An Afghan woman shouts with anger and grief against US led missile bombings that killed children in front of her destroyed home in Azizabad village, (Shindand district) of Herat province in Afghanistan (Photo)
The Afghan women’s association fighting for justice and rights calls for U.S. troops to withdraw, saying they are occupying the country under misused slogans of liberation and democracy.+
What’s the Story?
“In 2001, the U.S. and its allies occupied Afghanistan under the beautiful slogans of ‘war on terror,’ ‘women’s rights,’ ‘liberation’ and ‘democracy,'” says Afghan rights activist Zoya in an interview published on PINKtank, a blog run by the grassroots peace and justice movement CODEPINK. “But when they installed the brutal and criminal warlords after the fall of the Taliban, everyone knew that Afghanistan had once again become a chessboard for world powers.”
“The plight of our people, and especially of women, has been misused to legitimize the foreign military presence in our country,” adds the activist, who uses a pseudonym to protect her identity.
Citing the U.S. government’s lack of support for democratic organizations and the extreme poverty, insecurity, and dearth of women’s rights still facing regular Afghans, Zoya proposes several solutions.
U.S. and NATO troops should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, sanctions should be imposed on any foreign government that supports the Taliban, foreign governments should halt funds to warlords and drug lords fighting the Taliban, and warlords should be prosecuted in international courts for crimes against humanity, specifies Zoya.
The United States, she continues, “has given billions of dollars” to the Afghan Northern Alliance, which the BBC News describes as a “disparate group of rebel movements united only in their desire to topple the ruling Taliban.” The money has gone into the pockets of warlords and drug lords, says the activist.
In the interview, Zoya also explains her history with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), an organization she joined at 14 and found to be “the most serious, honest, radical, anti-fundamentalist, democratic organization fighting for justice and women’s rights” in her country. (Read the full interview with Zoya below.)
U.S. Urged to Put Women and Children Front and Center
The human rights of Afghan women and girls must be central to any future U.S. foreign policy to gain peace and stability in the region, warns Dr. Sima Samar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
According to a report by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), Samar says: “People want accountability, transparency in the flow of aid to Afghanistan, and justice — not impunity and support for those who violate human rights.”
As President Barack Obama’s administration concluded a review of U.S. policies toward Afghanistan in late March, Samar echoed Zoya’s belief that, “for victory to be achieved, the U.S. must not re-arm the warlords who have terrorized the people, especially the women and girls.”
FMF recently launched a campaign to “galvanize women’s groups, campus and community activists, as well as ordinary citizens to help Afghan women and girls.”
New U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan
President Obama recently unveiled a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan that will employ “a broader approach aimed at disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” reports Reuters.
Specifically, the president ordered an additional 17,000 U.S. soldiers to the beleaguered nation to supplement the 38,000 U.S. soldiers and 42,000 NATO troops already there.
The Obama administration has also “urged the international community to give more aid to Afghanistan to build infrastructure, expand its military and police, and ensure security for elections this year,” notes the Washington Post.
Many peace and rights groups have expressed their staunch opposition to the military “surge” in Afghanistan.
Says the women’s rights group MADRE: “Each year that the occupation drags on, more Afghan civilians are killed. In 2008 alone, more than 2,100 civilians were killed, a 40 percent jump over 2007.“
Get the Voices from the Ground
Women who lost their faily members weep after US air strikes, that killed more than 100 peole in Azizabad.
To document the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as the military and political strategy shifts in coming months, OneWorld.net has teamed up with the U.S.-based ethnic media network New America Media to present the new blog Afghan Watch.
The blog offers insights and analysis on the policy, politics, and on-the-ground realities of life in Afghanistan at a crucial moment in that country’s history. The contributors are aid workers and researchers, policy experts and community organizers, Afghans and non-Afghans, in the United States and in Afghanistan.
‘Women’s Rights’ in Afghanistan – Code for Occupation
“The U.S. government has never supported democratic organizations…”
Elsa Rassbach interviews Zoya of the Foreign Committee of RAWA
Despite more than seven years of U.S. and NATO occupation, the members of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) must still use pseudonyms to protect their organization, their families, and their work to liberate the women of Afghanistan.
“Zoya” is the pseudonym used by a member of RAWA’s Foreign Committee who has traveled to many countries, including the U.S., Spain, and Germany, representing the organization. She received international acclaim with the 2003 publication her dramatic life story: “Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Woman’s Battle for Freedom,” with John Follain and Rita Cristofari.
Last year Zoya visited Germany to support the campaign of the German peace movement for the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. Elsa Rassbach, a U.S. citizen living in Berlin, interviewed her.
What led you to decide to work with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)?
I’m from the generation of the war crimes in Afghanistan. I was born in 1979, and that was the year of the Soviet invasion. My generation has never enjoyed democracy, freedom, secularism, or peace in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the Soviets and the fall of its puppet regime, the darkest part of our history began when fundamentalists took power in 1992. That was the start of the odious part of our history, which continues until this day.
Between 1992 and 1996, 80,000 civilians were killed in Kabul under the domination of the Northern Alliance, due to infighting of fundamentalist groups. They turned Kabul into a graveyard, where you could only see tears, fear, destruction, and blood.
Then, when the Taliban came into power, they even raped 70 year olds and four year olds. The main reason I joined RAWA was the misery and pain of our people.
The U.S. government has always played with the destiny of our poor people and has supported criminals, terrorists and the worst enemies of our people.
I was a war orphan; I lost my parents as the result of the war. I studied in RAWA’s school, the Watan (Homeland) School, in the refugee camp in Pakistan. They had a school for girls and one for boys. I was there through the 6th grade.
I became aware of RAWA through the school. I found RAWA to be the most serious, honest, radical, anti-fundamentalist, democratic organization fighting for justice and women’s rights.
I began with RAWA at age 14. I am now 28 and a member of the Foreign Committee. I’m in my third year of university, studying law.
What is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan?
RAWA was first established in 1977 by Afghan intellectual women to fight for equality of men and women and against male chauvinism that was and is being practiced in our society. Most women were illiterate and took literacy courses and then decided to work with RAWA.
In 1979, RAWA fought against the Russians and to expose the Russian puppet government through demonstrations, leaflets, and strikes. In 1987, RAWA’s leader, Meena, was killed by agents of KHAD (the Afghan branch of the KGB) with direct help of the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Our demonstrations were attacked, even in Pakistan. We had to live in a clandestine way. From 1992 to the present, we have fought any brand of Islamic fundamentalists, who are the main cause of our miseries and problems.
Being strongly against the fundamentalist warlords, the Taliban and the puppet government of Hamid Karzai, we still can’t work publicly in Afghanistan, and we continue to work semi-underground. Some of our supporters have been imprisoned and tortured for just having copies of our magazine with them.
The U.S. government has never supported democratic organizations like RAWA. Up until now, we have received not a penny from the U.S. or any other government. At the same time, we have the honor of being supported by the peace-loving people of the U.S. and other Western countries. We have received donations of $5 and even $1,000 for orphanages, schools and political work.
What is RAWA’s position regarding the U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan?
In 2001, the U.S. and its allies occupied Afghanistan under the beautiful slogans of “war on terror,” “women’s rights,” “liberation” and “democracy.” But when they installed the brutal and criminal warlords after the fall of the Taliban, everyone knew that Afghanistan had once again become a chessboard for world powers. The plight of our people, and especially of women, has been misused to legitimize the foreign military presence in our country.
Afghan people have been badly betrayed by the U.S. and NATO in the past few years. Despite billions in aid, Afghan people are living under awful conditions that are worse than they were under the Taliban medieval rule. Afghanistan still faces a women’s rights tragedy, and the everyday hardships of our masses are beyond imagination.
Everyone knows that the U.S., a superpower, together with the biggest military pact in the world, NATO, could in a matter of days, if not hours, defeat the Taliban and arrest Mullah Omer and Osama. But today they need such enemies to justify keeping their military machine in Afghanistan.
We don’t want their so-called liberation and democracy. If these troops do not withdraw, we are sure that the Afghan people will have no other option but to rise up against them. Our people are already deeply fed up with the situation. The jokes being made in Afghanistan are that the Taliban is getting the most from this situation.
Would you not be afraid of a civil war if the U.S. and NATO withdrew from Afghanistan?
RAWA supports the call for the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO troops because occupation is not a solution. They are constantly killing civilians, even at a wedding party. Do you think we are not human beings and don’t have hearts? What would Americans do if an occupier were killing so many civilians in the U.S.?
If there is a withdrawal, there will probably be a civil war between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, but that would not be any worse than what is going on now. When these troops pull out, at least we will then no more be an occupied country.
The reason the fundamentalists are powerful is because they are always being supported by the U.S., which has given billions of dollars to the Northern Alliance, money that has gone into the pockets of warlords and drug lords. Today people are crying of hunger, selling their children for $5, but where did the billions go?
What solutions would RAWA propose?