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A Woman’s Journey

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By Tulip Chowdhury, The Daily Star, Oct 25, 2013

Malalai Joya in USA

Malalai Joya, the political activist, writer and critic from Afghanistan visited Amherst, Massachusetts as part of her tour of the USA. Called “The bravest woman in Afghanistan” by BBC, she was a member of the parliament in the National Assembly of Afghanistan from 2005 to the early 2007. She was dismissed for speaking out against the warlords and people she considered as war criminals in the parliament.

She is a vehement opponent of the present Karzai administration and US military occupation. In her speech at Food For Thought Books, a workers collective in Amherst, on October 8, 2013 she slated the Karzai administration as a puppet government supported by western countries including the USA. Malalai raised her voice against the drone attacks in Afghanistan by the USA and death of innocent civilians. Speaking on behalf of oppressed Afghan women she presented a film on how the Afghan women and girls are tortured and deprived of justice in her country.

Malalai captivated the spilling audience with the stunning revelations of the horrifying acts of brutalities on women and girls including rapes of four-year old girls. In the film she showed the pictures of the young Afghan wife, Bibi Aisha whose ears and nose were cut off by her husband. There were also pictures of men being blindfolded and shot from the back for speaking against the current government. The audience gasped when presented with graphic pictures of tortures on women and men who had raised voices against oppression.

Resolutely she spoke of how the war, occupation, troop presence and the deals with Taliban and warlords is driving the Afghan women and girls to devastating plights. On behalf of Afghan women’s mission she pointed out that the sad plight of Afghan women is rooted to Afghan politics at high ranks and is influenced in support of the brutalities against women by warlords and Taliban Fundamentalists

Born on April 25, 1978, in Farah Province of Afghanistan, Malalai became involved in humanitarian work from her school life. Her struggles in life began very early when her father, a former medical student lost a leg while fighting in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. In 1992, when she was just four years old her family fled to neighbouring Iran to live as refugees. Malalai returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban reign and from there on is actively working for the cause of humanity and fighting for the rights of women.

Malalai Joya in USA

Only 2 percent of Afghan women have access to Internet and so their inhuman conditions remain hidden to the bigger world. She also pointed out that long years of barring the female population’s access to proper education continues to be the major hurdle for women to break the barriers of their confinements in the inhuman conditions of their lives. Malalai pleaded to the audience to come out in the cause of helping out the Afghan women and children. There was a note of urgency as she pointed out that involvement from the concerned US citizens could start individually, even that would be appreciated by the suffering masses. She had left behind her eight- month old son back in Afghanistan to come to the USA, to represent the voices of the suffering millions even after several assassination attempts on her life. Solemnly she promised that she will continue to fight for justice even if it meant giving her life. Though she spoke with her soft yet determined voice, her strong personality could not be missed. Indeed she was a true presentation of one great heart dedicated to her suffering sisters and brothers.

Malalai presented her book, A Woman Among Warlords, and was there to give out signed copies. A Woman Among Warlords, running its second edition, is a biography about resisting occupation, running secret classes and clinics for women and girls under the Taliban. As I went to meet her she handed me her visiting card and requested me to be in touch with her through her Email. The words sounded so simple but they held the leadership quality of Malalai, to link people she meets while leading to greater causes. I was surprised when she came forward to give me a hug. The bonding of sisterhood among women was complete in her friendly gesture. I felt a lifting of my spirit to be like her, to dedicate my life to people who needed help.

Malalai has been placed by Time Magazine on their annual list of the “100 most influential people of the world” in 2010 and The Guardian listed her as her among the “Top 100 women: Activists and campaigners”. In her ongoing tour of the USA she continues to conquer the hearts and minds of politicians and thinkers. She sows the seeds of hope for freedom. With her boldness she encourages other women to rise against injustice and oppression of women and girls in any part of the world. The USA, the land where immigrants from all over the world come, is indeed a springboard to lift hearts of millions who had fled their countries for political, social or economic disparity. Malalai evokes people’s conscience with the question: could we not fight for justice instead of fleeing from injustice?