[News] Interview with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 6 11:05:59 EDT 2009

Interview with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

May 06, 2009 By Ian Sinclair
Source: <http://www.peacenews.info/issues/2509/25091608.html>Peace News

Established in 1977, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of 
Afghanistan (RAWA) is an independent women's organisation fighting 
for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan.  RAWA opposed the 
Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-89, as well 
as the subsequent Mujahaden and Taliban governments, running 
underground schools for Afghan girls, publishing a journal and 
setting up humanitarian projects.

Mariam Rawi a member of RAWA's foreign relations committee, answer's 
Peace News's questions about the current US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

1) In 2001 President Bush claimed the United States invaded 
Afghanistan to fight for "progress and pluralism, tolerance and 
freedom".  Why does RAWA think the United States invaded and 
continues to occupy Afghanistan?

The US invaded Afghanistan to fulfill its geo-political, economic and 
regional strategic interests and to change Afghanistan into a strong 
military base in the region. Since Afghanistan is the heart of Asia, 
it would serve as a strong base for controlling surrounding countries 
like Pakistan, China, Iran and above all the Central. Additionally, 
as a superpower, it continues to occupy Afghanistan to combat rising 
powers like Russia and China, who are becoming greater rivals for the 
US in the economic, military and political fields. Asian Republics

Many argue today that the 2001 invasion was planned before 9/11, but 
it gave the war-mongers in the White House and Pentagon a golden 
opportunity to advance its agenda in the region. In the words of Tony 
Blair "to be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got 
the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on 
Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11..."

Getting hold of the multi-billions drug business was another reason 
for invading Afghanistan and in the past few years we clearly see 
that the US and its allies changed Afghanistan into the opium capital 
of the world.  Opium production increased more than 4400%, with 93% 
of world illegal opium produced in Afghanistan. Narcotics is said to 
be the third greatest trade commodity in cash terms after oil and 
weapons. There are large financial institutions behind this business 
and the control of the routes of narcotics was important for the US 
government and now they have reached their goal.

Furthermore, Afghanistan holds a rich source of gas, copper, iron and 
other minerals and precious stones and the big powers are of course 
interested in looting it the way they are doing in poor African 
countries. In the past few years there have been exploration efforts 
of our natural resources. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) 
estimates there are about 700 billion cubic meters of gas and 300 
million tonnes of oil across several Northern provinces of 
Afghanistan. Also the world's second-biggest unexploited copper 
deposit is located in our country with an estimated 11 million tonnes 
of copper. So besides routing the oil and gas from the Central Asian 
Republics through Afghanistan, the US is interested in exploiting 
Afghanistan's resources too.

The "war on terror" and "liberation of Afghan women" were mere lies 
to cover the above and many other hidden agendas of the US in 
Afghanistan. Our peoples' dreams for liberation were shattered in the 
very first days after the invasion when they witnessed that the war 
criminals and Northern Alliance murderers and rapists who destroyed 
Afghanistan, were backed and brought back to power by the US and its 
allies after the fall of the Taliban regime. When infamous criminals 
like Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Karim Khalili, Mohammad 
Mohaqiq, Yunus Qanooni, Mullah Rakiti, Atta Muhammad, Rashid Dostum, 
Ismail Khan, Haji Almas, Hazrat Ali and many more were decorated by 
the US as champions of freedom and were installed in power, everyone 
knew that Afghanistan had once again become the centre of a chess 
game of the US and its allies who made the slogans of "democracy" and 
"human rights" into painful jokes for our nation.

2) Can you describe what life is like for women in Afghanistan 
today?  Is it better or worse than life under the Taliban Government?

Despite many a hue and cry about "women's rights" and the "liberation 
of Afghan women", Afghanistan still faces a women's rights catastrophe.

There is no tangible change in the conditions of Afghan women; in 
certain parts of the country the life is worse than under the 
Taliban.  The rate of kidnappings, rapes, selling of girls, forced 
marriages, acid attacks, prostitution and self-immolation by young 
girls and women has reached a record high, even compared to the 
Taliban regime.

Due to forced marriages and domestic violence, self-immolation by 
women aged between 18 and 35 is becoming an epidemic in Afghanistan. 
There have been hundreds of such cases reported mostly in the 
provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghor and Badghis. Where there is 
non-existent rule of law and legal support for women, they have no 
other option but to get rid of their misery by burning themselves.

Due to severe poverty which affects over 80 percent of Afghanistan's 
population, life for hundreds of thousands of war widows and poor 
women is disastrous and in many parts of Afghanistan the level of 
prostitution and begging in the streets has risen to an unprecedented 
level. There have been many reports of parents being forced to sell 
their children as they can't feed them. In the western province alone 
150 cases of the selling of children, especially girls, were 
officially reported in 2008 -- the actual numbers are much higher. of Herat

There are many more that are not reflected in the news as the media 
is strongly stifled under the shadow of guns and threats of the warlords.

In the past few years only some cosmetic changes were made in regard 
to women's rights.  For example, the Women's Ministry and 68 women 
members of parliament was trumpeted as a big success. Meanwhile the 
Ministry has done nothing for women and is just a showcase. The 
majority of women in the parliament are pro-warlord and cannot 
represent Afghan women as they themselves are part of the problem.

Afghan women have been badly betrayed in the past seven years under 
the US occupation. Their plight was used to justify the occupation of 
Afghanistan, but not only were no steps taken to heal their wounds, 
rather the worst enemies of women's rights were empowered, supported 
and installed in key posts.

When the entire nation lives under the shadow of warlords, Taliban, 
drug-lords, occupation forces and a corrupt, puppet and mafia 
government, how can its women enjoy the most basic rights?

3) Barack Obama, the new President of the United States, has pledged 
to institute a "surge" in Afghanistan, increasing American troop 
levels by 30,000. Does RAWA support this?

Considering Obama's plans for Afghanistan, we can clearly see that 
there is no difference between Obama and Bush for our country. Both 
are following a wrong and devastating strategy which has so far 
pushed Afghanistan and the region towards disaster and deeper conflicts.

Even if the US deployed hundreds of thousands of troops in 
Afghanistan, they will not be here to bring "peace", "freedom" and 
"democracy" for the people of Afghanistan. They will only serve the 
US's regional interests and help the warlords, drug-lords and other 
US agents who are in power in our country; but for our suffering and 
war-stricken people, it will have a ruinous outcome.

Freedom, democracy and justice cannot be enforced at gunpoint by a 
foreign country; they are the values that can be achieved only by our 
people and democracy-loving forces through a hard, decisive and long 
struggle. Those who claim to donate these values to Afghan people 
through force will only push our country to slavery.

The very first outcome of the "surge" for Afghan people will be an 
increase in the number of civilian casualties which have already 
sparked protests and opposition from Afghan people. In the past seven 
years thousands of innocent people have been killed or wounded by the 
US/NATO bombardments. In the past few weeks under Obama's rule, 
around 100 Afghan civilians have been killed.

Today many people in Afghanistan ask for the withdrawal of troops and 
regard them as useless to do any good for Afghanistan. The surge in 
troops will result in a surge in protests against the US/NATO in 
Afghanistan and it will also push more people towards the Taliban and 
other terrorist groups as a reaction to occupation forces and their 
mistreatment of people.

The troop surge will also give reasons for the insurgency to increase 
their operations and attacks which in return will intensify the 
conflict in Afghanistan.

We think the 30,000 extra troops will only serve the US regional 
strategy in changing Afghanistan into its military base -- it will do 
nothing to the fight with terrorist groups as they claim. The US and 
allies are playing a two-faced game in Afghanistan: on the one hand 
they are increasing troops, and on the other hand, they are 
supporting the fundamentalist terrorists of the Northern Alliance, 
and initiating talks with the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to 
share power with these brutal and criminal forces.

So now it is an open secret that the US is not interested in fighting 
terrorists. In fact no one can believe that a superpower is really 
incapable of defeating a small, medieval-minded and ignorant force 
such as the Taliban. Actually the US government needs an excuse to 
stay in Afghanistan for longer, so the presence of the Taliban and 
other terrorist groups give them an excuse for the Tom and Jerry game 
to continue for years -- the UK have already announced that it will 
stay in Afghanistan for over three decades.

There are even some suspicions that the foreign troops provide some 
supplies and arms to the Taliban. Last March the Afghan media and 
local authorities in Arghandab district of Zabul province reported 
that NATO helicopters dropped three large containers full of supplies 
and ammunitions to a Taliban commander. In another move, a Taliban 
criminal commander named Mullah Abdul Salam, responsible for a 
massacre in 1998, was appointed as the governor of Musa Qala district 
in the Helmand province, the world's largest opium poppy growing region.

A few months ago, an infamous terrorist from Gubuddin Hekmatyar's 
party called Ghairat Baheer was released from the US prison at Bagram 
airbase.  Recently media reports uncovered that he is engaged in 
secret talks to pave the way for a sharing of power with Hekmatyar 
who is on the US's terrorist list. According to information revealed 
to Al Jazeera, Hekmatyar would be offered asylum in Saudi Arabia, 
after which he would be allowed to return to Afghanistan with 
immunity from prosecution.

These are just few of the examples that show the US's double 
standards towards dangerous terrorist bands: whenever the terrorists 
are ready to work in accordance with its policies, they are regarded 
as friends of the US, no matter how many crimes and brutalities they 
have committed and continue to commit against Afghan people.

4) What solutions does RAWA propose to end the fighting in Afghanistan?

RAWA strongly believes that the withdrawal of foreign troops should 
be the first step, because today, with the presence of thousands of 
foreign troops from many countries in Afghanistan, the majority of 
our people are suffering from insecurity, killings, kidnapping, 
unemployment, rape, acid throwing on schoolgirls, hunger, 
lawlessness, lack of freedom of speech and many more awful disasters. 
Peace, security, democracy and independence can only be achieved by 
our own people. It is our responsibility to become united as an 
alternative against the occupation, to rise up, to resist and to 
organize our people.

Right now our people are sandwiched between three enemies. From one 
side we have the Taliban, from the other side are the US air strikes, 
and from another side are the Northern Alliance warlords in different 
provinces. With the troop withdrawal our people will at least get rid 
of one of these enemies.

The justice-loving people of the US and its democratic-minded allies 
should continue to pressure their government to change its 
fundamentalists-fostering policy and work for the disarmament of 
armed groups who are in the pay of the US.

We think the peace-loving people around the world should support 
democratic-minded individuals and forces of Afghanistan who are being 
suppressed and weakened by the US and its fundamentalist stooges. 
Only the emergence of a powerful democratic movement can lead 
Afghanistan towards independence and democracy.

Afghan people are deeply fed up with their current conditions and are 
on the verge of rising up against it. We have already seen protests 
and rising up of people in the face of threats and terror in a number 
of provinces of Afghanistan. In the future this wave will without a 
doubt gain momentum.  With the emergence of a third front whose 
slogan is "Neither Occupation Nor Taliban - Freedom and Democracy," 
Afghans will rise up to get their rights with their own power. This 
is a long and painful process, but the only option to lead 
Afghanistan toward peace and prosperity.

*An edited version of this interview recently appeared in Peace 
News.  <mailto:ian_js at hotmail.com>ian_js at hotmail.com.

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