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“We are right now under the ‘protection’ of armed forces from 43 countries, yet we are still living with war, brutality, poverty and crime.”
The above happens to describe Afghanistan.
The Book of the Week is “A Woman Among Warlords, The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice” by Malalai Joya with Derrick O’Keefe, published in 2009.
The second oldest of ten children, born in April 1978 in western Afghanistan, the author– a political activist– deserves major bragging rights. For, she risked her life in remaining in her beloved homeland where she spoke the truth about the war, the corruption, the leaders and all the other ugly aspects of her country’s impossible situation to raise awareness of what the world could do to make things better in the future.
Joya (a pseudonym, as she was in a witness protection program of sorts at the book’s writing) spent her childhood in various refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. Her family lived in Iran because her father received medical treatment there after having his leg blown off by a land mine. He was a member of the mujahideen and political dissident. Her family moved to Pakistan because her father wanted to provide her with a decent education.
A few years after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops, Afghanistan was a chaotic, poverty-stricken, war-torn wreck, and stayed that way for the next four decades– due to very common, oft-repeated historical forces; human nature, especially. Armed Muslim fanatics roamed the streets to violently enforce the dress and behavior codes for females, five-times-a-day prayers, and to suppress free speech and ban any and all pleasurable activities in the name of their religion the way they themselves perceived it should be. Nevertheless, in the 1990’s, ordinary Afghans watched the bootlegged American movie Titanic in secret.
Shortly after 9/11, the Taliban disappeared because they knew the jig was up. They reinvented themselves as students at Ivy League universities, parliament members in Afghanistan, and propagandists. Incidentally, ex-Nazis after WWII reinvented themselves in a similar manner; those with transferable skills became Soviet officers. This kind of scenario has been repeated throughout history amid regime changes, among men with superior survival skills.
Anyway, in 2002, the United States destroyed communications infrastructure via modern weaponry in Afghanistan. After about three years, though, the U.S. and NATO failed to deliver on promises and installed a corrupt puppet regime that actually hurt ordinary Afghans. Unsurprisingly, “International Security Assistance Force” became a misnomer– just another foreign occupier. The usual CIA bribes, human rights abuses (especially against females!), growing of opium that would be processed into black-market heroin to be distributed worldwide, and other nefarious activities continued to proliferate behind the scenes.
Beginning when she was in high school, Joya taught literacy to adult women who, if they were allowed by their husbands to attend classes, were expected by their husbands to do all the housework and childcare. There was fear not only of physical abuse from husbands, but also public-square lashings, beheadings or hangings if the Taliban discovered the hidden classes held in basements.
In 2004, Joya attended a conference and delivered political speeches that provoked angry reactions from Afghanistan’s evil leaders– mostly alpha males with hubris syndrome in the dictatorship that the country had become, backed by the U.S. and NATO. Her fellow political workers called her a Communist, infidel, and worse, incessantly smearing her.
The United Nations provided some security for Joya, but she became especially vulnerable to assassination attempts when she began traveling between Kabul and her hometown of Farah City, to run for a seat in the Parliament of Afghanistan.
Joya named just a few of the ginormous number of parties whose advice and actions worsened Afghanistan’s plight in recent decades (despite all of the parties’ bragging about how they helped bring democracy to Afghanistan; in no particular order): Reagan, George W. and Laura Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Brzezinski, Obama, the CIA and NATO.
The U.S. learned nothing from the French in Vietnam, and nothing from the Soviets’ nine-year quagmire in Afghanistan, that turned into forty years of devastation. (The U.S. did, however, groom Boris Yeltsin in its own image to lead Russia in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, his reign didn’t last long due to ill health. Maybe next time it’ll choose someone with better staying-power.)
Read the book to learn of: numerous other abominations Joya harped on and lamented over as a political activist (hint: Afghan children faced “…smuggling, abduction, child labor [due to severe poverty] and lack of education”) and her recommendations for how the country could turn itself around, and her reasons for hope for her country’s future.