Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Malalai Joya: "The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan"

Malalai Joya is just five feet tall, unassuming and soft-spoken. On May 21, she was suspended from the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament for having in an interview compared the Afghan legislature to a stable or zoo.

As Human Rights Watch explained:
Joya, 28, is the youngest member of the Afghan legislature. As a 19-year-old refugee in Pakistan, she taught literacy courses to other Afghan women. During the Taliban years, she ran an orphanage and health clinic in Afghanistan. In 2003, she gained international attention for speaking out publicly against warlords involved in drafting the Afghan Constitution. Two years later, she was the top vote-getter from Farah province in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, and was easily elected to the lower house of the legislature.

Since her election, Joya has continued to be an outspoken defender and promoter of the rights of Afghan women and children. She has also continued to publicly call for accountability for war crimes, even those perpetrated by fellow parliamentarians.

Joya has survived four assassination attempts, travels with armed guards and reportedly never spends two nights in the same place.
Undaunted, she courageously refuses to be silenced. On June 18, Reuters reported:
Washington "supports the same enemies, who are mentally like the Taliban. ... They brought them back into power," soft-spoken Joya told Reuters in an interview during her first visit to the United States.

"This is the wrong policy. Do not support fundamentalist warlords," she said. "Every day for the people of Afghanistan is September 11. Please pressure your government to change this policy, it is a mockery of democracy, it is a mockery of the war on terror."
We all say the same, but we don't risk our lives when we do so. Everything the Bush Administration does is a mockery, and it is genuine heroes like Malalai Joya who suffer the consequences.
"Many, many times they insulted me, even inside of the parliament they threw water at me and they threatened me with death, and one of them shouted, 'Take her and rape her,'" she said. "They turned off my microphone."
These are the people our government supports, as it pretends to fight terrorism. In an interview with Anthony Kaufman of The American Prospect, Joya elaborates:
"I understand that one day they will kill me, because it's easy for them to kill people, especially women," she says about her enemies in Afghanistan, namely the former Taliban members, tribal warlords, and Northern Alliance fighters. These are the people who currently comprise Afghanistan's government -- people that Joya frequently denounces as "killers" and "criminals."

"But this is the voice of the voiceless people of Afghanistan," she continues. "And they can't silence this voice and they can't hide the truth. And they understand that."
According to Kaufman, she laughs as she says this.
"Because I have hopes for my people, for my country, and I have supporters around the world, and I am happy that at least I am not alone," she explains. "And I trust my people and I believe in democracy, women's rights and human rights and I believe this isn't something that's given and we must make sacrifices."
She pleads that we, the American people, stand up for her, her people, and her cause. She emphasizes that people responsible for the massacres in Afghanistan during the Taliban's reign now hold important positions in our puppet President Hamid Karzai's government.
"I'm here to tell you: Please pressure your government to stop this wrong policy of supporting fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan who are brothers of the Taliban."

Joya's main goal is to clean up Afghanistan's leadership from what she calls "warlord-ism" and "druglord-ism." To back up her claims, the country remains the largest worldwide producer of opium and heroin, and according to Human Rights Watch, many of the country's new legislators, including up to 60 percent of deputies in the lower house of Parliament, have been directly or indirectly tied to current and past human rights abuses. In speeches, Joya has called the Afghan government "the most corrupt and unpopular in the world."
Joya is in New York, as an award-winning documentary about her 2003 political campaign, Enemies of Happiness, screens at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. She will return to Afghanistan, and again live with daily threats against her life. Meanwhile, we will blog in the security of our own homes, offices, and other internet access points, while the Bush Administration makes her homeland hell.

You can hear Malalai Joya in the Democracy Now interview from which I took the title of this post.

You can also read the links, and contribute to The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya.

"The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" is an understatement. Malalai Joya is one of the bravest people in the entire world.

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