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Canada should change its policy

Tuesday 4 March 2008, by Malalai Joya

After 9/11, unfortunately the United States and its allies like Canada pushed us from the frying pan into the fire, by putting in power the Northern Alliance criminals and warlords. As long as they follow this wrong policy, the situation in Afghanistan will become more disastrous.

Canada should not continue its current policy until 2011. Canada should act independently of the United States and find an alternative policy if they really want to be an honest friend of the Afghan people and improve this catastrophic situation.

Today, in the name of bringing human rights, women’s rights and democracy, our country has been occupied. Under the nose of NATO troops and Canadian troops, the situation of women is getting worse day by day. More women than ever are committing suicide by self-immolation. Recently, in Laghman province, a woman burned herself in front of the courthouse because she could not get justice. The case of Parwez Kambakhsh, who remains in prison, shows that there is no freedom of speech in my country, even though it is guaranteed in our constitution.

Just this winter, more than 1000 people died from the cold, because of poverty. Some women have been forced to sell their babies for only ten dollars just to get enough money to survive. And today Afghanistan is once again the world’s biggest producer of opium, 93 percent of the world supply. President Karzai’s brother, for instance, is a famous druglord in Kandahar province.

This situation continues because, of the billions of dollars that Afghanistan has received from the international community, most of the money has gone into the pockets of the warlords and druglords that the U.S. and its allies have imposed on our country. Just like in Iraq, because of corruption, ordinary people have not benefited from this money. The Congressional Budget Office says that the U.S. will spend $2.4 trillion over the next ten years on the "war on terror." If they instead spent this money properly and honestly, not only would Iraq and Afghanistan be made into heaven but, also, world poverty would be eliminated.

The great people of Canada should know that today our people in Afghanistan are not looking at their soldiers as any different from U.S. or other NATO troops. For our people, all of them are the same because, unfortunately, for seven years they have followed the footpath of the U.S. You cannot bring values like democracy and human rights by supporting the sworn enemies of these values.

These troops are supposedly bombing the Taliban, but instead of killing Taliban ordinary people are the victims. And the Taliban is only becoming more powerful again. People right now do not trust these foreign troops and they do not support this government. If they continue their policy they will face the resistance of the Afghan people and more blood of innocent people will be shed.

Because of our history – we were attacked by both the British and the Soviets – our people do not trust foreign troops. But this time, after Soviet occupation, civil war and the Taliban, people – even though they were suspicious of U.S. motives – had some hopes that maybe B-52s would change the situation, or give us a helping hand. Unfortunately, we now see that the U.S. only attacked Afghanistan because of its own strategic policy and its regional and economic interests. It is the policy of the U.S. to keep the situation in Afghanistan unstable, to have a reason to stay longer militarily.

Today, the people of Afghanistan are faced with two enemies: internal enemies in the form of fundamentalists like the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and foreign enemies who do not think about the interests of the Afghan people for a moment.

There is no question that Afghanistan needs a helping hand. But our people are now saying, if you do not support or help us, it would be better that you leave Afghanistan so that people here can fight against their enemies who are in power themselves.

But we don’t only want the withdrawal of these foreign troops. We also want the withdrawal of the warlords and the Taliban. We want disarmament of these criminals and we want support for democratic parties.

On behalf of my people, I send my condolences and share the pain of those Canadian families who have lost their loved ones in Afghanistan. By raising our voices together against the wrong policy of the U.S. and its allies like Canada, we can prevent the loss of more innocent life.

Malalai Joya is an Afghan MP currently appealing her suspension from the country’s parliament. She spoke to editor Derrick O’Keefe.