This weekend, tens of thousands are expected to converge on Chicago to protest against a summit of NATO leaders. Originally, the G8 was also going to meet in Chicago this week, but that gathering of heads of the world’s most powerful governments was moved to Camp David.
The war in Afghanistan will be at the top of NATO’s agenda, and it will be a focus of the mass demonstrations planned outside the summit. Prominent Afghan women’s rights activist and former parliamentarian Malalai Joya adds her voice in support of the anti-war protests in Chicago.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to travel to attend the protests against NATO. But from here in Kabul, I can tell you that the whole world will indeed be watching Chicago this weekend.
The protesters remind us all that the government of the United States is not representative of the people of the United States. It’s encouraging to see so many people willing to take action and stand up against this unjust and disastrous war.
Recently U.S. President Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan’s so-called President Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to continue it even longer.
Obama knows that the U.S. people are turning against the war, and both men know that the Afghan people are against this war and reject the foreign occupation of their country. So on one hand they claim the war will end in 2014, while on the other hand they say that U.S. troops will remain in some capacity until 2024.
When 2024 comes closer they will probably say they plan to remain in Afghanistan until 2034. The reality is that the U.S. and their NATO allies plan to dominate Afghanistan and the larger region militarily for the next generation. They need this for geostrategic reasons. They want to control the energy and mineral resources of our countries, and they want to maintain military superiority against China and other competitors.
No one can believe the words of Obama and others who say they are working for peace even while they continue to make war and to kill our people in bombings, night raids and now more and more drone attacks that kill civilians every week and sometimes every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.
This weekend’s protests will likely face repression. But it’s vital that people take to the streets to raise their voices. Here in Afghanistan, many peace and women’s rights activists literally risk their lives to hold protests against the occupation and against the fundamentalist warlords.
I know Chicago is something like President Obama’s “hometown,” because he lived there many years and it was in the state of Illinois that he was first elected. My hometown is in Afghanistan’s remote Farah Province. I was elected in 2005, when I was only 26 years old, to represent Farah in Afghanistan’s Parliament. Because I spoke out and denounced the occupation, the warlords and the Taliban, I faced threats, assassination attempts — and then they even kicked me out of Parliament in 2007.
Because I was banished, I was unable to stand in Parliament and condemn a NATO bombing in May 2009 that killed approximately 150 people in my province of Farah. Most of the victims of this massacre were women and children. I would like to ask Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, how they would feel if their own daughters were killed in this sort of senseless and brutal manner?
Because this is the reality of the war in Afghanistan. This is the reality of what NATO does all around the world, and if NATO is allowed to stay and continue the war in Afghanistan, they will be emboldened to wage more wars against more people – in the Middle East, in Africa and beyond.
We have many problems in Afghanistan — fundamentalism, warlords, the Taliban — but we will have a better chance to solve them if we have our self-determination, our freedom, our independence.
NATO’s bombs will never bring democracy and justice to Afghanistan or any other country.
The voices of protest in the streets of Chicago will be seen and heard in Kabul, and in Farah, and eventually in every corner of Afghanistan. As we say here, the truth is like the sun, when it comes out nothing can block it.
I’m sorry I cannot be there physically in Chicago this weekend. But I, along with millions of other Afghans, am there in heart and in spirit. We stand in solidarity with the demand that NATO withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
And in the long-run, our desire for true justice and democracy will defeat all of NATO’s guns and bombs.
Malalai Joya is a prominent Afghan women’s rights activist and a former member of parliament. rabble.ca editor Derrick O’Keefe is the co-writer of her book, A Woman Among Warlords. In 2010, TIME named her one of ‘the world’s 100 most influential people,’ but the prestigious magazine failed to mention her opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan.
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