A concerted call to action

"The speakers were more moving than the musicians because they really got to the heart of these issues"

Daily Bruin, April 11, 2007
By Alexa Vaughn

Malalai Joya in University of California
Malalai Joya, an invited speaker to the Mighty Mic Human Awareness Concert
Photo by Lluvia Gamez

Students crowded Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night to see and listen to speakers and musicians at the first Mighty Mic Human Rights Awareness Concert, an event benefiting several human rights organizations.

A coalition of more than 26 campus organizations planned the five-hour event, which honored Malalai Joya, the first female elected to the Afghan Parliament, and Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, who spoke between several musical performances.

The event was put together to give both a political and financial helping hand to leaders like Joya and organizations that combat suffering in other countries, said Azadeh Ghafari, one of the lead event organizers.

Performers included Eve, Alanis Morisette, Fall of Troy, Saul Williams, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Mark Gonzales, Raine Maida, and the Far East Movement. Some musicians, such as Peaches who flew from Berlin to attend the concert, came from long distances.

The $10 suggested donation benefited two charities: the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, an independent group of Afghan women determined to promote human rights and social justice, and Doctors Without Borders, a medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid internationally.

The crowd loudly applauded Joya, a current member of Afghan Parliament and survivor of four assassination attempts, as she came on stage to speak of the corruption that she said still exists in Afghanistan’s government.

Before entering a political career, Joya aided abused women and orphans across Afghanistan.

During this time, she delivered a controversial public speech to her government on what she said she believed were crimes committed on Afghan citizens.

"Many criminals that are responsible for killing tens of thousands of people over the last decade are still in power," Joya said.

Afterward, she began her political career, entering into parliament in 2005.

Joya broke down in tears while in the middle of listing the high amounts of rape and murder committed and ignored in her country. She said Afghanistan has more than 4 million refugees in bordering countries, and that those numbers are continuing to grow.

Joya emphasized that it is up to her country to liberate itself from criminal rulers, but the pressure other countries such as the U.S. can put on its politicians to help remove them as well can still be extremely crucial to the development of democracy in Afghanistan.

Joya said she plans on continuing to spread her message throughout her country and the world – at any cost.

"Fundamentalists are counting the days until they kill me," Joya said. "But it does not matter so much whether I keep on living, only that my living has helped the lives of others."

Chino Martinez, a resident of the San Fernando Valley, came to see the event. He said Joya’s work was extremely impressive to hear about for the first time.

"Anyone who is willing to speak the truth to power and put their life on the line everyday for these issues is amazing," Martinez said of Joya.

Later on in the night, during her presentation, Ensler said it is the responsibility of Americans to help Afghans overcome what she described as tyranny.

She added this is significant since she said she believes the U.S.’s choices have contributed to their current political situation.

"The speakers were more moving than the musicians because they really got to the heart of these issues," said Shawn Van Valkenburgh, a fourth-year women’s studies and anthropology student. "I’m usually not affected by stuff like this, but these people like (Joya) are hardcore activists."