Security more important than food for Afghan people: Joya

The Nation, December 22, 2004

PESHAWAR-Woman member of Afghanistan's Loya Jirga and head of an NGO working for Afghan women Malalai Joya has said that peace and security are more essential to Afghans than bread and clothes in the prevailing circumstances as warlords and extremism still reign supreme in the war-shattered Afghanistan. In an interview with The Nation here at its office Tuesday Malalai Joya asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to induct warlords and criminals in his new cabinet otherwise he would dishonor the mandate of Afghan people who voted him in the recent presidential elections for bringing peace and stability to the country. Fate of thousands of war-stricken Afghans and future of war-torn Afghanistan rest in the hands of Hamed Karzai and if he discourages the former war criminals in the new cabinet he would put the country on right track otherwise his (Karzai) name would be listed in those who had destroyed Afghanistan. Malalai Joya, who got instant fame for her remarks against the warlords in the Loya Jirga at Kabul, is heading an NGO named Organization of Promoting Afghan Women Capabilities (OPAWC). Her organization, mainly working for Women and children in three provinces of Farah, Heart and Nimroz, in the fields of education health. She won a prestigious award La Donna Della Anno from an institution in Italy for her services to women and also secured international fame for her boldness before the Afghan warlords in Loya Jirga. On the invitation of V-Day she visited the USA and also had gone to Italy to receive her award there. For her remarks and stance against local commanders, her house was raided, her body guards were beaten while she still receiving threats from certain elements in Afghanistan.

She said that the former commanders were still hounding and her life was not safe but she would not give in to their pressure as the people of Afghanistan, particularly women, need to be represented at every level.

The young and dynamic lady from remote Farah province of Afghanistan was elected to Loya Jirga where she opposed the induction of former warlords and local commanders to the new cabinet. She said the present of these people in the cabinet as well as Loya Jirga would affect future of democracy and reconstruction process in Afghanistan. She said that the situation has not changed as was expected before during the last three years with the fall of Taliban and the same warlords were attain on the stage to achieve their personal gain than collective interests. Joya said that the UN and other countries promoting peace and democracy in Afghanistan need to come forward and work for disarming these warlords as these elements including the Northern Alliance got to the power corridors due to support of America and its allies.

Malalai said that rights of women were being usurped and violated still in Afghanistan, adding that she would raise her voice at each and every forum despite serious threats to her life.

I was asked to time and again to tender an apology for my remarks but I would not do so as it will hurt the struggle fir the rights of women, she added. She said that the writ of International Security Assistance Force should be extended to other parts of Afghanistan and there was a need to increase the number of peace keeping troops in the country. She said that the people of Afghanistan had pinned high hopes on the United States in the post Taliban era, but unfortunately no basic change was felt and the people were gradually expressing their disappointment and hopelessness in this regard. Drug business and gun culture was on the rise, the right of all the people have been trampled, particularly the women rights and security concerns of the masses was on the increase.

To a question, she said that there were more than 2000 local NGO and about 350 foreign NGOs being registered at Kabul but very few were promoting their basic function in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process of Afghanistan. Establishment of NGOs and political parties and groups had become source of business and turned into commercial organizations than missionary purposes.

My life is in danger and I do not know when the warlord and extremist forces could make target of their revenge but I have developed a faith to adhere to my stance and struggle for women rights, Malalai Joya added.

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