Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Hero

I'm a cynical goddess and seldom admire people that much. But Malalai Joya, a young feminist Afghan woman, deserves my adulation:

Twenty eight year old intrepid Afghan MP, Malalai Joya, has just been suspended from Parliament for comparing warlords in power to donkeys. Joya is the youngest and most outspoken member of Parliament and has survived 4 assassination attempts for denouncing warlords, many of whom were funded at various times by the US government in the fight against the Soviets (1980s) and the Taliban (post-9-11).

In a recent interview Joya said the country's parliament was like a "stable or zoo," and added, "this is a word that fits — a cattle house is full of animals, like a cow giving milk, a donkey carrying something, a dog that's loyal." The video of her interview was shown in Parliament and a majority voted to suspend her for the remarks, invoking a little known Article 70 of the Parliament that forbids MPs from insulting one another. [Click here for news about the suspension.]

Such words are quite typical for Joya who is the bravest person I have ever met. In 2003 she first publicly denounced the men at a Constitutional assembly which she attended as an elected delegate from her rural Farah province. For her actions she was lauded by her people and threatened by the warlords. Since then she has consistently criticized the warlords whose hands she says are "stained with the blood of my people." When I visited Afghanistan in 2005, this was a common refrain among ordinary Afghans. Malalai, according to journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, is "speaking for millions." During my visit I interviewed her before her 2005 bid for the Parliament. During the interview she told me, "Maybe one day they will kill me. But I will never be afraid."

Read the whole thing as they say.