Afghan protesters demand restoration of membership of lawmaker

"Joya is struggling against human rights violators and national tyrants"

Xinhua, May 30, 2007

pro-Malalai Joya Demo in Kabul
Supporters of Afghan female lawmaker Malalai Joya shout slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 30, 2007. (AP)

Jalalabad Demo | Farah Demo | Baghlan Demo

Hundreds of Afghans launched a protest on Wednesday in Kabul to call for the restoration of the membership of an outspoken and controversial female lawmaker.

Supporters of Malalai Joya, a parliament member sacked days ago, gathered before the office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to ask UN officials to help restore her membership.

Carrying banners and slogans supporting Joya, the demonstrators said she had been serving in Afghans' interest.

"Joya is struggling against human rights violators and national tyrants," said a protestor Dr. Mohammad Sidiq. "We want to see her sit in the parliament again."

A majority of lawmakers in Afghan parliament's lower house voted for suspending Joya's membership in the house on May 21, saying she severely insulted the legislature.

In a recent interview with a TV channel, Joya, 28, described the parliament as something worse than a "livestock stable," causing much dissatisfaction among many lawmakers.

The outspoken lawmaker, who is well-known in Afghanistan and very popular among some Afghans, has often criticized the parliament and some of its members on a variety of issues.

She is especially critical of the former tribal leaders or warlords now acting as lawmakers, who she said should be punished for their roles in decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Similar demonstrations showing support to Joya have been held in several other provinces in this country such as Farah, Nangarhar and Baghlan.

Afghan protesters demand restoration of membership of lawmaker

"Joya is struggling against human rights violators and national tyrants"

AFP via The Middle East Times, May 30, 2007

About 300 people marched through the Afghan capital Kabul Wednesday in the latest in a series of countrywide demonstrations against parliament's removal this month of an outspoken woman legislator.

Men and women, a handful of them hidden beneath blue burkas, shouted slogans in support of Malalai Joya and praised her criticism of fellow MPs who played a role in the 1992-1996 civil war that left 80,000 dead in Kabul alone.

Marchers chanted "Down with fundamentalists, down with criminals who are in parliament" as they marched past offices of the United Nations and government ministries.

"She is the only person who is fighting against the warlords -- these people who had killed Afghan people during their war," said one protestor, a bearded and elderly farmer named Shah Hussein, from the southern province of Kandahar.

The lower house of parliament suspended Joya, 28, on May 21 until parliament is dissolved before the 2010 parliamentary elections after she was shown in a television interview comparing parliament to a stable.

Human Rights Watch said days later that while parliament's rules forbid lawmakers from criticising one another, MPs had regularly done so without anyone else having been suspended.

Many seats of the parliament elected in 2005 are filled by former heroes of the anti-Soviet resistance accused of rights abuses and war crimes in the subsequent civil war. They are still powerful.

"Some people in parliament are against peace in Afghanistan," said a young teacher, Aria Aahmad. "She says things as they are."

A declaration distributed by organisers of the march said parliament's "unjust action" had caused "nationwide anger."

Joya, who was elected in her home province of Farah in the 2005 parliamentary polls, was "the rightful representative of her people and no person or organisation has the right to suspend her," it said.

There have been a series of small demonstrations in support of Joya in a handful of towns across the country.

Movie clip of report by Ariana TV: