government would think in the interests of our country. The US policy in the Cold War period has sponsored one terrorist regime after another. All kinds of tyrants have been America’s friends including the Afghan Mujahiddin.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan received a group of bearded men with turbans — the Afghan Mujahiddin leaders. After meeting them in the White House he said “these are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.” In August 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on Osama Bin Laden and his men in Afghanistan, who only a few years earlier was the moral equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson! These actions speak for themselves: for the US government the terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today. For the US, “terrorist” has a different definition than what people of the world understand.
Now five years have passed since the start of the US “war on terror” in Afghanistan, which was trumpeted by the US media to be for “democracy” and the “liberation” of Afghan people. But today Afghanistan is still chained and burning in the fires of both the Taliban and the criminal “Northern Alliance” fundamentalists and the future of Afghanistan is in serious jeopardy.
Considering the US involvements in other countries and in the past 2 decades in our own land, most of our people know very well the hidden nature of this war. It was the US government who supported Pakistan in creating thousands of religious schools from which the germ of the Taliban emerged and supported Jahadi fundamentalist groups with billions of dollars against the Soviet Union. Our founder, Meena, had long ago warned that empowering such dirty and ignorant terrorists will not only pose serious dangers for Afghanistan but for the people of the whole world, and the 9/11 tragedy confirmed Meena’s claims.
Immediately after 9/11 tragedy, the international community awoke and started to talk about terrorism. The US invaded Afghanistan but it is crystal clear that US did not enter Afghanistan to liberate our people, but to punish its former hirelings and servants and a bleeding, devastated and hungry Afghanistan was bombed by the most advanced weaponry ever created in human history. The oppression of Afghan women was used as a justification to overthrow the Taliban regime. Innocent lives, many more than those who lost their lives on 9/11, were taken.
No doubt the war on terror toppled the misogynist and barbaric regime of Taliban. But it did not remove Islamic fundamentalism, which is the root cause of misery for all Afghan people; it just replaced one fundamentalist regime with another.
Five years have passed since the so-called “democratic” government of Hamid Karzai has been installed but the depth of tragedy and miseries of Afghan people still remain intact. Unlike what is being shown in the media, RAWA and other human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch paint a very different picture of Afghanistan.
The large scale of corruption and fraud in the 2005 parliamentary elections by the fundamentalists are clear indications that democracy cannot be practiced in a country infected by the germ of fundamentalist terrorists. The votes have been grabbed by the force of guns, money and authoritative power.
Karzai turned his back on the hopes and expectations of our people and failed to fulfill his commitments. He betrayed the people’s trust by relying on warlords. By compromising with infamous fundamentalist warlords, and appointing them to high governmental posts Karzai has failed to bring any radical positive change. Now we have a parliament full of warlords. The most disgusting faces include Jehadi criminal leaders, former Taliban commanders and some former puppets of the USSR. Those who ought to be prosecuted before anyone else for their crimes against our nation are going to legislate to the Afghan people! The rule of private armies of the warlords in different parts of the country and infighting between different groups of them has resulted in the loss of innocent lives.
Opium poppy cultivation has expanded and the government has stopped poor and hungry farmers from growing opium but let the powerful warlords keep dealing in the dirty drug trade. It is a shameful fact for Karzai and the US government that Afghanistan now produces 92 percent of the world’s supply of opium. Even some ministers have acknowledged the fact that some cabinet ministers are deeply implicated in the drug trade. Afghanistan has become a Narco-State. It is a disgusting fact that Gen. Mohammed Daoud, a former warlord and well-known drug-trafficker, is now Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort – under his command drug-traffickers act with impunity.
Afghanistan has received 12 billion dollars in aid while another 10 billion more were pledged at the London conference. But there aren’t any signs of serious reconstruction. Our people have not benefited from the billions of reconstruction dollars due to theft by the warlords or misuse by NGOs. Even a fraction of this aid has not been used for the benefit and welfare of our people. Government corruption and fraud directs billions of dollars into the pockets of high-ranking officials. It is such a big shame that the government still cannot provide electricity, food and water for its people.
The security situation in Afghanistan is critical. It is like a ticking bomb, and it is very possible that at any time a civil war will break out. Women and girls have been particularly affected by the insecurity. There are hundreds of attacks on teachers, students and schools across Afghanistan, with girls’ schools being particularly hard hit. In most remote villages there are not even any signs of schools for girls. Hundreds of Afghan women have committed suicide due to these intense pressures and hopelessness. When the entire nation is living under the shadow of guns and warlordism, how can its women enjoy their basic freedoms?
A large number of refugees in Pakistan and Iran are still afraid to return home because of the lack of security, jobs, shelter and because of the continuation of ethnic and religious conflicts among warlords. A large number of people have even returned to Pakistan due to the insecurity.
Armed men from the “Northern Alliance” raped 14 year old Fatima and her mother, 11 year old Rahima and a 60 year old grandmother. The 30 year old Amina was stoned to death; the 9 year old Saima was casually tortured and sacrificed for her father’s violence; Gulbar was burnt by her husband for her refusal to go with her brutal husband; the famous poet Nadia Anjuman became the victim of her husband’s violence because he and others are assured of the support of warlords of the “Northern Alliance” misogynists. Anjuman’s husband knows that the law will not be enforced to bring him to justice.
Despite the presence of more than six thousand UN peace keeping troops in Kabul and other cities, NGOs and UN foreign workers are kidnapped in broad daylight, and innocent people are killed in suicide bomb missions. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is a land that is facing health disasters even worse than the lands struck by the 2004 Tsunami. 700 children and 50-70 women die each day due to the lack of health services. Afghanistan is a land where hundreds of people die because of a lack of food and bitter winters, just few kilometers away from the presidential palace. These statistics do not even begin to address the human disaster in the rural areas.
Fed up with the hardships they have been facing over the years, 65 per cent of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide the only option to get rid of their miseries and desolation as revealed in a survey conducted by UNIFEM. The report revealed that a majority of Afghan women are victims of mental and sexual violence. Calling it a bitter fact, the UNIFEM report also revealed that the average life span of Afghan women was 20 years less than women living in other parts of the world and child and maternal mortality rates were still as high as 1,600 to 1,900 women out of every 100,000 who die during childbirth. Afghanistan is ranked 175th out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development Index.
Despite all this suffering, recently Karzai’s cabinet approved a proposal to reestablish the most misogynist Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice which was a notorious symbol of arbitrary abuses, particularly against Afghan women and girls under the Taliban. President Karzai claims that one of his government’s achievements is establishing freedom of speech and expression in Afghanistan. But the facts prove contrary to this claim: Last year alone, there were more than 40 attacks on journalistic freedom in Afghanistan, including two murders and several cases of abduction, assault and imprisonment, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists Association. Recently the Afghan Journalists Union also complained of the degree of censorship imposed on them by the government.
Instead of relying on those people who may have brought the criminal warlords to trial, Karzai appoints these criminals to higher posts. For instance, this year he appointed 13 former commanders with links to drugs smuggling, organized crime and illegal militias to senior positions in the police force.
Apart from the meddling of neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran, the anarchic situation in Afghanistan and the people’s disappointment with the current set-up has led directly to the rise of the Taliban and the failure of the NATO mission. There are many reports which say that the “Northern Alliance” commanders are selling weapons and ammunitions to Taliban fighters.
The “Northern Alliance” and central government try to point to secondary issues such as the meddling of neighboring countries as a prime reason for instability in the country. But today even Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups reaffirm RAWA’s point of view. HRW announced on September 27th 2006, “The Taliban and other anti-government groups in Afghanistan have gained public support due to the Afghan government’s failure to provide essential security and development, and have used the presence of warlords in the government to discredit President Karzai’s administration and its international backers.”
Afghans, all justice-loving people, and international human rights organizations are demanding the trial of warlords and former pro-Moscow puppets. But rather than being brought to justice, they were shamelessly were offered higher positions and were given opportunities to find a way to parliament with the support of the US and its allies.
The US government has put Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on its list of most wanted terrorists, but his party has 34 members in the Afghan parliament who were elected in an election which was mockery of democracy. The US works with pro-American fundamentalists, but opposes anti-American fundamentalists.
Barbara Ehrenreich in her address to Barnard College in May 18, 2004 said, “I opposed the first Gulf War in 1991, but at the same time I was proud of our servicewomen and delighted that their presence irked their Saudi hosts. Secretly, I hoped that the presence of women would eventually change the military, making it more respectful of other people and their cultures, more capable of genuine peace keeping. That’s what I thought, but I don’t think that any more. A lot of things died with photos of Abu Ghraib. The last moral justification for the war with Iraq died with those photos.”
By witnessing the crimes and brutalities of the Northern Alliance terrorists, the foot soldiers of the US in Afghanistan in the so-called war against Taliban, even humanity should die for Barbara and all Americans, when they see their government support such misogynist and dark-minded killers and impose them on the Afghan people.
Today the friends of the US government in Afghanistan are dark-minded oppressors such as Rasoul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mohaqiq, Younis Qanoni, Karim Khalili, Qasim Fahim, Dr. Abdullah, Ismail Khan, Hazrat Ali, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Sibghatullah Mojaddidi and others – those who should be prosecuted for their crimes against Afghan people. The US is relying on the above-mentioned “Northern Alliance” leaders and commanders who turned Afghanistan into a hell from 1992-1996 and still are a threat to the stability and peace. They are a threat not only to our country but their cancer will spread out to other countries and all over the world. The US still ignores the important words of Martin Luther King: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Kathy Gannon, an expert in Afghanistan issues, justly states that “the US is not interested in peace in Afghanistan. The people who killed thousands, who patronized the drug business are in charge of the country.” Dear friends, in this short time it is not possible to cover all the details of the plight of my crying nation but I hope you have realized that my devastated country is not free at all. We strongly believe that conditions will not change positively and Afghanistan will not be liberated from the dirt of terrorism and fundamentalism as long as the warlords are not disarmed and removed from the political scene and brought to trial for their war crimes.
US bombs, B52s and the presence of thousands US troops is not to meant to bring about liberation or establish democracy in our country. The people of the US should know that their troops only serve the strategic interests of the US government and make things worse in Afghanistan. Liberation should be achieved by the people of a country and they must fight for their own liberation. The ongoing developments in Afghanistan and Iraq prove this claim.
RAWA has been advocating for a democratic and secular government as the only cure to the wounds of Afghan people and particularly women. As women living in this very un-liberated country, it is clear that outspoken RAWA members who advocate against warlords and fundamentalism remain at high risk in a country still controlled by armed warlords and fundamentalists. After 27 years of underground resistance, RAWA continues its struggle to provide for the needs of the Afghan people, to empower women, and to work for democracy, peace, freedom and human rights for all.
Clearly the main obstacle to the establishment of women’s rights in Afghanistan is the presence of fundamentalism as a political and military force. When there are fundamentalists, there will be hostility against women and their struggle for equal rights. Only in a society based democracy and secularism can the rights of women be guaranteed. The fundamentalists who misuse religion and ancient tradition to oppress women are still prevalent. As a result RAWA’s mission for women’s rights is far from over and our work continues.
RAWA has concentrated on raising awareness and organizing masses of women in legal and social sectors, and increasing education and literacy among them. We strongly believe that education is power and Afghan women cannot fight for their rights as long as they are not equipped with this sharpest weapon against ignorance and fundamentalism. With the weapons of education, Afghan women’s rights could not be ignored by any government in the country.
RAWA has asked time and again that those who are the real friends of our people should support democratic forces and not our bloody enemies. They should put pressure to remove fundamentalists from power and disarm criminal commanders and bring the criminals to justice through an international court.
RAWA assures all its friends and supporters around the world that we will not for a moment give up our struggle for freedom, democracy and women’s rights in our fundamentalism-blighted Afghanistan. We will continue our committed pledge to tell the truth, even if the pledge requires us to pay a high price. Telling the truth is always revolutionary so we will remain revolutionary forever. But it is impossible for us to continue this hard struggle without your practical support.
If the enemies of democracy and peace unite why shouldn’t the ant-fundamentalist and freedom-loving people all over the world get united? Please raise your loud and firm voice with us together against injustice and to defend democracy and freedom. To quote a well known saying, “the silence of good people is worse than the action of bad people.”
Zoya is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of RAWA. More information at www.rawa.org, www.afghanwomensmission.org.