Malalai Joya--True Courage

Hobson's Choice (, December 18, 2003

While the big names in diplomacy try to glue together a "coalition" with whom they can deal, the Afghani people themselves must reassemble civil society. Malalai Joya, a young Afghani woman, has come forward to denounce the role of the Mujahadeen in destroying the country and oppressing the powerless.

New York Times: All of 25, Ms. Joya, a social worker from Farah Province, in the southwest, had crossed several lines at once. She had spoken her mind as few Afghan women dare to do. More important, as many interpreted her words, she had spoken against the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, who fought and humbled the Soviet Union. They are a sacrosanct constituency in this country, and a powerful political force in this assembly, a traditional meeting called a loya jirga.

Many Afghans, however, now call those commanders warlords, blaming them for the destruction of Kabul in a vicious civil war that began in 1992 after the fall of the Communist government and ended only when the Taliban conquered the country in 1996 and imposed their harsh brand of Islamic law.

The foreign interlopers in Afghan history usually have had little interest in what their contacts did with their gifts of money and weapons. Our generation of contacts--the junta of gangsters who rule the nation--include Rashid Dostam and Atta Muhammad (mutual enemies), both of whom have taken their rivalries out on the civilian populations. But the Afghani people have to live with these consequences.

UPDATE (5 January 2003): My heartfelt thanks to all who came by and left comments. Unfortunately, I cannot report on anything more recent about Malalai Joya because she is under the protection of the UN. For all of you wondering, "Malalai" is the name of an Afghan hero, analogous to the French Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc). In this case, Malalai was defending her country from a British invasion of the 19th century. In Pushtun/Dari, mallalai means "beautiful." Those interested in Malalai Joya are advised to check this site of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA; news archive).

Please see also this site dedicated to Malalai Joya.

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