SOUTH ASIA SOLIDARITY INITIATIVE AND WAR RESISTERS LEAGUE IN ASSOCIATION WITH CENTER FOR PLACE CULTURE & POLITICS AT CUNY PRESENT
AN EVENING WITH MALALAI JOYA FEATURING EVE ENSLER:
Friday, April 15 -- 7pm til 9pm CUNY Graduate Center, Recital Hall ground floor -- 365 Fifth Ave at 34th Street [BDFM & NQR trains to 34th St, 6 train to 33rd]
This event is free and open to the public. We may get a FULL HOUSE -- arrive early to guarantee admission!
We encourage everyone to make a donationto support the cost of Ms. Joya's tour, her health clinic in Farah Province, andher office in Kabul. The donations should be made at the following link: http://www.afghanwomensmission.org/?page_id=518 (Please be sure to indicate "Malalai Joya" in the "order comments" section).
Copies of Ms. Joya's memoir will be available for sale at the event.
As the U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan approaches its 10th anniversary this year, the U.S. anti-war movement is in dire need of clarity and momentum. The Afghan people still face overwhelming oppressive obstacles to creating movements toward social justice and self-determination -- obstacles empowered by the context of foreign intervention and war. Please join us for a rare opportunity to hear from one of the most courageous voices for justice and peace in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya.She will be joined by the acclaimed U.S. artist and activist Eve Ensler, to discuss the experiences and resilience of women (and all people) in Afghanistan -- and what people in the U.S. can do to raise their voices and support their struggles.
Malalai Joya is the youngest person to have been elected to Afghanistan's parliament, and an outspoken activist against military occupation and for women's rights in her country. She has been called the most famous and bravest woman in Afghanistan by BBC News. She was selected among the "heroes" for the Time 100 [TIME magazine, 2010] -- and she was just selected among the top activists of the world's Top 100 Women by the UK Guardian newspaper. Her memoir, "A Woman Among Warlords," was recently published in paperback bySimon&Schuster, with a new chapter on Afghanistan in the Obama era. She just wrote a piece for the Guardian on the U.S. soldiers' "kill team" and atrocity photos, a story that has returned U.S. news attention to Afghanistan this March-April.
Joya was supposed to arrive in the U.S. on March 18 to start a nationwide speaking tour, but at the last minute her visa was denied. A quick mobilization of media attention, activist petitioning and pressure on the State Department turned it around! [See articles in TIME magazine and San Francisco Chronicle.] She arrived in the U.S. on March 25, joining Noam Chomsky to address a crowd of over a thousand people at Harvard. Having spoken all across the U.S, her tour concludes in New York City on April 15 at this event.
Eve Ensler is an acclaimed playwright, performer and activist. She is the award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve's work, I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life Of Girls Around The World (2010), made the New York Times' best-seller list. She is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over 80 million dollars for the cause. Ensler has traveled to Afghanistan, and built relationships of solidarity with activists for justice and peace there.
A U.S. Embassy today granted acclaimed Afghan human rights activist and former MP Malalai Joya, a visa, a little over a week after she was initially turned down. The outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan was informed at her initial visa interview that because she “lived underground” and was “unemployed” she would not be allowed into the U.S. for an extensive speaking tour, even though she had been granted visas 4 times over the past several years. Due to the visa denial, Joya has already missed all her events in New York and Washington DC and is now on her way to Boston to attempt to finish up the rest of her tour.
Afghan Women’s Mission’s Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar responded to the news saying, “We are ecstatic and gratified that the government finally did the right thing and allowed Malalai Joya into the country so that Americans could hear what she has to say about the reality of the war, and particularly how Afghan women are faring under the occupation.” Kolhatkar added, “It is a testament to the nationwide campaign that was launched by our national coalition of organizations and individuals who worked very hard to put the events together and to bring her to the U.S.”
The co-writer of Ms. Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warlords, Derrick O’Keefe, was optimistic that the visa hold-up would boost audiences for her speaking tour. “This is a victory for free speech, and I’m confident that over the next couple of weeks thousands will welcome Malalai Joya into their communities — Americans need to hear in-person what she has to say about the U.S.-NATO war,” said O’Keefe.
The campaign to pressure authorities to grant Ms. Joya the visa was a multi-pronged one. Within days of her initial visa refusal, organizers in many states lobbied their representatives in Congress to send a letter to the U.S. Embassy urging them to grant her a visa. Washington Congressman Jim McDermott took the lead on signing the letter. Representatives Jay Inslee, Keith Ellison, Peter Welch, Betty McCollum, Bill Pascrell, and Senators John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, and Patty Murray co-signed the letter.
Following that an online petition was set up, which has been signed by over 3000 people to date, including well known activists and intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler, and many others. And, on Wednesday March 23rd, a national call-in day was announced, calling on Americans to flood the State Department with phone calls urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant Joya a visa.
While Ms. Joya was forced to physically miss all her events in New York and Washington DC, she managed to make a presence via live video chat or recorded video talks. She now heads to Boston to pick up the remainder of her tour. From Massachusetts she heads to Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minneapolis, Oregon, Washington, and California. Click here for a full schedule of events.
The nationwide speaking tour coincides with the paperback edition of Malalai Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner). Copies of her books will available for sale at her speaking events.
Malalai Joya is available for a limited number of interviews during her tour. Contact Sonali Kolhatkar (626-676-7884) or Natalie Reyes (562 319-3046) or email email@example.com.
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Praise for Malalai Joya and A Woman Among Warlords:
‘The youngest and most famous of all the women in the Afghan parliament…a powerful symbol of change’ - Guardian
‘A courageous female MP’ - The Times
‘… one of the few symbols of hope for Afghanistan’s future.’ - New Statesman
‘Quite simply the most passionate and devastating critique of Western intervention in Afghanistan I have ever read.’ - Peace News
‘[Has] spoken her mind as few Afghan women dare to do’ - New York Times
‘Malalai Joya leaves us with hope that the tormented people of Afghanistan can take their fate into their own hands if they are released from the grip of foreign powers.’ - Noam Chomsky
‘Unwavering in her mission to bring true democracy to her country…Women have been known to walk for miles just to touch her. For them, she is their only real hope for a better future’ - Telegraph
‘Joya is a model for women everywhere seeking to make the world more just.’ - Six women Nobel Peace Prize laureates
‘Joya’s pain and bravery are genuine and can be felt on almost every page’ - Christina Lamb, Sunday Times
‘A fascinating account of Afghanistan’s political reality…Malalai Joya has been compared to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi’ - Irish Times
‘Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women.’ - Human Rights Watch
Nearly a week after former Afghan Parliamentarian and acclaimed human rights activist Malalai Joya was denied a U.S. visa, a national network of activists is calling on everyone across the country to demand that the State Department let Ms. Joya in.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
On Wednesday March 23, call Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department at 202-647-5291 between 9 am to 5 pm Eastern Standard Time. Press “1″ and leave a comment stating that you are outraged at Malalai Joya’s exclusion from the U.S. and that you would like the State Department to immediately grant Ms. Joya an emergency appointment and visa at any U.S. Embassy she has applied.
Joya was due to enter the U.S. on March 19th for three weeks of events spanning over a dozen states to promote the paper-back edition of her book A Woman Among Warlords. She was turned down for her visa application on the basis of “living underground” and being “unemployed.” Afghan activists who criticize their government are routinely forced to live underground due to the risks to their lives, and the vast majority of Afghan women are unemployed. Ms. Joya has come to the U.S. at least 4 times before since 2006. She was listed last November by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, and this month by the Guardian newspaper as one of the top 100 women activists and campaigners in the world. Joya faces incredible security threats – she has survived at least 4 assassination attempts leading her to live underground.
The reasons for Ms. Joya’s exclusion is most likely politically based – her outspoken opposition to the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan now resonates with a majority of Americans and her 2011 tour would have potentially drawn the biggest audiences yet. The ACLU has called the increased phenomenon of denying visas to international activists and intellectuals, as “ideological exclusion.” On Friday March 19, nine U.S. representatives and Senators including Jim McDermott, John Kerry, and Bernie Sanders, wrote to the U.S. Embassy urging them to reconsider their decision. To date there has been no official response that we know of.
Currently Ms. Joya is at an undisclosed location. American officials have privately responded that she ought to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and that she would likely be granted a visa from there. However, Ms. Joya faces grave risks to her life in Afghanistan and is unable to move freely and openly there – a fact that U.S. authorities seem ignorant of. Additionally when she was forced out of the Afghan parliament by U.S.-backed warlords in 2007, a ban on her travel from Afghanistan was issued, which is still in effect.
The United States should grant Malalai Joya a visa immediately from any U.S. Embassy.
It is an insult to her and all Afghan women that she has been excluded from attending her speaking events in the U.S. and it is a travesty that Americans are denied the right to hear directly from her about the Afghan war.
Click here to find out what else you can do to help Malalai Joya be allowed into the U.S.
Click here for our press release about Malalai Joya’s visa denial.
In just a few days, over 2500 people have signed an online petition to protest the denial of a US travel visa to Afghan women's rights activist and author Malalai Joya, who was to make a three-week US tour to promote the updated edition of A Woman Among Warlords.
On Sunday, Joya addressed the closing plenary of the Left Forum in New York City via skype, opening her remarks by saying, "Now the US government tries to stop me from entering, but they can never block my voice from reaching the great and peace-loving people in the United States."
The effort to overturn this visa denial continues. On March 18, a letter signed by six congresspeople and three senators urged that Joya be allowed the right to travel and complete her book tour in the United States.
A number of initiatives are being undertaken by activists across the United States to protest Joya's exclusion. There will be a rally on Wednesday at Harvard University, where Joya and Noam Chomsky are due to speak at a forum on 'The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan' this Friday, March 25.
*** Petition: Let Malalai Joya speak in the United States!
We, the undersigned, call on the US State Department to grant a visa to Malalai Joya for entry to the United States. We protest the denial of a travel visa to Joya, an acclaimed women's rights activist and former member of Afghanistan's parliament. Ms. Joya, who was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2010, was set to begin a three-week US tour to promote an updated edition of her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
We agree with Joya's publisher at Scribner, Alexis Gargagliano, who said, "We had the privilege to publish Ms. Joya, and her earlier 2009 book tour met with wide acclaim. The right of authors to travel and promote their work is central to freedom of expression and the full exchange of ideas." Joya's memoir has been translated into over a dozen languages, and she has toured widely including Australia, the UK, Canada, Norway, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands in support of the book over the past two years.
Malalai Joya's voice is one that must be heard in the United States. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, government officials put forward their concern for the rights of Afghan women as a central justification for the invasion. Today, we have the opportunity for an Afghan woman to speak to American audiences about the present and future of her people. We call upon the State Department to grant Malalai Joya a visa so that she can contribute her much needed, but rarely heard perspective to a timely discussion about the US' involvement in Afghanistan. Signatories include: Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eve Ensler, Frances Fox Piven and John Nichols.
SOME IMPORTANT QUOTES FROM A WOMAN AMONG WARLORDS (2009)
on Progressive forces in Afghanistan and the world
"I feel confident that if foreign countries stop meddling in Afghanistan and if we are left free from occupation, then a strong progressive democratic force will emerge. I am hopeful that in other parts of the world today, such as Latin America, there are now governments and movements that are bringing progressive change and acting independently of the interests of the United States government.
We see this change happening in a democratic way in such places as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. These countries are increasingly working together, and working to help and empower the poorest people in their societies. More and more, the countries of Latin America do no follow the path of the United States only. They are trading more with each other and rescuing their cultures and economies from foreign domination. And they are teaching their people to read and write--without basic literacy it is very difficult for democracy to have a chance. Progressive Afghans are very interested in learning from the experiences of other people like this who are struggling for justice and real independence.
I should add that I think the leaders of these countries should be careful with some of the allies they have made. When Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his counterpart in Iran, he called him a "revolutionary" and embraced him. I think this ranks as one of Chavez's biggest mistakes, and one that is sometimes made as well by antiwar groups in the West who see Iran's reactionary regime as "anti-imperialist." Chavez's action sends a bad message to the women and people of Iran, who are struggling for their rights against this repressive, antiwomen government. Iran's fundamentalist government has played a very negative role in Afghanistan, backing warlords like Ismail Khan, Khalili, Mohahqiq, and others, while working to destabilize the country by stoking religious and ethnic strife.
In the past few years, every effort has been made to block the emergence of progressive political forces in my country. Funds were blocked, and no effort was spared to marginalize these groups. No political party or organization that is critical of the government and the warlords is able to operate openly in Afghanistan. The suppression of my voice and my expulsion from Parliament is but one symptom if this larger disease." (pg. 221)
on RAWA(the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan):
"My enemies often claim that I am a member of RAWA. After all, hundreds and probably thousands of Afghan children have been educated in RAWA schools in Paikistan. But that doesn't mean they all grew up to be activists in the organization. I am an independent, but I am not ashamed to say that I share many of the same ideals. If I ever decided that I could be more effective working within the framework of an organization, RAWA is the first I would consider joining. It is a group that makes Afghan women proud, and I have learned a great deal from their uncompromising struggle for women's rights and democracy." (pg. 21)
"Zoya, a spokeswoman for RAWA, has also been telling the truth about Afghanistan to audiences around the world. I had the chance to meet Zoya at a conference in New York City, and we later saw each other again at an event in Italy. Zoya made a strong impression on me. We share many of the same values, and she gave me some good ideas for education projects in Farah. Zoya is a young woman, as are so many of the representatives of RAWA. They all go by pseudonyms, and even when they are abroad they avoid having their picture taken, for the sake of their security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The fact that RAWA must still operate as an underground organization, even though its only goal is to improve women's rightsand participation in society, is surely a sign that true democracy has not yet emerged in Afghanistan." (pg. 169)
on A New Party?
"Some people have approached me to urge me to help create a new political party. If at some point we can be sure that such a new party could help unite progressive-minded Afghans and make us stronger, then I believe we should consider it. Other people have suggested that I run for president. I appreciate that people say this, but I ask that they understand that I am very young and never even really planned to be a politician. Presidential elections in Afghanistan are more of a joke compared to the parliamentary elections. In the races for the Wolesi Jirga, some democratic-minded people can find the opportunity to win despite all the frauds and dealings; otherwise everyone will doubt its trustworthiness. Unfortunately, at this moment in history, the only people who will get to serve as president are those who are selected and backed by the U.S. government and the mafia that holds power in Afghanistan. Changing this situation will require years of work, from those inside as well as those outside the country." (pg. 157)
"When I speak around the world, I represent all the suffering of my people in every corner of my country. Some of the funds raised abroad do go to help pay for my security costs within Afghanistan, since the Karzai government cut the funding for my security. But most donations go to fund desperately needed projects like the Hamoon Clinic [free health clinic in Malalai's home province of Farah.] Even though after I was elected to Parliament I had to resign my job with OPAWC [Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities], I still do everything I can to support their projects. A little money can go a long way, especially when it does not pass through the corrupt hands of many government officials, warlords, or even local or foreign NGO officials.
This is a problem that we could call "NGO-lords," which goes hand in hand with the problem of warlords and drug lords. Today, foreign "aid" only disappears into corrupt officials' pockets or is in fact used for programs that legitimize the NATO war. About this aid, our people can only say, Don't show me the palm tree, show me the dates. Only bitter fruit has grown in recent years.
Most governments give huge donations to NGOs and political groups that they know will follow their orders and work for their strategic plan. In fact, by their donations, they want to buy Afghans to make puppets of them. Even the brutal regime of fundamentalists in Iran spends a huge amount of money in Afghanistan through its stooges. With this money Iran tries to export its brand of Islam and Taliban-like ideas to Afghanistan." (pg. 162)
“aame bheeta maati dobu nahin.” (We will not give up our land!!”)
-- PPSS, Women’s wing member
Mark International Human Rights Day This Year By Joining the Protest to Protect Livelihoods and a Fragile Coastal Ecology that Supports over 50,000 Small Peasant, fisherfolks and Agricultural Workers in India
WHEN: DECEMBER 10 2010
@ the Korean Consulate, New York City
335 E 45th St (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
Time: 4:00 -5:30 p.m.
Join us to urge the Korean Government to Intervene …
• The Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) project, representing the single largest FDI (USD 12 billion), is being celebrated by the Indian government as an example of its economic success, while people affected by the proposed steel plant, mining and port in Orissa have been protesting against the project since its inception due to the adverse impact on their lives, lands, and livelihoods.
• More than 25,000 people will be displaced by the project, including 22,000 in the plant/port area, and conservative estimates suggest that over 50,000 people would suffer loss of livelihoods.
• For more than 5 years, villagers under the leadership of PPSS have blockaded themselves in protest and have ensured that not a single brick has been put in place, even in the face of systematic human rights violations, including false criminal cases.
• A Report prepared by MZPSG Iron and Steal points to the vibrant local economy in the area and challenges the economic basis of the project.
• The committees set up by the Indian government have found that the project has violated the Forest Rights Act and noted that all the forest, coastal regulation and environmental, were obtained by fraudulent means.
• Korean civil society groups have organized press conferences in front of the POSCO office in Korea, visited the proposed project area in Orissa twice and have highly recommended a “thoroughly reconsidering of the POSCO project.”
• More than 480 people have recently signed a petition asking the government of India to scrap the POSCO project.
Organized by: South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), New York; Mining Zone People’s Solidarity Group (MZPSG) and others
South Asia Solidarity Initiative & War Resisters League in association with
Coney Island Avenue project
-- a screening of a Democracy Now film about the role of the FBI in our communities
followed by a discussion with DN journalist Anjali Kamat
Speakers include members of Coney Island Avenue Project and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Join us for a screening of a new half-hour documentary film by Democracy Now journalists about preemptive prosecutions of Muslim men entrapped by the FBI, and the struggles of the families organizing against these unjust policies. Community members are invited to discuss with the filmmaker and activists about how Muslim Americans deal with the daily realities of the FBI's role in their communities. Saturday, December 4, 2010 at 7pm Pakeezah Restaurant 941 Coney Island Avenue (between Newkirk and 18th Avenues)
SOUTH ASIA SOLIDARITY INITIATIVE (SASI) is a U.S. based organization that is in solidarity with progressive social movements and democratic politics in South Asia. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.southasiainitiative.org/
1) Why is South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) opposed to the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
SASI opposes the war on three grounds: (a) The war will not achieve what the American government claims are its stated goals, (b) The war is unethical and illegal, and (c) The war perpetuates imperialist domination and is thus a criminal war.
a. US claims and its feasibility: The wars on Afghanistan and Pakistan are justified by the US state on two broad grounds: (1) that Osama Bin laden and Al Qaeda (AQ) are sheltered in the area and (2) to liberate Afghanistan from the anti-democratic Taliban regime. There is little or no evidence that the AQ has a significant presence in Afghanistan. However, the sensibility that AQ is present in Afghanistan is perpetrated through a consistent elision between all ultra right Islamic groups – the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar e Taiba, the Jaish e Mohammed and a range of other groups. If we hold this elision at bay for a moment, then in as much as the Taliban is an internal group from within Afghanistan, it will, in the end be defeated only by peoples’ organizations from within the region – Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should be amply clear by now that the American occupation does not help the development of such a trajectory. Even communities that are opposed to the Taliban are just as vehemently opposed to the American presence. Indeed, all ultra-right forces are increasingly strategically allied together by the presence of the American troops, making it tougher for people’s movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat them effectively. A thought experiment maybe useful here. Imagine that the Christian right gains ascendancy in the US under an ultra-right Christian President, and a series of degenerate policies are just about to be promulgated. Would a Coalition of the Willing, primarily made of the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, Indians and some European nations be acceptable as a liberating force? Would broad sections of the American people who are opposed to the Christian right be able to unite behind this “foreign” coalition? With few exceptions, internal right wings have to be defeated from within for any long-term peace and justice.
b. Beyond the infeasibility of achieving the publicly stated goals of the US government is the problem that the war is built on a very thin (if any) ethical and legal basis. Apart from the continuing assaults on civilian human lives and dignity which makes this war truly denuded of even its usual ethical fig-leaf, the attacks on Pakistan have never been ratified even by a weak and ineffective UN mechanism. The ratification of the war on Afghanistan was obtained under duress and at a moment immediately following 9/11 and like many other things in that period didn’t undergo significant scrutiny. A proper scrutiny of the conduct of the war would clearly place it as both unethical and illegal.
c. With the emergence of China (and to a lesser degree India) as powerful actors, and with the world capitalist economy entering a double crisis caused by financialization and ecological devastation, the Middle East/South Asia wars can only be understood as setting the conditions for imperialist dominance in the 21st century.
All those seeking an end to this war and who are in solidarity with the vast majority of the people of South Asia would thus work along two lines: continuous and maximum pressure on the American state to withdraw from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and thoughtful and cogent action that strengthens democratic forces in South Asia that stand opposed to ultra-right forces on the one hand and American imperialism on the other.
2) What are the geopolitical and economic interests for the US in the region?
In order to build an effective anti-war movement against the present US-led war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is critical to understand the complex web of American interests not captured in the officially stated goals. Apart from obvious geopolitical, militarist (arms race and sales), and cultural aspirations of the US seeking to retain its dominant status as a world superpower, the strategic geopolitical location of Afghanistan and its importance for accessing and marketing the enormous oil and natural gas resources in Central Asia is a significant part of the effort to bring Afghanistan under American control. Much of Central Asia and Caspian Basin are sitting on enormous oil and natural gas resources which are a major attraction for energy hungry nations and oil companies. In 2001, the untapped oil reserves in Kazakhastan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were estimated to be worth $ 2 trillion. Many of these countries are landlocked and thus dependent on neighboring countries for transporting their oil and natural gas to the outside world. Due to the longstanding Russian domination of the Caspian and Central Asian oil production, the energy pipelines from these countries were built through Russia. Afghanistan and Pakistan are perfectly situated geographically as ideal transit points for the Central Asian gas and oil without ceding any control to other US rivals such as Russia, China, or Iran. The ongoing US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a long term strategy to gain control over these areas to maintain its hegemonic status and control over energy resources and remain a relevant force in any decision-making in this region.
3) Is the Indian State playing a role in the current conflict? If so, what?
The Indian state has primarily played a negative role in the current conflict and opposed the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. In 2009, the Indian Prime Minister warned US led forces against prematurely leaving Afghanistan stating that it would be detrimental for Afghanistan and destabilize the region. India sees a close relationship between Taliban and other militant Islamic groups, and the Intelligence Services of Pakistan (ISI) that would be strengthened by the absence of the US and challenge India’s control of Kashmir. The Indian state also perceives the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as detrimental to its growing economic and political interests in the region. India is currently the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan having pledged about 1.3 billion in aid related projects since 2001. The Indian state has multiple consulates and has deployed more than a thousand members of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border force in Afghanistan. Indians have also been involved in building the parliament in Kabul, assisting Afghani legislators and providing training to the military thereby currently being extremely invested in the region. Ironically, the Indian state while being in favor of the western intervention in Afghanistan has used its own increasing power to sideline one of the most significant contentious issues of the region concerning Kashmir, particularly disregarding the UN resolution demanding a free and impartial plebiscite by the people of Kashmir.
4) What is SASI's position on the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban?
SASI supports a vision of Pakistan that is pro-working-classes, pro-democratic and secular. To this end, we see all of our demands in the light of how they further fundamental long-term transformation in Pakistani society and the social relations it is built upon. These relations include relations between capital and labor, gender relations, relations within and among “religious” groups, relations of stratification based on caste, “tribe” and ethnicities, and the relation between the state and religion. The existence of groups such as the Taliban (which are primarily Afghan in origin and composition) within Pakistan needs to be viewed in the context of their origin, growth and longtime support by the USA and its military allies (including the Pakistani army) to strategically oppose Soviet occupation in Afghanistan since 1978. The use of Pakistani territory, military and human resources to prop up Islamist forces wherever opportunistic alliances could be made to further US geopolitical and global capitalist class interests needs to be acknowledged and made part of any analysis of the current kinds of oppression that are attributable to the Taliban. In many ways the “Taliban” has come to be a catch-all phrase for a wider array of not-so-cohesive actors (and some mutually conflicted actors) within Pakistan today and a very useful justification for an unjust war in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Thus, SASI stands
a) in support of those progressive forces within Pakistan (such as labor movements, struggles for women’s rights, and any genuinely left political party) who oppose the retrogressive practices and policies of the “Taliban” while simultaneously opposing both, the US imperialist occupation of Pakistan and the Pakistani military apparatus which purport to be against the Taliban while in reality only furthering the long-term interests of the “Taliban”;
b) in support of those progressive forces within Pakistani civil and political society who have spearheaded democratic people’s movements against the corruption and double-speak of the Pakistani state (such as the lawyer’s movement) which clearly does not act in the interests of the bulk of its citizens who are the working-classes, oppressed minorities and women;
c) in support of those progressive forces around the world who refuse to view the “Taliban” as an autochthonous and immaculately conceived “Pakistani-problem” inherent to and unique to Islam nor as engaged in anti-imperialistic actions that contain any measure of critique of capitalist structures and relations, but instead call for a radical understanding of all the internal and external relations of power and economy that produce and sustain forces such as the “Taliban” which are in many ways only the internal-face of imperialism in Pakistani society
To those who persist in asking questions about the “oppression of women” by the Taliban as if this were a phenomenon existing in isolation of all the above sets of national, regional and international relations and structures, SASI holds the view that such oppressions of women as perpetrated by the “Taliban” are
a) far more widespread and predate the “Taliban” within Pakistani society (as in other societies around the world) and require a full-fledged resistance by progressive forces everywhere who stand for gender equality but view it always as part of a more complex matrix of oppressions and exploitations
b) imperialistic in nature (being part of a larger goal of the total Islamization of Pakistan and control over the Pakistani state) and hence are impossible to be resisted by another sort of imperialism (the “secular” variety) be it that of the current US regime or any other global power acting always in concert with a national elite and military.
Finally, to those who genuinely wonder about the kind of popular support that exists for the “Taliban” within Pakistan, we invite the global solidarity movement to approach this question within the context of rising popular support for xenophobic, homophobic, racist, oligarchist right-wing “religious” groups around the world including in many “enlightened” Euro-American societies today. “Popular support” is also an ideological term that relies on the usual complex of fear, active disinformation, threats of violence and actual acts of physical and structural violence. In this sense, the “Taliban” within Pakistani society is one of an array of anti-people forces facing an immensely impoverished, malnourished, underdeveloped population which has nonetheless incredibly retained its historically demonstrated fighting power to advance a vision of an equitable and just society and state in Pakistan. In short, there is nothing in Pakistani soil, air, food or "blood" which tolerates any kind of oppression anymore than anywhere else on earth, and indeed there exists many historical traditions of genuine resistance to such oppressions that remain as resources for Pakistani people and those who stand in solidarity with them especially in such times.
5) What are the progressive organizations working in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
The western media almost exclusively focuses on Taliban, Al-qaeda and Northern Alliance as the primary political forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In both countries, there have historically been numerous progressive civil society, labor and left leaning organizations. In Afghanistan, currently there are groups like the RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), and Defence Committee of Malalai Joya that have received press in the US for their stance against the war, Northern Alliance, Taliban and the warlords (see http://www.rawa.org/index.php). In Pakistan, this decade has seen a number of efforts by groups such as the Lawyers Movement (led by the Supreme Court Bar Association), and the Labor Party Pakistan, National Workers Party and Mazdoor Kisaan Party which have focused their work both on the US led war and on the atrocities at home by the Army and fundamentalist militias.
Afghanistan (as a result of decades of military intervention from UK, Russia and the US), and Pakistan, more recently (building upon decades of US military and intelligence aid under Cold War imperatives), have seen escalations in military action that has resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and has enabled the religious fundamentalist groups to become more brazen in their attempt to control “tribal” territories. The US led war has also led to the Pakistan Army launching its own version of the “war on terror” within its borders, leading to killing thousands and displacing millions of citizens. Groups such as Pakistan Labor Party, while critical of the US-led military action in the border areas, have also been equally critical of their government and the armed forces. The people of Pakistan and civil society organizations are now caught between the onslaught by US military action on the one hand and the violence from military and Taliban on the other hand.
The corporate media in the US largely supports this imperialist and xenophobic war by reporting the anti-war and anti-imperialist critique in South Asia as simply anti-American. This is compounded by the fact that media in Pakistan, tightly controlled by the government does not report on the large-scale anti-war sentiments within the US. Only people to people contact and solidarity work across national barriers will bridge this gap.
6) What is the role of the US Anti-war Movement?
1) Amplify voices of Afghan and Pakistani people who speak publicly against the war.
2) Create accessible and popular educational resources for people to understand the realities of this war and the rich social histories of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
3) Help multiply efforts of local governments in the US to end the war, such as installation of a large digital “cost of war” counter on the face of City Hall by the Mayor of Binghamton.
4) Re-engage Obama’s grassroots campaigners, particularly youth, in anti-war organizing.
5) Connect anti-war message with other issues like environmental justice, immigration, cuts in education, and health care and bring this message to unions, classrooms and workplaces in innovative ways using new educational strategies.
6) Build solidarity with Arab and Muslim communities targeted by repressive laws. Any anti-war strategy must be linked with working among Arab and Muslim communities organizing for civil liberties.
7) What are SASI’s demands for ending the war?
The South Asian diaspora is uniquely placed to be able to connect with US anti-war groups as well as the groups in South Asia. SASI has a unique role to play as an organization that has strong ties and knowledge of progressive struggles within Afghanistan and Pakistan. SASI is committed to taking on the task of popularizing the struggle of the Afghan and Pakistani people to shape their own societies and to expose the atrocities that US wars are causing in the region.
SASI calls for a full and immediate withdrawal of US troops and the use of corporate contractors and mercenaries from Afghanistan. We demand the closing of Guantánamo and Bagram bases. We call for an immediate end to drone attacks in Pakistan and removal of U.S. troops from Pakistan. As the US government continues to fight the “enemy” oversees, it has demonized and criminalized the Arab and Muslim communities at home as the “enemy within.” We demand the end of unlawful detentions, torture through solitary confinement, and use of special administrative measures.
The Pakistani state has willingly embraced the “war on terror,” and has been rewarded for it as one of the top recipients of US military aid. Pakistan has used this aid for military offensives in regions of Pakistan like Swat internally displacing millions of people. Pakistani military with the help of US training is strengthening and modernizing its operation. It continues to be inconsistent in its opposition to the militant groups like the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban. From the Pakistani State, SASI demands the demilitarization of FATA, NWFP, and Baluchistan along with the constitutional integration of FATA.
The people of Afghanistan, especially Afghan woman, face two enemies: The US/NATO occupation of the country for eight years on one hand and the repressive warlords and the Taliban on the other. Northern Alliance, which the US supports, is a faction of warlords and ethnic groups who have historically fought against the Taliban. Supporting the U.S. imperialists to defeat the Taliban or the Northern Alliance will not advance the interests of the Afghan people.
As the cost of war reaches 1 trillion dollars, it is up to the people in the US to challenge the continuation of this unjust and unnecessary war. In the first six months of 2009, Afghanistan saw close to 1,013 civilian deaths, an increase of 24 per cent as compared to the same period in 2008. There is a significant rise in US troops wounded in Afghanistan this spring in comparison to the same period in 2009. The unmanned US drone attacks are indiscriminately slaughtering 100s of people in Pakistan: 98% of the casualties are civilians. A majority of Americans now do think that the Afghanistan war has been not worth fighting, and seventy percent oppose troop increases. This is a crucial time to strengthen the anti-war movement in the United States.
SASI urges the US population to build a strong opposition to the imperialist US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and support for democratic movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sources: David Wildman & Phyllis Bennis: Ending the US war in Afghanistan: A Primer. 2010: Olive Branch Press; Northampton, MA; Adaner Usmani http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/2606