By Laura Conrad, Staff Contributor
Speaking through a megaphone to a crowd of over 100 people outside the Westin Hotel, former Afghanistan MP Malalai Joya made her anti-war message clear.
“The U.S. and allies occupied Afghanistan under the name of ‘war on terror,’ but today they themselves are terrorizing Afghan people, and have deep hidden deals with terrorist groups,” she told the crowd Nov. 21. “We Afghans can’t expect freedom to be donated to us by the U.S., which itself is the biggest terrorist country in the world, and has imposed war, destruction and mass-killings in countless countries since the Second World War. Afghanistan and Iraq are just two of the most recent examples.”
Joya, who was called the “bravest woman in the world” by the BBC, was suspended from the Afghan parliament in 2007 because she was accused of insulting other representatives. She’s known for speaking out at political meetings and opposing other members. Her controversial position has received a lot of international attention and criticism. Joya has survived four assassination attempts and travels in Afghanistan with body guards.
Joya stopped in Halifax during the middle of her tour across the nation. She gave public talks on freedom, democracy and peace, while promoting her new memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.
Joya happened to arrive in Halifax on the same weekend of the International Security Forum. The forum included discussions of Canada’s future role in the Afghanistan mission, piracy and Arctic security. Some of the speakers who attended the conference included Canadian Minister of Defence Peter Mackay, U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Republican Senator John McCain.
Joya was denied an invitation to attend the conference. In response, she addressed the public protest outside the Westin Hotel where the conference was being held.
Joya explained her reasons for opposing NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, which are also outlined in her book.
“A glance to the history of U.S. government involvements in different poor countries in the past shows that this country has only overthrown democracies and supported dictators and oppressors,” she said. “The Western governments not only betray Afghan people but their own people too. They are wasting tax-payers’ money and their soldiers’ blood for a war which only safeguards the interests of the big corporations. Not only did it not defeat terrorists but made them more powerful, and today the world is more dangerous than it was in 2001.”
There was little information about the future of the NATO mission released from the International Security Forum. Joya said the mission is doing more harm than good.
“We call on the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan because they are making the situation more complicated day by day. It is the duty of our own people to fight for their liberation, even if it will require a hard, long and decisive struggle. Let our people decide about the future.”
Joya also told the Halifax audience how grateful she was for public support.
“I would like to extend my salutations and deep thankful regards to anti-war movements around the world. I see a huge difference between the war monger governments of the U.S., Canada, the UK and other governments involved in Afghanistan, and the support and sympathies of justice-loving people of these countries.”
Joya’s book launch tour ended Nov. 27, the day after she gave her last speech in Ottawa. Despite uncertainty about the mission’s future, Joya said she would continue to oppose it.
“I will never stop to say again and again that no nation can liberate another nation. History has no such example. My people throughout history have fought for their independence, and are now on the verge of rising up against the U.S. and NATO.”