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Favorite Books of 2009

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It was Joya who should have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

By Kate Clinton, The Progressive Magazine, December 8, 2009

A Woman Among Warlords

Malalai Joya’s A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner) tells the amazing story of one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists.

The Progressive had the opportunity to meet and interview Joya for our radio show back in 2006. Her steadfast resolve in the face of death threats touched us deeply.

So it was a real pleasure to find out more about her life by reading her autobiography. As a girl she loved poetry and would “read late into the night by the light of our propane lamp” the works of Langston Hughes and Bertolt Brecht. Inspired by her father’s own activism, she tells of opening secret schools for girls in basements, calling it “the most important act of rebellion against the Taliban.” On her wedding day, for security reasons, her bodyguards had to search every flower arrangement for explosives.

Joya fearlessly denounced the warlords at the constitutional assembly in 2003, which she attended. Two years later she ran for office and won, becoming the youngest member elected to parliament. She was later suspended from office for her persistent criticisms of corruption and advocacy of human rights.

She predicted that the Afghan elections, held in August, would be a joke, and warns about Obama’s further escalation of the war. “It could well be that people in Afghanistan will soon say that Obama is even worse than Bush,” she writes. She urges the American people to pressure Obama to withdrawal all our troops.

“In the past thirty years, every kind of atrocity has been committed in Afghanistan in the name of socialism, religion, freedom, democracy and liberation,” she writes. “Now these acts are justified by a so-called war on terror.”

With A Woman Among Warlords, Joya takes her place alongside such leading democracy activists as Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi, and Rigoberta Menchu. It was Joya who should have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

Elizabeth DiNovella is culture editor of The Progressive.