Prominent female MP being suspended from the Parliament

Joya: One of the members of Parliament even said, 'We have to kill her by any means, even a suicide attack.'

The World Today - ABC Radio, May 22, 2007
Reporter: Barney Porter

Malalai Joya in Press Conference in Kabul on May 21
Malalai Joya, in a press conference in Kabul on May 21, 2007 vows to continue her fight against warlords. (AP photo)


Afghanistan's image as a young democracy has taken another blow, with a prominent female MP being suspended from the Parliament.

This report from Barney Porter.

BARNEY PORTER: In an interview on a private Afghan television station, Malalai Joya said Parliament was actually worse than a barn, because at least donkeys and cows were of some use.

A tape of the interview was shown in the House before most delegates voted for her removal, citing a rule known as Article 70, which forbids lawmakers from publicly criticising one another.

But Malalai Joya is unrepentant.

MALALAI JOYA (translation): There are criminals in the Afghan Parliament. To call it a stable is simply not enough. I've had emails, phone calls and letters from my people who tell me I should've called it a zoo.

BARNEY PORTER: The 28-year-old women's rights activist is reasonably well-known at home, but her real fame came in Western capitals when she criticised some of the leading figures of the mujahideen, or holy warriors, back in 2003 describing them as war criminals.

She won a seat in the country's landmark parliamentary elections in 2005.

Since then, she says she's been targeted by those she calls the criminals and drug smugglers in Parliament because of her efforts to fight for women's rights

MALALAI JOYA (Translation): I've been threatened many times after making the comments. One of the members of Parliament even said, 'We have to kill her by any means, even a suicide attack.'

BARNEY PORTER: While Afghanistan wrestles with the shape of its democratic future, high-powered talks have taken place on a ranch in Texas between George Bush and the head of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

The agenda was long, but officials say it was Afghanistan that dominated the talks, and the American desire to see NATO member countries, particularly in Europe, shoulder more of the burden.

The NATO Secretary-General says the Alliance remains resolute but he hasn't announced any new troop deployments.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Afghanistan is still one of the front lines in our fight against terrorism. And my, it is my strong conviction that that front line should not become a fault line. And that is why it's so important that all 26 NATO allies are committed of Afghanistan and that the whole international community for the longer term stays committed to that nation.

BARNEY PORTER: Its estimated more than 1,600 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence across Afghanistan this year and the mounting civilian toll has fuelled distrust of the international forces and the US backed President, Hamid Karzai.

Robert Hunter is a former American ambassador to NATO. He's says that's a double-edged sword.

ROBERT HUNTER: Obviously as casualties go up other NATO allies become even more reluctant to send troops. Now my personal judgement is that a good bit of what is going to happen in Afghanistan is going to be on the economics and the politics.

And here is a place where I believe the Europeans many, many times more than they're doing now, which would frankly help reduce the military problem as well.

BARNEY PORTER: And President Bush agrees.

GEORGE W BUSH: We also appreciate the fact that Afghanistan requires more than military action. We support a long-term comprehensive strategy to help strengthen Afghanistan's democratic institutions and help create the economic opportunity that will help this young democracy survive and thrive.

BARNEY PORTER: But the case of the controversial and outspoken Malalai Joya suggests there's more work to be done in this area.

And in the meantime, she's not likely to change her ways.

MALALAI JOYA (Translation): It doesn't matter to me if they suspend me from Parliament, because they have the power, and they can do whatever they want. But the enemies of our country should realise that they have given me a better chance to fight them.

ELEANOR HALL: That's suspended Afghan MP Malalai Joya, ending that report from Barney Porter.