Afghanistan to Sweden.

I became very interested in Afghanistan some 4 years. Before this I was like most, who only knew Afghanistan from the headlines on the evening news. I was already interested in the affairs of the world, and the story of Afghanistan fascinated me. How did the people of this country find the strength and courage to repel the invading forces one after the other. Their history is a proud one, and one I urge people to familiarize themselves with before reading the next newspaper article about the country, or watching the evening news.

Early last year after reading many books, watching documentaries regarding the country, I stumbled upon this book at the library.

joya book

Of all the books I had read concerning Afghanistan, this was the one that really helped me understand everything I had read in the past. You can read a hundred books with the facts, statistics and history, but when a book comes along and tells you the story in a personal way, it changes everything.

Truthfully, Malalai Joya was unknown to me before this. There are many who do not wish for her voice to travel, and the corrupt and criminal government in power in Afghanistan have tried many times to assassinate her. The work she has done from the time she was in the Pakistani refugee camps, to the underground schooling during the Taliban alone in commendable. Her work with OPAWC in her home province of Farah gave her a platform to build a political campaign. From there she has never looked back, only marching forward, fighting for the justice that is deserved for the people of her country.

After reading her book and doing more research into her story I began to realize how much of an inspiration she was becoming to me. The courage she has shown over the years in the face of some of the most brutal people the world has created is incredible.

After some time trying to contact Malalai, I was able to speak with her in October 2015. During our conversation I asked some questions that I had regarding Afghanistan, including about Ahmad Shah Massoud, because I wanted answers from someone who knew the situation on the ground. Shah Massoud has been called the ‘lion of Panjshir’, for his so called heroics during the soviet war and in moving the country towards a democracy. What is not so widely talked about are his crimes against humanity. The massacre of Afshar in 1993 is a major talking point that has been kept silent for too long.  http://www.hazarapeople.com/2011/02/09/afshar-massacre-1993/

There is a famous saying in Afghanistan; if you want to know a person well, ask who their close friends are. Ahmad Shah Massoud was a friend to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Yunus Qanuni, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mohammed Fahim and the list goes on. This list alone is enough to understand that unfortunately  Shah Massoud was not the man he has been portrayed to be.

I then asked Malalai if she would be interested to come to Sweden to attend seminars and meetings that I had arranged with various universities and organisations including MPs from the Swedish government.She agreed.

It took a number of months to arrange the trip, with plenty of obstacles along the way. There were times when I didn’t know if everything would work out, if I would have to cancel all events that were planned. Perseverance paid off in the end, and Thursday 3rd March Malalai landed in Sweden.

Saturday 5th March

Our first event of this trip was once arranged by Amnesty’s women’s rights group, and Ladyfest. The event was to recognise and promote International Women’s Right’s Day on the 8th of March. Malalai’s message touched strongly on the issues of abuse to women in Afghanistan. The most horrifying was the brutal, inhumane killing of 27 year old Farkhunda.

Farkhunda was a young 27 year old girl, who was brutally beaten and stoned to death. Her body was jumped on, then driven over by a car, burnt and thrown into a near by river. This horrific crime was committed in the heart of the capital, Kabul, in broad daylight. The presence of Afghan police did not stop this, not did the thousands of foreign troops. So where is the security and women’s right’s that were promised in 2001? You could say its a 100 Billion dollar question.

Monday 7th March

This morning we had arranged a number of interviews with different departments of Swedish Radio. Here are the links to the interviews:

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=1637&artikel=6384827

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=104&artikel=6385364

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/?programid=1646

In the evening was a seminar that was arranged with a number of different participants. Facilitating this was Britt-Marie Mattsson, a renowned Swedish journalist. Joining Malalai Joya on the panel was: Katarina Bergehed, representing Amnesty International and Pernilla Baralt, state  secretary to the swedish minister of Gender Equality.

IMG_20160307_233429The event was a great success, Malalai again made the audience aware that the situation in Afghanistan is not like what  you are shown on you news stations. After 15 years of this current occupation, the situation has only become worse for the people of her country. Malalai’s message is quite clear, that the world should leave Afghanistan to determine it’s own people and stop supporting the reactionary terrorists that sit in power with the backing of the US. The support of foreign development in schools, clinics, hospitals would be most welcome, but the people of Afghanistan are tired of war.

An hour after this event Malalai had to make a long journey to Denmark, to make it in time for an early morning event planned in the capital Copenhagen.

8th  – 15th March in Copenhagen, Denmark

Wednesday 16th March

Today was possibly our busiest day. We started off our morning with a meeting in the parliament building with some MP’s from the left party. The meeting was to bring more awareness and voice the concerns we have for Sweden’s continued cooperation with the undemocratic, inhumane government in power in Afghanistan.

IMG_20160316_092526

Directly after this meeting we made our way to the offices of ‘Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers, for our first interview of the day.

Interview link: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/som-afghansk-kvinna-kanner-jag-fortvivlan/

From there we headed into the center to the offices of Olof Palme Center. We had arranged 2 interviews here, one with a news agency called TT, the other with Workers union magazine. The interview with TT allowed for publication all around the country in numerous newspapers and online papers.

Our second interview finished we were directly on our way to the offices of Swedish Afghanistan Committee. Here we had 3 interviews followed by a meeting with staff of the Committee and SIDA.

Interview link: https://feministisktperspektiv.se/2016/03/24/malalai-joya-minns-retoriken-bakom-invasionen

We then had our meeting, where Malalai delivered her talk to the audience. Unfortunately people from Sida, and Swedish Afghanistan Committee were unable to stay behind to discuss the work they are doing in Afghanistan and if there could be any cooperation.

IMG_20160316_163842

 

Thursday 17th March

Today we had another packed schedule, starting of with a morning seminar at Uppsala University. Malalai delivered a memorable talk here this morning, engaging all in the room to the words she was speaking. It has been a challenge to get more people interested to come along to seminars on this trip. I believe this is largely to do with the fact that IMG_20160317_095605many people have forgotten about Afghanistan.

There are so many other tragedies in the world, in Syria, Iraq, the Kurds in Turkey, Congo, Yemen, Lybia, Colombia, Mexico and the list continues. Afghanistan has been on the headlines for so many years people are beginning to grow tired of the situation. That is until they hear what is really happening. When people listen to Malalai, they hear the truth about how Afghanistan has in her words, ‘been thrown from the frying pan into the fire’ in the last 15 years.The fact that the occupation has created so many more hardships is a clear indication that their policies have not benefited the people at all.

One of the most mindblowing things Malalai says in her talks is that before 9/11 Afghanistan had one enemy, the taliban, now, they have 4 enemies. Taliban, empowered warlords, occupation forces and ISIS.

Next on the schedule was an interview with Amnesty press at their headquarters. Here is a link to the interview with Amnesty:  http://www.amnestypress.se/artiklar/reportage/25906/malalai-joya-fortsatter-kampa-i-afghanistan-jag-ar/

After the interview we had a meeting with the staff at Amnesty which focused on a background history of Afghanistan and how the country has ended up in the situation it is now, when you look at the 1960’s and 70’s.

We then went  directly to ABF Stockholm, where another seminar was arranged in collaboration with Olof Palme Center. We again met good supports at this seminar, and many young people expressing their will to do something to help the situation. Malalai Joya often quotes  Patrick Tyler “There are two superpowers in the world, the US and the world public opinion”. So as always, the first place to begin in supporting the people of Afghanistan is raising our voices and raising awareness of the ongoing suffering, but also to make people aware that there are many people inside Afghanistan that have the potential and desire to make their country peaceful, and democratic. To live in a place where you are free to determine the paths you wish to take, free to choose the personality you wish to express, to live without fear.

My favorite example is SPA (Solidarity Party of Afghanistan) http://www.hambastagi.org/new/english-section/ a political party run by youths. The youths that run this party are courageous in all they do, with the threat of violence constantly being thrown at them, they are not backing down. They know they have two options, to live as slaves to barbaric fundamentalist warlords in power, or struggle and fight for their rights as human beings and as Afghans.

Friday 18th March

Lunch time seminar at Stockholm IMG_20160318_125519University was first on the cards today. This was another good opportunity for reaching out to more young students in Sweden and bringing them Malalai’s message.

 

 

 

IMG_20160318_153912

Following the seminar, we had the opportunity to meet with Gustaf Lind. He is the ambassador for Human Rights in the ministry of Foreign Affairs.He was eager to meet with Malalai to discuss ongoing circumstances and what we believed Sweden could do to help the situation.

He showed a strong interest in what Malalai had to say and we feel some hope that something good can come from this initial meeting. This meeting concluded our program in Stockholm, at the end of our 3 days there we had achieved a great deal.

Monday 21st March

We had just one seminar in Gothenburg today at the global studies department, within Gothenburg University. It was a small seminar, however, those who did come had a real interest in Afghanistan and with the question of what they can do for the cause.

I believe it is always important for us to remember and to understand that any struggle takes patience and solidarity. Every one person plays their role, no one in insignificant if they support a just and fair struggle. We must not allow the people of Afghanistan to suffer in silence, we have a duty as human beings to denounce those who support injustice, and to support fellow human beings who like us, want to live in freedom.

Tuesday 22nd March

Our final seminar of this trip took us to Lund. A small town in the south of Sweden. IMG_20160322_201817

We received more good support here and it was a great way to end the trip. There was an interesting question from a member of the audience that he addressed to everyone present. He asked, “does anyone know of an honest politician in Sweden?” ..Not a single person could answer that question with yes.

Among all the disaster, the mistrust, the uncertainty I remind myself of the hope that there is in the world. There are over 7 billion people on this earth. There are more good people on this earth than there are bad. That alone is a wonderful statistic. I know it is true because even in the face of so much adversity, so much death and disaster, there are still people dedicating their lives to the service of others all over the world. I know this to be true because if it were any different, the world would be in a much worse state than it even is today. So let us take hope that we have the numbers. We just have to find the common ground to unite and be that superpower that we are.

We should remember that when we read about Malalai, when we see the courage that she shows, she is not standing alone. There are so many hero’s in Afghanistan, women, men and children struggling to make a difference. I believe that when we stand up as one, maybe not with the same beliefs, but with the same moral standards, then we can make a difference. We have already shown the world that, people of all different religions and ethnic groups can live side by side in peace and harmony.The hope and the belief I received when I see these true hero’s of the world, not just in Afghanistan, is a testament that we are moving in the right direction.

Let us not take for granted the freedom’s we have, and let us stretch our hands out and walk side by side with those who need us. Let us raise our voices in the presence of injustice, and oppression. Let us march in defiance of unjust laws and discrimination. When we do these things in unison no super power can stop the force of justice. No super power can deny the people their rights when they are united. History has shown time and time again that the real power lies in the hands of the people.

Let us never forget where we came from, let us never forget every child is born innocent, let us never forget that we are all equals, with unique abilities and beliefs, let us never forget no man or woman can determine the life we want to live, so long as it does not harm others. Let us never fail to tell our sisters and brothers all over the world that they will NEVER WALK ALONE! We will walk side by side, we will put up a fight and we will win the justice that is ours.

Malalai travels far and wide to bring this message to the people of the world. While she may have the ability to leave her country to attend these trips, she never fails to return at the end of them. She strongly believes in the values of fighting for the people with the people. She could just as easily seek asylum and live a comfortable life somewhere else in the world. But she will not abandon her fellow people.

Malalai is an incredible woman, who has suffered her share of the woe’s. Her fight is not over, it has only just begun.

“The time is always right, to do what is right” – Martin Luther King Jr

 

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