Joya Speaks To The World

Joya at UCLA
Joya at UCLA (Photo: Lluvia Gamez)

I wish I could say that I first heard about Malalai Joya, the bravest, youngest and first female member of Afghanistan’s parliament in the course of keeping up with international news or listening to current events on the radio, but the truth is she was the footnote in a coffee klatch-style video book club interview with Khaled Hosseini that I clicked through to from a Borders bookstore mass email. Over bundt cake in the kitchen with adoring fans of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini gave props to Joya for speaking out about crimes against girls and women in Afghanistan.

Her colleagues in the Afghan parliament do not share his admiration for her outspokenness. Earlier this week, they voted to suspend her for criticizing them in violation of article 70, a procedural rule that has not been enforced against other members despite their regular criticism of each other. What did she say? BBC reports: “A stable is better, for there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk.” “The parliament is worse than a stable.” Human Rights Watch is calling for her reinstatement.

Joya, 28, famously spoke out in 2003, when as an elected delegate to Afghanistan’s constitutional convention, she objected to the domination of the proceedings by mujahideen. “Why have you again selected as committee chairmen those criminals who have brought these disasters for Afghan people?”

Since then her life has been subject to threats and assassination attempts. But she continues to speak out, with hardly a pause for breath. In addition to winning a seat in the national assembly from Farah Province in 2005, Joya travels the world to tell about the conditions in Afghanistan and atrocities committed against women—most recently at an International Women’s Day event in Sydney, Australia, in March, and at a UCLA concert for human rights awareness last month.

Her namesake
Defense Committee for Malalai Joya
Enemies of Happiness – Eva Mulvad’s Sundance 2007-winning documentary on Joya

May 24, 2007
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