By Dave Markland, Rabble.ca, September 21, 2009

Raising my Voice by Malalai Joya

I trust that readers are aware of Malalai Joya's recently-released autobiography entitled Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out. Set to be published in several languages (there's already a German edition out, just in time for their elections) and put on paper with the help of Rabble's own Derrick O'Keefe, her story promises to captivate readers worldwide.

Malalai needs no introduction to readers of this blog, as we have followed her exploits since she was kicked out of parliament. But it's not just Afghan right-wingers who attack Joya, as we have our own holy warriors (these ones who worship the holy state) who delight in insulting a woman repeatedly threatened with rape and murder. The west coast's version of Fox News, Terry Glavin, writes that Joya is "given to hyperbole," and is "contradictory" and "completely out of step with the overwhelming majority of women's rights leaders in Af'stan, and with the overwhelming majority opinion in Afghanistan." Glavin, in step with the corporate media, was quick to (uncritically) cite older opinion polls in Afghanistan which showed majority support for the US/NATO occupation, but he seems to lack the courage to address recent polling which gives a rather different picture. One wonders what Glavin would say to the majority of Kandaharis who would prefer that our troops leave the country.

So, to save readers from reading several reviews of Joya's book, I have excerpted some good bits from numerous reviews both in North America and Britain.

Ian Sinclair, who writes frequently in Britain on the Afghan war, finds that Joya's book "is quite simply the most passionate and devastating critique of Western intervention in Afghanistan I have ever read." He continues:

In the book's hopeful conclusion Joya calls for the withdrawal of all US/NATO troops and asks that concerned citizens in nations with forces fighting in Afghanistan "monitor, criticise and work to improve your own government's foreign policy". Interestingly, she is very critical of attempts to negotiate with the Taliban ("criminals and misogynistic killers" she calls them)... (link)

Isabel Hilton writes in Britain's New Statesman:

As Malalai Joya's memoir makes clear, it is not as if the election will solve anything substantial; but eight years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, not even to be able to hold an election in Afghanistan would look like failure, and too much so to be tolerable. Those who remember Vietnam will find the narrative of the redemptive next election quite familiar...

This biography should have made Joya a leading player in Afghanistan's post-Taliban political life. Instead, she is a poster child for its failure. Saluted abroad for her courage and nominated for, or the winner of, a long list of international human rights and peace prizes, she lives clandestinely in Afghanistan itself, suspended from parliament for allegedly insulting the warlords and drug barons who occupy most of its seats...

[The book's] indispensable function is to remind us that the next time we are told that progress is being made, or elections have produced a credible result, or that just another 10,000 pairs of boots on the ground will fix the problem, we should remember what happened to a young woman who disagreed. (link)

Johann Hari, a columnist in Britain's Independent:

Her enemies call her a "dead woman walking". "But I don't fear death, I fear remaining silent in the face of injustice," she says plainly. "I am young and I want to live. But I say to those who would eliminate my voice: 'I am ready, wherever and whenever you might strike. You can cut down the flower, but nothing can stop the coming of the spring.'" ...

While a "showcase parliament has been created for the benefit of the U.S. in Kabul", the real power "is with these fundamentalists who rule everywhere outside Kabul". As an example, she names the former governor of Herat, Ismail Khan. He set up his own "vice and virtue" squads which terrorized women and smashed up video and music cassettes. He had his own "private militias, private jails"...

I ask if she was frightened, and she shakes her head. "I am never frightened when I tell the truth." She is speaking fast now: "I am truly honoured to have been vilified and threatened by the savage men who condemned our country to such misery. I feel proud that even though I have no private army, no money, and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me." ... (link)

Finally, a review in the Irish Times:

Life for women is the same now as it was under the Taliban – the only difference, Joya claims, is the new rulers have US backing...

Joya lays out essential steps for Afghanistan’s future: the removal of foreign troops; a more transparent aid system; a refusal to allow warlords into parliament; and an end to the war in which civilians bear the brunt of suffering... (link)