HRW: "Joya is a defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women"

"We condemn these criminals in Parliament who are working against Malalai," said Angama Sadat

The International Herald Tribune, May 24, 2007

Malalai Joya in Press Conference in Kabul on May 21
Malalai Joya, in a press conference in Kabul on May 21, 2007 vows to continue her fight against warlords. (AP photo)

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Meanwhile, 200 people demonstrated in the province of Farah in support of an outspoken female lawmaker, who was suspended by Afghanistan's parliament this week over comments she made comparing parliamentarians to animals.

Malalai Joya, 29, told the AP Thursday that she has been suspended until the end of the parliamentary session in 2010, but that she was waiting for Afghanistan's Supreme Court to make a final decision as to whether her suspension is valid.

Lawmakers said Joya violated a parliamentary rule barring them from criticizing one another.

"We condemn these criminals in Parliament who are working against Malalai," said Angama Sadat, a lawmaker from Farah. "Malalai is the elected representative of thousands of Afghans from Farah."

Joya has repeatedly referred to lawmakers as criminals, warlords and drug lords. Many former commanders involved in factional fighting in the 1980s and 1990s now hold parliamentary or government positions.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said the legislature "should immediately reinstate" Joya, calling her a defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women.

"The article banning criticism of Parliament is an unreasonable rule that violates the principle of free speech enshrined in international law and valued around the world," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.