Profile in Courage: Afghanistan’s Malalai Joya
By Helay Safi
Misery and Abuse
Even after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended (my dad, who was a congressman in Afghanistan, told me it ended in 1992), the people of Afghanistan were not fortunate enough to find peace. The country went through a long and bloody civil war, the Taliban regime and then finally the U.S. invasion took the war-torn country into further troubles.
After the U.S. invasion, people were under the assumption that the U.S. would bring the democracy they preached about and finally get rid of the war criminals who had been ruling them through the civil war era. The country went through an election process, but unfortunately most of the people who were running in the elections were former communist collaborators or warlords. The communists and the warlords had killed a lot of innocent people. Needless to say, they had power and almost every single one of them won election to government posts.
Raised by an Afghan American family, I would often hear my family talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I hated hearing about kids losing their families or their own lives. I wished I had super powers to help everyone and punish the bad guys.
Outspoken Woman in the National Assembly
In the past election I heard a little story about what I had been wishing to do. A brave young woman came in the political scenario of Afghanistan. Her speeches about peoples’ basic rights
were broadcasted throughout the country. Her passion about helping people and standing for truth was very courageous. Her name was Malalai Joya. Joya was one of the candidates for the National Assembly. She grew up during the Soviet-Afghan war. She was well aware of the problems the country was experiencing at the time. Joya won a seat in the National Assembly. She was a young, educated woman who saw the sacrifices the Afghan people had made during theSoviet and civil war. She was aware of the problems created by most of the war criminals, but she had to work side by side with them now. Joya was an outspoken woman and probably one of the very few people fighting for the rights of the poor and helpless people of Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, what she believed in clashed with the interests of the majority of the people in the government. These people were corrupt and dishonest. Their goal was to be able to afford a luxurious life outside of the country. Rebuilding their country was a dream limited to their speeches. Joya was actively communicating her goals to the people of her country. She used the media as a communication line with millions of people around the country. She spoke at rallies to get the support of the younger generation who were now responsible to build the country.
This was one point at which the people of Afghanistan questioned U.S. intentions. People were under the impression that the war criminals would be tried and punished for their crimes instead of continuing to govern them. Joya, whose support in the National Assembly was not strong, tried to unveil the crimes of the communists and warlords, some of them senators and even ministers. Joya was suspended from National Assembly when she asked the speaker for some time to speak about what she thought was the biggest problem in the country. She was granted only three minutes.
She wasted no time pointing out the war criminals that were in the Senate with her and said that they should be punished by the government instead of being in the government. The speaker suspended her for the remainder of her term for disrespecting the Assembly and kicked her out.
Though not officially in the government anymore, Joya has continued to work for the people of Afghanistan. The media has noticed her struggle and she has been interviewed on TV in several countries, including the U.S. Her goals are to bring the war criminals in Afghanistan into the world’s attention in order to bring them to justice.
In her male dominated society, her courage is not received very well. In one interview she told the BBC, “I know that if not today, then probably tomorrow, I will be physically annihilated. But the voice of protest will continue, because it is the voice of the people of my country.” This has not discouraged her at all. She is still working on what she believes is the very basic rights of the people of Afghanistan.
Joya is an activist for the rights of the women of Afghanistan who are undoubtedly the most affected by the war. She is an example of patience and strength for everyone who thinks one person can’t make a difference. Her struggle is recognized by the world and billions around the world have heard her. She is one person who gives courage to the women of Afghanistan to stand for their rights and that the great victories of the world has always started by one person and followed by the millions.
Wikipedia profile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malalai_Joya
Defense Committee for Malalia Joya http://www.malalaijoya.com/index1024.htm. Φ
Helay Safi, who comes from the Kapessa province of Afghanistan, is a PSU conflict resolution student.
Photo courtesy of: www.kamloopscanadians.ca