"These warlords are like the Taliban, different in appearance but in the end they are the same"

AKI, October 12, 2007

Rome - One of Afghanistan's most outspoken female parliamentarians, Malalai Joya, says there is no democracy in her country and the government is an 'obstacle' to progress.

Malalai Joya, the 28-year-old from the remote western province of Farah, is the youngest member of the 249-seat National Assembly.

Visiting Rome for an international conference on women's abuse, Joya told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the country was dominated by warlords who were a power unto themselves.

"These warlords are like the Taliban, different in appearance but in the end they are the same," she told AKI. "They are dangerous because they have arms and wealth due to drugs."

In a country known for its repression of women, Joya has become a symbol of change and an advocate of women's rights. The former health worker said too many women shared the values of the warlords and were failing to advance the progress of women.

"Many women sit in the Parliament in Kabul but most of them are at the service of the 'warlords' and believe in the same values," she said.

As a result, Joya said there was disillusionment about the progress of politics in Kabul. She said the government was "not democratic" and an "obstacle to the progress of the country".

She said many, particularly young people, wanted change, but too many women had lost hope and even committed suicide in a brutal way because they could not see any other way out.

Joya appealed to Italy and other European countries to continue to press Afghanistan to introduce true democracy.

"I want to make an appeal to Italy and Europe because they support the voices that are truly democratic in my country - for me it is a commitment to make them know our real situation," she said.

The young MP has constantly spoken out against the warlords since she was elected in Afghanistan's landmark elections in 2005.

She has been subjected to many death threats for her provocative political views, surviving at least four assassination attempts and the bombing of her home.