"You have to put more pressure on your government to allow Afghans decide their own future", Afghan democracy activist and former MP Malalai Joya told a public forum in Sydney last week.
"No nation can liberate another nation. Ten years of war should have made this clear. It’s better the troops leave", she said.
The public meeting, organised by Sydney Stop the War Coalition, was chaired by human rights activist and lawyer Kellie Tranter. "Malalai represents the voice of the vast majority of ordinary Afghans and we need to hear from people like her so that we can hold our govenment to account", Tranter said.
Fielding questions from the audience, Joya told the meeting that the Australian government was following the "wrong policy" of the US, which is "not only a mockery of democracy for you, it’s a monstrous war crime against our people".
Joya showed graphic pictures of victims of the war. "Airstrikes by the US-NATO forces have killed thousands. Cluster bombs, phosphorus and other harmful chemicals leave our innocent people with horrible injuries", she said.
She also spoke about the atrocities committed by warlords, the Taliban and al-Qaeda — "all products of the White House’s Cold War" — and demanded that the West stop backing these murderers.
She pointed to the Australian government’s support for Matiullah Khan — a warlord who is now chief of police in Oruzgan province where Australian troops are stationed. The Dutch forces refused to work with him, but the US and Australian troops have no such qualms.
"Day by day, this war criminal is getting more powerful. He receives $340,000 each year from the Australian, US and other Western governments", Joya said. Some of Matiullah Khan’s fighters have also received military training in Australia.
Joya urged Australians to prevent figures like Matiullah Khan from visiting Australia and pointed to the recent successful campaign to prevent Mohammed Mohaqiq, leader of the fundamentalist Hezb-e-Wahdat Party, from speaking at a conference in Rome. Mohaqiq, one of the most bloodthirsty militia commanders during the civil war of 1992-1996, was also a sponsor of a law authorising marital rape.
Asked if the Australian troops were doing any good in Afghanistan, Joya replied: "There is no dfference between Australian occupation forces and others: all of them are following the same policy and betraying our people."
Joya slammed the notion that the occuaption is helping Afghan women achieve their rights. "Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed — wedding parties are bombed and many women and children are the victims of cluster bombs and white phosphorous. Between 2010-2011, the BBC recorded 2300 women suicided. People are starving and have to resort to selling their babies."
"Afghanistan is still the second most corrupt country in the world. Despite receiving more than US$60 billion in aid, more than 9 million people go short of food, not to mention other hardships."
But Joya praised the bravery of women and men who are resisting, pointing to numerous examples of people taking to the streets with banners demanding the occupation troops leave. She cited protests over civilian killings following the Helmand province Koran burning incident a month ago.
"Brave people risk their lives by demonstrating. There are protests all over Afghanistan every day by democratic groups including the six-party alliance of the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan and the Social Association of Afghan Justice-Seekers.
"In the Taliban time, we had one enemy. But after 10 years of war, we have three — the warlords, Taliban and occupation forces."
Joya said that life in Afghanistan will be "no picnic" when the occupying forces finally leave. But she insists that this is the first and necessary step towards justice.
"Democracy without justice is meaningless", she said.
"Democratic Australians must join forces with like-minded Afghans to stop this war. Pressure your government to let the people of Afghanistan decide on their own future. That’s real self-determination."
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