Outspoken Afghan activist and former member of the Parliament, Malalai Joya has been one of the most vocal opponents of the US and NATO war in Afghanistan. In a recent op-ed she called on the US to "stop murdering my people."
Joya was suspended from the Afghan Parliament nearly 3 years ago for challenging warlord domination and lives in constant fear of her life. She has survived several assassination attempts but chooses to live in Afghanistan. Her memoir,
A Woman Among Warlords
with Derrick O'Keefe was published late last year (Simon and Schuster). Last week Malalai Joya was named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2010. I reached her for an interview via satellite phone in Afghanistan on May 3rd 2010.
Sonali Kolhatkar: You were just named one of the 100 most influential people of 2010 by TIME Magazine. But author Hirsi Ali, who wrote the announcement, said "I hope in time she comes to see the U.S. and NATO forces in her country as her allies. She must use her notoriety, her demonstrated wit and her resilience to get the troops on her side instead of out of her country." How do you respond to this statement?
Malalai Joya: I am very angry with the way they have introduced me. TIME has painted a false picture of me and does not mention anything at all about my struggle against the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and NATO, which is disgusting. In fact every one knows that I stand side-by-side with the glorious anti war movements around the world and have proved time and again that I will never compromise with the US And NATO who have occupied my country, empowered the most bloody enemies of my people and are killing my innocent compatriots in Afghanistan. What TIME did was like giving an award to someone with one hand and getting it back with another hand. I have sent my protest through my Defense Committee, but TIME did not bother to even answer than protest letter. Perhaps this is the kind of freedom of expression exercised by TIME and the US. But I'm happy to see that many of my friends and supporters have objected to the write-up and expressed it by posting their comments on TIME's site or sending me many emails.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Earlier this year some journalists were able to confirm that US troops had killed two pregnant women during a night-time raid. How common are such occurrences in Afghanistan today?
Malalai Joya: Yes, the US and NATO often lie when they kill innocent people and also stop media from reporting civilian casualties. Most of the civilian casualties take place in remote areas of Afghanistan where there is no media to report it, so no one notices it. In many cases after killing people NATO [releases] statements saying that many insurgents were killed. When you try to find out from the local people, they are actually women and children killed, not insurgents. Afghan media are also mostly in the hands of the Afghan criminal bands. They rarely report civilians killed by the US and NATO. In Afghanistan most media outlets, especially TV channels, are a tool for warlords of the Northern Alliance. For example warlords like Atta Mohammed, Qanooni, Mohseni, Mohaqqiq, Rabbani and others, each have their own TV channel and they naturally do not want to report civilian casualties by their US and NATO masters.