Malalai Joya, a celebrated parliamentarian in Afghanistan, will begin her U.S. speaking tour here in Los Angeles on the evening of Monday March 6. (Details at: http://kpfk.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=view_detail&agid=780&year=2006&month=03&day=06&Itemid=63
KPFK host Sonali Kolhatkar helped raise the funds for Joya’s trip to the U.S.. Joya and Kolhatkar previously met during the radio host’s trip to Afghanistan in early 2005.
“She is really an incredible woman, one of my heroes in Afghanistan,” said Kolhatkar during an appearance last spring. “We only hear about the men, right? We hear about either the U.S. puppets or the fundamentalists or the warlords. We don't hear about the ordinary heroes in Afghanistan, who are bravely resisting despite all the risks to their lives.
“She was elected by the Farah Province as representative for the Constitutional Loya Jirga, that took place last year . [That was] the place where Afghanistan's new constitution was drafted. She was 24 years old when she was there. She was elected by her province. For people who think that ordinary Afghans harbor misogynist feelings against women, that's really not true. They are very happy to have women as their representatives, especially when those women are brave enough to denounce warlords. And that's exactly what Malalai Joya did.
JOYA STOOD UP TO THE WARLORDS
“[S]he told us a story of how she went to the Consitutional Loya Jirga, where the warlords were seated in the front rows, even though they were technically disqualified from the process. They were there dominating the process, demanding that Islamic law be part of the constitution, demanding certain privileges for themselves. Malalai Joya begged to have two minutes at the mike, and she was finally given the microphone. She started saying: (paraphrased) ‘These are the men who have destroyed our country, who are sitting right here in the front rows. They ought to be tried in a war crimes court, and we should not trust those who have already been tested.’ She initially got enormous applause from people in the back rows, who supported what she was saying. When she spoke out, she spoke for the people of Afghanistan. She was rushed and charged at by the warlords. She had to be surrounded by women who were trying to protect her, and the U.N. had to issue her bodyguards. Her mike had to be cut, and she was bustled out of there. They hurled insults at her: they called her a prostitute, an infidel, a communist, and whatever. In Afghanistan ‘communist’ is considered a bad word because of the Soviet invasion. The Soviets came in promising freedom from fundamentalism through communism.
”Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, wrote an op ed in the Washington Post saying (paraphrased): ‘Oh, it was amazing to see democracy in action in Afghanistan! We saw these people debating each other and doing compromise. And this one woman spoke out and actually denounced these warlords! The fact that she could do that is just so wonderful!’ Well, what he didn't mention and what the media failed to cover was that she faced death threats from that moment on--which continue today--her office was ransacked, her house was ransacked and looted, and she has to travel under a burqa in disguise for fear of her life and has six armed bodyguards with her everywhere she goes.
”Today she is  years old. Because of her brave stand in Afghanistan, she has received the support and the love and affection of the majority of Afghan people. Thousands of Afghans traveled hundreds of miles to visit her and pay her homage. Meanwhile, the warlords, this small group of extremist men, have decided that she's a threat to them. So she gets daily death threats. I had an hour-long interview with her, and to me she is really the hero of Afghanistan, one of the ordinary Afghan people who stood up and spoke the truth.
“HOPE FOR AFGHANISTAN”
”This is a woman who for me really represents hope for Afghanistan. I'm not placing my hope in the U.S. doing ‘the right thing’ in Afghanistan because that will never happen. The U.S. will never act in the interest of the Afghan people. The U.S. is acting in its and its interests alone. Any incidental freedoms that women or men might win are just that: incidental, and will be milked to their fullest by the PR machine. “
A complete transcript of Kolhatkar’s 2005 presentation about Afghanistan can be found here: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/128162.php
Photo courtesy of Afghan Womensmission.org. Used with permission.