This is How It’s Done
The other night Jane asked me if I had seen a story … it was just a little clip about a woman member of the Afghan Parliament who criticized her colleagues on tv saying:
"A stable is better, for there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk," she said. "The parliament is worse than a stable."
In response, the leaders of the Parliament said she could no longer represent her consituency in their chambers and are taking her to court.
Well, that sounded interesting … so I started digging around and discovered a woman who could teach our representatives a few things.
Malalai Joya is the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament … elected by the people of Farah . Under the Taliban, she returned to her homeland from a refugee camp and ran a secret school for women. She did not back down.
During the Loya Jirga deliberations on a new Afghan government, Joya was a representative and she spoke – forcefully – for democracy and peace, for women's rights, and for an end to the growing rule of the warlords. Her microphone was cut off and she was ridiculed … but she did not back down .
"Since I've started my struggle for human rights in Afghanistan, for women's rights, these criminals, these drug smugglers, they've stood against me from the first time I raised my voice at the Loya Jirga," she said, referring to the constitution-drafting constitution held several years ago.
Later elected to Parliament, she continued to speak out for women's rights and against the rule of the warlords – insisting that they be brought to justice, not amnestied and given powerful seats in Parliament themselves.
The National Reconciliation Bill declared that the "defenders" of the jihad "must be treated with respect and be defended against any kind of offence". Ms Joya said the bill was "unjust and went against the will of the people. Those guilty must be tried. In fact, they have already been tried in the minds and hearts of the people and they should be tried officially."
In response, she was called "a traitor who should be severely punished". During a street rally thousands of supporters of the warlords turned MPs chanted "death to Malalai Joya".
Her "colleagues" threw water bottles at her, called her a "prostitute," threatened to rape her – and turned off her mic again.
Joya did not back down. She continued to speak – to large gatherings in her district, to local media, to overseas women's groups.
She names the warlords who sit in the same parliamentary chamber – by name and crime – and she insists that justice be done, that the Afghan people deserve a life of democracy and peace. She does not back down.
She has survived four assasination attempts, lives with a team of bodyguards and does not stay in one house for more than a few nights. She says, at age 29 that she does not expect to live to old age. But she will not back down.
I am well aware of the hardships, challenges, and prospects of death from anti-democratic forces. But I trust my people and enjoy their full support and encouragement. The enemies of my people have weapons, political power and the support of the US government to suppress me. But they can never silence my voice and hide the truth. I am proud to be abeacon of hope for my people and enjoy strong support from them in my mission for democracy and freedom.
The fundamentalists are counting their days to kill me, but I believe in and follow the noble saying of the freedom-loving Iranian writer Samad Behrangi:
“Death could very easily come now, but I should not be the one to seek it. Of course if I should meet it and that is inevitable, it would not matter. What matters is whether my living or dying has had any effect on the lives of others…”
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To watch a wonderful interview with Joya from Australian TV click here . Translations of her speeches, video of her in the Loya Jirga and in Parliament and more can be found here . A film about Joya – Enemies of Happiness was the Grand Jury Award Winning Documentary at Sundance 2007 but does not seem to be available in the States.
According to her support committee, letters of support for Malalai are needed urgently:
Write to Afghan officials and file your protest for expelling and prosecuting Joya, while the terrorists and human rights violators in the parliament were provided immunity before any court for their past crimes last month.
– Express your concern for Joya's security during the court sessions as the fundamentalists currently hold key positions in Afghanistan's judiciary.
– Circulate this letter and ask lawyers and defenders of human rights in your area and country to come forward and help Joya during her court proceedings and defend her.
Letters of protest can be sent to the following sources:
We thank you for your prompt action and support and hope you will forward a copy of your letters to email@example.com.