RAWA: 'for a democratic popular front' in Afghanistan

Interview with Zoya, a freedom fighter of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

Founded in 1977, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is the oldest political organization active in Afghanistan. Its' priority is the establishment of a democratic and secular regime, based on the self-determination of the Afghan people and the recognition of the rights of women [1]. RAWA conducts clandestine educational operations. The activists are constantly at risk and thus act under cover of humanitarian action. However, RAWA is 'not a humanitarian organization', and its social activism is driven by political goals.

As part of a lecture tour in February, Alternative Libertaire had the opportunity to speak with one of its activists, Zoya.

Alternative Libertarian: Is there a radical left in Afghanistan?

Zoya: The local population is under extreme fear from all points of view: the war and occupation have reinforced economic, social, and cultural misery. For organizations of the radical left such as RAWA, the struggle is very difficult as they fight against an alliance between four enemies: the occupation troops from a coalition of 41 countries, the Karzai government that collaborates with the occupiers, the drug barons, and the fundamentalist Taliban and Mujahideen. The resistance organizations are under pressure from all sides, but we, as RAWA, will never agree to a compromise with any of these four enemies of the people of Afghanistan.

What do you think of the Karzai government?

Zoya: The Karzai government is a political alliance between the armies of occupation and the local fundamentalists and drug barons (who are often the same persons). Since day one, this government has abandoned the Afghan people and instead protects the interests of the occupants, promoting arms and drugs trafficking, while corruption is established at the heart of the political and legal system. Moreover, the government systematically subjects women to violence [1]. We could say similar things about the parliament or the courts.

How do you see your struggle in this context?

Zoya: Our struggle is first and foremost a radical political resistance to this alliance. We denounce the compromise proposed by the Karzai government that would allow the Taliban into the government: it will not bring peace. We advocate a form of political self-organization able to express the will of the Afghan people in a non-violent way. We are campaigning for the foundation of a democratic popular front which would bring together democratic anti-fundamentalist individuals and organizations both in Afghanistan and in the West to support the Afghan people. It is very difficult, but it is not impossible!

Tell us about your tactics and actions ...

Zoya: Direct political action is very hard to conduct in Afghanistan, because there is strong repression: the founder of RAWA, Meena, was assassinated in 1987. This does not prevent us from spreading our message in refugee camps in Pakistan, as demonstrations are banned in Afghanistan. Furthermore, we work for social justice and we have reading and writing courses as we also fight against illiteracy, and we maintain orphanages. We fight for democracy through education, and this also helps to alleviate people of stigma and fatalism. It should be noted that RAWA, unlike most of the humanitarian and political organizations, operates mainly in rural areas, where the influence of fundamentalists is much stronger than in Kabul.

Interview by David (of AL Alsace) in February 2009

[1] In the meantime the Afghan government has endorsed a bill allowing women to be raped, before taking it away after international outcry.

AL: http://www.alternativelibertaire.org

RAWA: http://www.rawa.org/

English translation of the original French interview available at: http://www.anarkismo.net/article/13694