This past Wednesday, Malalai Joya, former member of the Afghani Parliament and an accomplished writer and activist, came to the College to give a talk about the current situation in Afghanistan. Also the author of Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, Joya was expelled from the Afghani Parliament after she denounced members of the assembly for being “warlords and drug smugglers.”
Her previous lecture, planned for earlier in the semester, was originally delayed by the U.S. State Department, who did not grant her a Visa until a grassroots campaign forced the government to change its decision.
Joya spent some time discussing why she thought she was not allowed to enter the country. She said she believes that her view of the war in Afghanistan is one that the American government does not want the public to know. “I know that billions of U.S. dollars are going to the warlords and indirectly to the Taliban,” said Joya.
There were few pleasant words towards the U.S. government and the NATO coalition that are currently fighting the decade long conflict. She described that the U.S. and NATO forces “pushed us from the frying pan and into the fire.”
According to Joya, this conflict has “not freed women” while over 8,000 civilians have been killed during the last four years of the occupation. She continued by saying that the “10 years of occupation has doubled, tripled the miseries of women.”
Joya stated the “warmongers” within the U.S. government were doing their best to spin the story in a positive light by celebrating the fact that democracy is coming to Afghanistan. However, Joya said that “democracy is nothing more than a thin curtain,” and even though “Western leaders and media like to talk about democracy,” it does not exist in Afghanistan.
When discussing the difference between Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Joya said that “Obama is a second and more dangerous Bush.”
Joya referenced the surge and how “[President Obama] brought more war and conflict” during his time in office. She even went so far as saying that “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates and [General David] Petraeus should be sent to court for following bad policies.”
Joya then stated what she believed U.S. and its NATO allies should do next. The “only solution,” in her words would be “to get rid of U.S. troops.” She later added that it would be “better today than tomorrow.”
“It won’t be heaven,” Joya said, “but it would be easier to fight two enemies [the Warlords and Taliban] if the third enemy [U.S. and NATO] left the country.” She continued by saying that if the U.S. left, “the financial backbone of the warlords would be broken.”
When answering a questions about why she didn’t stay in the government and become rich, Joya said that “death is better than being a part of this government; death is better than silence.”
At the end of the talk, many members of the audience were left speechless by the power of Joya’s words. Senior Allison Bailey said that the talk was “excellent and that [Joya] was very inspiring.”
Junior Danielle Doubt said, “[Joya] was a very powerful speaker, I’m honored for her to be here and [she] empowers students to make a difference.”
When she introduced Joya at the beginning of the program, Professor Sahar Shafqat said that this was the “most exciting event I’ve been associated with while at St. Mary’s.” Shafqat continued by saying that “[Joya] has a message that we don’t hear often in the U.S.”
“To me, it is telling that the fact that she was denied a visa by the U.S. and expelled from Parliament makes me think there are a lot of people who want to silence her,” concluded Shafqat, “[it’s] very special and meaningful to have her here.”