One year ago Hamid Karzai was declared re-elected as president of Afghanistan, ending an election that had no legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Afghans. The presidential election last year was a fraud, with ballot stuffing, vote buying and massive corruption reported by the world’s media. Even if the independent election commission had not cancelled the planned run-off between Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, it would have represented only a choice of the “same donkey with a new saddle”. People had no incentive to participate as they knew that both main candidates would bring nothing positive for Afghan people.
Karzai had lost his popularity way before the 2009 election. This was due to the ever increasing corruption of the government, the never-ending crimes of the many fundamentalists and warlords in his regime, and the financial scandals and corruption of his brothers. In Kandahar people even started calling Ahmed Wali Karzai the “little Bush”, after the hated US president.
The vast majority of Afghans have lost all hope in Karzai. For us his words and actions have no value, and that includes his latest “peace negotiations” and other measures. Including killers like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the government is not about negotiating for peace, but completing the decades-old circle of warlordism and fundamentalism.
It’s important to say that these so-called elections haven’t damaged Afghanistan as much as the US and its Nato allies have, with their bombing and occupation. Wikileaks has exposed some of the truth about the civilian toll of this war against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples. Afghans hold the US and Nato, and their puppet Karzai, responsible for these war crimes. They claim to fight terrorism, but in fact they are the biggest terrorists in the eyes of our people because of their crimes and brutalities.
Unfortunately the Afghan people are not yet strong enough to drive out the US, overthrow the mafia government of Karzai and bring an end to the crimes of the Taliban and other fundamentalists. Our history proves that this resistance to occupation will continue until we have won our freedom. Until both the US and the fundamentalists – of both the Northern Alliance and Taliban brands – are driven out of power in Afghanistan, we cannot see a bright future. It is now more than five years since I was elected to the Afghan parliament. My experience of this “democratic process” was to see my microphone cut off, and to be threatened with death by other MPs – many of whom teamed up to remove me illegally from my seat. My case alone is enough to prove that women’s rights in Afghanistan have not truly been safeguarded – our situation was just invoked to justify the war.
In fact, it’s important to remember another document that Wikileaks exposed earlier this year: a CIA paper assessing western public opinion on the war that recommended using “testimonials by Afghan women” expressing fear about a Taliban takeover in the event of Nato pulling out. A Time cover story featuring the disfigured Bibi Aisha was a clear example of using the plight of women as war propaganda. The headline – “What happens if we leave Afghanistan” – could have, or should have, been “What happens while we are in Afghanistan”, because crimes of mutilation, rape and murder against women are commonplace today.
Many warlords and commanders aligned with Nato and Karzai carry out their sexist, misogynist crimes with impunity. Time could, for example, have done a cover story condemning the law signed by Karzai in 2009 that legalised crimes against Shia women, or about the shocking levels of women committing suicide by self-immolation.
We had another so-called parliamentary election in September, but I chose not to run. Any hope I had for using the ballot box to achieve change in Afghanistan is gone. Like last year’s presidential vote, September’s election was full of the buying and selling of votes – one province, Paktika, reported a turnout of 626%. This sort of thing is the reason elections in Afghanistan long ago became a bad joke.
Tomorrow there is an election in the US, and it is now two years since Barack Obama was elected president. His surge of troops has brought only a surge of violence, and his expansion of the war into Pakistan has claimed many innocent lives. Obama promised “hope” and “change”, but Afghans have seen only change for the worse. Here he is now seen as a “second Bush”.
The only change that can make us hopeful about the future is the strengthening and expansion of a national anti-fundamentalist and democracy-loving movement. Such a movement can be built only by Afghans. And while we want the world’s support and solidarity, we neither need nor want Nato’s occupying forces.
Malalai Joya, an Afghan politician and a former elected member of the Parliament from Farah province.