Afghan Lawmaker Speaks of Ongoing Challenges for Women

“I want to be a voice for the suffering people who have been silenced.”

The Daily Californian, March 17, 2006
By Sarah Donner

Malalai Joya speaking in Califorina
photo/peter kim

Malalai Joya, a 27-year-old female member of the Afghan parliament, spoke about the failures of democracy and women’s rights in her home country yesterday as part of her North American tour.

Joya, who has been hailed by the BBC as “the most famous woman in Afghanistan,” told an audience of more than 100 students, faculty and local residents about her struggles as one of the few women in the male-dominated Afghan government.

“Inside the parliament they don’t respect me as a human,” she said. “I want to be a voice for the suffering people who have been silenced.”

Joya fielded questions from the audience, many of which addressed current political conditions in Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban rule.

“I have to tell the reality of the situation and ... there has been little changes from the Taliban rule until now,” she said. “Women do not have rights—this is not a democracy.”

Joya also spoke of the violence that her country has experienced in its history of civil war, and the personal violence she experiences daily, including four assassination attempts since 2003 when she famously argued that war lords within the Afghan parliament should be tried in international courts.

“My wounded country is not free. The United States troops have not developed democracy,” she said. “I won elections with nothing in my hands but my people’s trust and love.”

A handful of students in the Afghan Student Association listened to Joya, who they say has become a model for women in Afghanistan and in America.

“There’s a lot more progress to be made,” said junior Palwasha Aminy. “She’s a manifestation of all Afghan women and to be able to leave and come to America, I really respect her.”