The voice of the people

Joya remains resilient and has no regrets about her work

The Wire, March 8, 2006
By Larry Clow

Malalai Joya has spent much of the last two years speaking out against the continuing political domination of warlords and drug lords in the newly democratic government of Afghanistan. That kind of provocative political speech would be daring enough in any country, but the fact that Joya is a 27-year-old woman makes her impassioned pleas for a clean democracy all the more dangerous.

Joya rose to prominence after delivering a fiery speech at Afghanistan’s constitutional Loya Jirga (a kind of constitutional convention) in 2003. Since then, she’s been elected to the country’s 249-seat National Assembly and made a name for herself by raising issues of women’s rights, human rights and government corruption in Afghanistan. Her criticisms have also made her the target of four assassination attempts.

However, Joya remains resilient and has no regrets about her work. Currently on a speaking tour of the United States, Joya will be in Dover on Saturday, March 11 at 2 p.m. at the Dover Friends Meeting House, located at 141 Central Ave.

Why did you run for election to the Afghan Parliament in 2005?

Because lots of people, they come in my office because of my speech (at the Loya Jirga). That’s when I said to myself, “it’s better to go appear in the parliament in front of my enemies … (and) expose the criminal faces of the warlords there.” I try my best as a delegate to serve my people and use my energy for building of our country and for peace and democracy. Because I’m young, I have lots of energy.

Malalai Joya

Are any steps being taken to disqualify warlords and drug lords from participating in government?

Our country can be hopeful when we have democratic elections. Unfortunately, because the warlords were in power (when the government was elected), the majority seats of parliament were taken by different types of warlords. They found that by having foreign support and millions of dollars … they could find their way into the house of the people. The enemies of Afghanistan now have the mask of democracy.

Since you’ve started speaking out on this subject, have others joined you?

Of course. After my speech in the Loya Jirga I received lots of support from … different corners. These warlords, when in power, killed lots of innocent people … and also, they completely destroyed our country. So the support of these people, most of people, shows how much they have hatred for the different kinds of warlords. With their support, I never feel alone because if I have people, I’ll never be hopeless. I know very well about … how they are dangerous and they are trying to kill me physically, but I told them they will never kill my voice.

How have the lives of women in Afghanistan improved? What are some of the dangers that they continue to face?

It’s true that after troops of the United States come into Afghanistan … now we have a free country, but they have suspicions on this kind of democracy and the war on terrorism Americans brought, because the U.S. and U.S. allies, they replace (the) Taliban with the Northern Alliance, who are the brothers of the Taliban …. I know that these countries they have their own strategy, but they should think about the innocent people in Afghanistan, how much they are tired of fighting, their hatred of the warlords and how poor they are.