That's how CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans introduced Malalai Joya on Thursday, in the U.S. on a book tour for her memoir A Woman Among Warlords. A more telling modifier often describes Malalai Joya as the bravest woman in Afghanistan. After all, is she not the one-time youngest member of Parliament who has survived four assassination attempts on her life and routinely lambastes the Taliban, the Karzai government and President Obama for persisting in what she refers to as the occupation of Afghanistan?
In her earnest yet high-pitched voice she emphatically proclaimed,"The Afghan people are sandwiched between two enemies -- the Taliban on one side and the US/NATO forces and the Karzai government with their warlords and fundamentalists on the other."
She explained to the west Los Angeles women gathered in her honor why the Afghans and those of us in the room should reject all three and instead back progressives such as herself and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).WATCH Malalai Joya's historical speech:
Progressives like Joya are virtually ignored by our government and the mainstream media. Hence, the most famous woman in Afghanistan is virtually unknown here. In Afghanistan progressives are ridiculed at best and often threatened or killed by the government and warlords alike.
Joya returned again and again to the theme of the illegitimacy of the Karzai government and the U.S. presence. She believes the elections were efforts by the United States to give legitimacy to its puppet regime in Afghanistan. She explained that the three main candidates (Karzai, Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani) all had long relationships with the United States, and are considered U.S. agents in Afghanistan:
"Everyone knows that there could not be free elections while the Taliban have a presence in 80% of Afghanistan and murderous warlords control the rest of the country. Karzai will serve first U.S. interests and not the people of Afghanistan. Democracy cannot be imported but must be home grown."
She denounced the Karzai government as hopelessly corrupt and many members as criminals and narco-traffickers. She alluded to the New York Times articlethat exposed Ahmed Wali Karzai, Karzai's brother as both a drug dealer and CIA asset to substantiate her point.
Joya sees the Obama administration's reservations about Karzai as disingenuous. She sees the U.S.-backed Karzai government as a mockery of democracy, created as a corporate-friendly puppet regime to facilitate the business interests of fossil fuel pipelines, critical in the"New Great Game."
During the Q&A Jodie Evans first called on CODEPINK benefactors and women that had been with her and the organization to both Afghanistan and Gaza. From them came the expected flurry of questions about the state of women in Afghanistan. Joya again returned to her theme and insisted that the people of Afghanistan, including women, are worse off after "the occupation" than before and that the country would be much better off without U.S. presence since they would be fighting only two enemies and not three.
She went on to explain that "the occupation" has not liberated women, that Karzai and the Parliament of warlords have done little to improve the lives of women: "President Obama is not assisting in the liberation of Afghan women by empowering the warlords and fundamentalists."
The last question was: What would you like to say to President Obama? She became agitated as if she were right in front of him and spoke directly:
"I speak for the peace loving people of Afghanistan. We reject your brutal occupation. We reject corruption, warlords and drug lords. You say this is Bush's war but you do not denounce the warlords who destroy my country. Why do you not reverse course one hundred percent and end the occupation? If you do not then, this is now Obama's war too."
So why the rebranding of Malalai Joya? Perhaps because to call Joya the bravest woman in Afghanistan is to dismiss the millions of other brave Afghan women who every day live under the Karzai government and face the real threat of abuse, discrimination and rape. Malalai Joya represents these women as well as all the voiceless people of Afghanistan.
Joya was in Los Angeles not so much promoting her book, of which one hundred percent of the proceeds go to her activist organization, but promoting her ideas and ideals and spreading the word that the Afghan people want the U.S. forces out of Afghanistan now.
In Los Angeles, Joya is accompanied by her advocate, supporter and friend Sonali Kolhatkar, journalist and host of Pacifica's KPFK radio morning show Uprising. When asked what we could do to help Sonali answered, "Friends want to buy Malalai a safe car. It is appalling to see her car stalled on the side of the road putting her life in great danger."
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