The 31-year-old Malalai Joya has been called the “bravest woman in Afghanistan.” She is youngest woman in Afghanistan’s history to be elected to the parliament, where she has served since 2005. Joya is a vocal critic of President Hamid Karzai’s government and the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. She has openly challenged the Afghan government, U.S. and NATO military presence, warlords and the Taliban.
In a country where a woman is confined to her home, Joya is breaking all kinds of cultural, social and religious stereotypes. In May 2007, she was suspended after referring to the parliament as a stable, she said at least in “in a stable we have animals like a cow which is useful in that it provides milk and a donkey that carry a load.”
She speaks candidly about the challenges facing Afghanistan. She says that the low turnout in the presidential election is proof that the Afghan people are dissatisfied with the current government. She attributes the rise of Taliban to the failed policy of the U.S. in Afghanistan. She is also a staunch opponent of increasing U.S. troop levels in her country. Joya wants the U.S. and NATO to keep in mind that no foreign military has ever succeeded in controlling Afghanistan.
For her, the status of women now is no different than under the Taliban. She says that it may even be worse because the rate of suicide and abduction is high, and many rapists go untouched.
Because she is unabashedly outspoken, her life is under constant threat and she must be accompanied by bodyguards. But nothing so far seems to succeed in slowing her down. For sure not the many failed assassination attempts on her life, or the awful treatment she gets from her male colleagues in parliament.
Joya spent her childhood at a refugee camp in Iran and Pakistan, and returned to the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s and worked for an underground organization helping women. She is now on a book tour in the U.S. promoting her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out, co-written by Derrick O’Keefe.
– Mohammad Al Kassim