Chomsky, Joya Discuss Afghan-US Policy

During a packed event at Memorial Church, Malalai Joya, a celebrated Afghani activist who was granted a visa after the State Department initially rejected her application last week, said unequivocally that the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has harmed the lives of most Afghanis far more than it has helped.

Joya spoke alongside MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, who also warned against the often overlooked dangers of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

“The United States invaded my country under the banner of women’s rights, human rights and democracy, but today we are as far from those goals as we were in 2001,” Joya said. “They keep the situation lawless and unsafe to have an excuse to stay on in Afghanistan for their own interests.”

Although the U.S. government has long decried the Taliban as the main enemy in Afghanistan, Joya said that, for the Afghan people, the United States is just as malicious a force.

“The Afghan people are squashed between three enemies: the Taliban, warlords, and occupation forces,” Joya said.

Chomsky’s remarks also criticized U.S. actions in Afghanistan, saying that the general consensus among academics is that the war is “militarily unwinnable” and that the U.S. must come to an internal political settlement with Afghani and regional actors to bring peace to the region. Chomsky said that the U.S. interference in Afghanistan has the potential to destabilize the government in Pakistan, a country with the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world.

Addressing recent speculation about whether Joya’s visa denial last week was a mistake made by a State Department official or an active decision to exclude her based on her political views, Joya said she believed the U.S. government was trying to prevent her from voicing her opinions.

“The reason they refused to give me a visa, I think, is because I exposed the wrong policies of your government, and I talk about the reality of the so-called ‘war on terror,’ and I talk about the war crimes your government is committing in the name of the American people,” said Joya. “These are the reasons they are afraid of me and do not let me enter the U.S.”

Despite the initial visa denial and the five assassination attempts that Joya has survived, she vowed to continue speaking out against the injustices she believes are being committed in her country.

“I want to tell you from your podium that no one can keep me from telling the truth,” Joya said.

Those who attended the event said they enjoyed hearing perspectives that differed so dramatically from the ones generally presented in the U.S. media.

“There is so much propaganda and action under the guise of democracy and freedom, so to actually have an Afghani citizen be able to give her perspective is very powerful,” said Sophie Vener, an event attendee.

—Staff writer Monica M. Dodge can be reached at mdodge@college.harvard.edu.

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