Through a Keyhole Darkly

A first-hand account of life in Afghanistan – Published on Dissident Voice, by Ed Kinane, December 30, 2011.

They will kill me but they will not kill my voice,
because it will be the voice of all Afghan women.
You can cut the flower but  you cannot stop the coming of spring.
— Malalai Joya

Within weeks of my leaving Kabul in mid-August 2011, the US Embassy there was shelled by rocket-propelled grenades. 

The Embassy then “canceled all trips in and out of Afghanistan for its diplomats, and suspended all travel within Afghanistan (14 Sept. 11 Associated Press).”

In my 30 days in Kabul I never saw another westerner outside guarded compounds – except in military convoys. Such fear reveals how illusory any US claims of “progress” have been over these past ten years – despite the hundreds of billions of dollars squandered. Not to mention all the orphans and the numerous number of limbs and lives lost … //

… Malalai & Ian:

Several of  those we meet with are inspiring. Malalai Joya (a pseudonym) is a young woman barely five feet tall. She was elected to Parliament from a remote region, but was drummed out of that august body for publicizing the war crimes of her parliamentary colleagues. While this notoriety led to international speaking tours, it also led to assassination attempts. Malalai only survives by moving with her guards from safe house to safe house.

To find her, we get our directions via several cell phone calls en route; we don’t know our exact destination until moments before we arrive. Through heavy metal doors, we enter one of those unmarked compounds on a nameless unpaved street (typical of Kabul) and are met by two armed men. One stands a few feet off, gun poised, while the other frisks us — and has us snap photos with our cameras and write with our pens to confirm that these aren’t disguised weapons.

Malalai comes out to greet us and invite us inside. Immediately I’m captivated by the care and courage she radiates.  Malalai’s remarks to us suggest why she is a marked woman:

  • If more US troops leave, one more enemy will be gone – no more bombing, no more white phosphorus….
  • The US military are expanding military bases here. They won’t leave us. They work for Balkanization….It’s a big lie that the U.S. will leave by 2014. [In fact, the US is quietly lobbying the Karzai government to agree to permanent US bases.]
  • When you are in the heart of Asia, you’re surrounded by other countries with oil and gas. From here these can be controlled
  • Under the UN the Taliban have been replaced by the war lords.
  • Afghan and foreign NGOs are corrupt. [She refers to  them as “NGO lords.”]
  • Afghanistan has the second biggest copper mine in the world.
  • Under the Taliban 185 tons of poppy were exported; now over 4000 tons are exported. [Hmmm. Who gets the lion’s share of  drug traffic profit – Afghans or Americans?]

In her “Message on the Tenth Anniversary of NATO’s War and the Occupation  of Afghanistan,” Joya declares:

Ten years ago the US and NATO invaded my country under the fake banners of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy. But after a decade, Afghanistan still remains the most uncivil, most corrupt, and most war torn country in the world. The consequences of the so-called war on terror have only been more bloodshed, crimes, barbarism, human rights and women’s rights violation, which has doubled the miseries and sorrows of our people (7 Oct. 11,

Malalai, it’s clear, is not one of those who entwine their interests with those occupying her country. Check out her memoir: A Woman Among Warlords [Scribner, 2009] … (full long text).

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