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“The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan”: Malalai Joya Speaks Out Against the Warlord-Controlled Afghan Government & U.S. Military Presence

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Afghanistan’s most outspoken female lawmaker has been suspended for the rest of her term after she publicly criticized the Afghan Parliament. For years Malalai Joya has been a leading critic of her government and the U.S. role in her country. She’s faced constant harassment and attempts on her life for her views. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Afghanistan’s most outspoken female lawmaker has been suspended for the rest of her term after she publicly criticized the Afghan government. For years, Malalai Joya has been a leading critic of her Parliament and the U.S. role in her country. She has faced constant harassment for her views.

Malalai has come to the United States for a screening of a new documentary about her struggle. It’s called Enemies of Happiness, premiering at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival here in New York. We’ll speak with Malalai Joya in a minute, but first an excerpt. The film begins in December 2003 in a meeting of Afghanistan’s newly elected constitutional assembly, the Loya Jirga. A then-unknown 24-year-old woman steps to the microphone to deliver a speech that will make international headlines and draw threats on her life.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] What are you saying?

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] We kids can’t get a word in. I would like to say a few words, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Wait a minute. Stay in your seats. One sister says that she has traveled far. She insists that we haven’t given the kids enough speaking time. You have three minutes, please.

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] My name is Malalai Joya from the Farah province. With the permission of all those present and in respect of the martyrs who were killed, I would like to speak. I wish to criticize my compatriots in this room. Why would you allow criminals to be present at this Loya Jirga, warlords responsible for our country’s situation? Afghanistan is the center for national and international conflicts. They oppressed women and have ruined our country. They should be prosecuted. They might be forgiven by the Afghan people, but not by history.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Sit down! Sit down! The sister has crossed the line of what is considered common courtesy. She is banished from this assembly and cannot return. Send her out! Guards, throw her out! She doesn’t deserve to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Enemies of Happiness, about the Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya. She joins me now in our firehouse studio. If she needs help with translation, Shaded Diani is with us. Though we listen to you being translated, Malalai Joya, you also speak English.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah. Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. The BBC called you “the bravest woman of Afghanistan.” That was 2003. What caused you to speak out then?

MALALAI JOYA: First of all, thanks a lot that on behalf of suffering men and women of Afghanistan, you want to have interview with me, who do not have liberation at all right now. And the reason that I stand up against these fundamentalist warlords and I expose their mask, because, unfortunately, they were in power and they control Loya Jirga, and they are those people that after 9/11, they — mentally they are same like Taliban, but physically they changed. By mask of democracy and support of US and its allies, they come in power.

They were those criminals that from ’92 to ’96, when they were in power, they killed only, in the capital of Afghanistan, 65,000 innocent people, just because of power in the civil war. And also they raped even a 70-year-old grandmother and also a seven-year-old baby, and many more violence against women. And also they are those criminals that they destroyed completely our country, and they were a puppet of foreign countries. And they fought against each other just because of power. Even they destroyed our national unity.

And many more crimes they did, that right now you’re looking at the crisis in Afghanistan. The main reason is this, because brother and creed of Taliban, they are in power, means these Northern Alliance killers, who they were in Loya Jirga, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Mohaqiq, Fahim, Dostum, Khalili, also [inaudible], Golabzoi, Olumi, and this list should be prolonged, that right now most of them they are enjoying in the parliament of Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: You are not afraid to name names.

MALALAI JOYA: I am telling the truth, so why afraid? And right now that they have mask of democracy, they learn how to talk about democracy, women rights, human rights, and just they deceive people around the world, but they do not believe in. And our history know about them. Our people know about them. And even they are world-known killers in the world. Even Human Rights Watch published the name of these criminals recently, that they must face to the national and international courts. But, unfortunately, right now they control Afghanistan. Some of them are MP, minister, governor, commanders, chief district, ambassador. And they control Afghanistan. Our people are like hostage in the hands of them.

AMY GOODMAN: You were thrown out of the Loya Jirga in 2003. You were re-elected to the Afghanistan Parliament. You got the second-highest number of votes in your province in Farah. Now you’ve been thrown out again. Why?

MALALAI JOYA: This action of the Parliament for a thousand times, more, showed that this is — showed to the world that this is non-democratic Parliament — warlords and drug lords in Parliament —- because I said more than 70 percent members of the Parliament are drug lords, warlords, criminals, that they -—

AMY GOODMAN: You say more than 70 percent of the Parliament is drug lords, warlords, criminals?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, even I compared with some nice animals. I said that they are even worse than animal stables. They are like zoo — some of them like dangerous criminals in the —- sorry, animals in the zoo. But -—

AMY GOODMAN: You called the Parliament a zoo.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, I said most of member, not some democrat member we have, that there are few men and women that they are real representatives, because most of these fundamentalist warlords, they did cheating, they used guns, they were in power and they had foreign support. When the entire nation is living under the shadow of gun and warlords, then how we will have democratic election?

And even inside of Parliament, there’s completely non-democratic Parliament. For example, this act that recently they did, this is completely an illegal act, first of all, and it’s completely against freedom of speech and also because I am a woman. And also, even last year —

AMY GOODMAN: This act of throwing you out?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, of course, because I am an elected member, and also they can’t — under the name of suspension, they kicked me out from the Parliament, since the end of the Parliament. I can’t go, for example, right now. But you are looking — most of the people of Afghanistan, they are doing demonstration, for example, around Afghanistan, in Kabul, in Jalalabad, [inaudible], and many more support.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the role of the United States in Afghanistan?

MALALAI JOYA: Unfortunately, under the nose of U.S. and eyes of troops right now, you are looking, and the most problem that people of Afghanistan they have is a security, more important than food and water. And also, for example, they are throwing bombs aside in a place that we are killing Taliban; most of innocent people has been killing. Even right now, one member of the Parliament is Talib. Another is spokesman of Taliban right now enjoying in the Yale University, who his name was Rahmatullah Hashemi. He was a spokesman of Taliban when they destroyed our Buddha statues.

Right now, more than 90 percent people are poor, and more than 40 percent are jobless. And also under the nose of U.S. and eyes of troops, Afghanistan is one of the biggest producer of the opium right now. And many more violence against women.

And under the nose of U.S. and eyes of troops, five-year-old baby, few months before, has been kidnapped and raped. Same like these criminal jihadis who are always doing crimes under the name of Islam and jihad, and right now is with the mask of democracy. They are in power. They did in the past from ’92 to ’96. And this situation nowadays they are talking about women right, democracy. Eleven-year-old Sanober, she has been kidnapped by these local warlords, Northern Alliance, in Kunduz province, then raped, then exchanged with a dog.

And also in this situation, they are talking about women rights. Two activist women recently, they has been killed in their houses. They were journalists: Shakiba Amaj and also Zakia Zaki. And most of people they have education problem, health problem. That how much education is important. Billions dollars the government of Afghanistan that corrupt warlords and drug lords received, but most of money is going in the pockets of these warlords. And most are examples like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Malalai Joya, you are returning now to Afghanistan. You have been threatened with death time and time again. What gives you the courage to go back?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, I want to go back in Afghanistan. I want to struggle inside Afghanistan and outside. The support of the innocent people of Afghanistan who do not have power, who do not have money, who are very suffering people, this gives me courage, determination. And I understand how much I am right, day by day. And also the support of freedom-loving democrat people and human rights organizations gives me hope, courage. And also, in another hint, inside of Parliament, they threatened me to rape from.

AMY GOODMAN: They threatened to rape you?

MALALAI JOYA: To rape. And even they are saying, “Prostitute! Take and rape her!” on 7th of May. Physically they beat me by throwing bottles of water. And this Parliament —

AMY GOODMAN: They threw bottles of water at you in the Parliament?

MALALAI JOYA: On 7th of May you can see on my website. And also, this Parliament completely was like torture for me. But I was there just to use from the tribune of the Parliament to clear their mask, because many times they stand up against constitution inside of Parliament. Especially they are anti-women. Three times they beat the journalists inside of the Parliament.

And recently, media is telling that five member of Parliament they are thieves, that before they were minister, and right now one is Qanooni, who is head of the Parliament, and he stole $25 million when he was minister of education.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Malalai’s website is malalaijoya.com.

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Afghanistan: The Taliban Cracks Down on Women’s Rights as U.S. Sanctions Worsen Humanitarian Crisis

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