LYS ANZIA – WNN Features
Recently, on March 20, 27 year old, Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s youngest parliamentary members, faced a dangerous uphill battle. It was the battle for her own personal safety. During her recent month long tour in the US, Joya has continued to speak out in public on the same issues that have brought her and her family under increasing personal scrutiny.
Since Dec.17, 2003, Malalai Joya has been an elected member of the Loya Jirga, the Afghan General Assembly. For the past three years, Ms. Joya has strongly questioned the validity of including members to the assembly who are deeply connected to Afghanistan’s troubled past. Today, Malalai has brought international attention to the parliamentary members who are also suspected members of Afghanistan’s outlaw mujahedeen.
According to experts in international drug trade, the mujahedeen warlords have been integral leaders in the largest heroin production streams in the world. Their rise to power was outlined in a detailed 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times article by John F. Burns titled, How Afghan Stern Rulers Took Hold. In it Burns covered the grueling takeover by the Taliban outlining its violence and devastating effect on the war-torn country. In the 1997 article, Burns pointed directly to the connection between the mujahedeen and what he called, “the most wanted terrorist of all, Osama bin Laden”. It was in that article, in 1997, that a strong correlation was made between the first, Feb.1993, bombing of the World Trade Center and the covert dangers of the Taliban.
“They don’t really believe in democracy,” said Joya in reference to the warlords she claims who now occupy seats on the Afghan General Assembly. In a, March 17, 2006, Washington Post interview with Nora Boustany, Malalai goes on to say, “Now they are the biggest risk for the future of Afghanistan”.
Even the former Taliban leader and governor of Kandahar province, Mullah Mohammed Hassan has agreed to some degree with Joya’s view. He was quoted by John Burns, in the 1997 New York Times article saying, “We are the pariahs of the world.”
Speaking inside and outside the government agency in Kabul, Ms. Joya has received growing international attention from those who now wish to help her voice reach the public. She has also received, at the same time, dangerous attentions from those who wish to harm and silence her. Today, Malalai recognizes keenly, because she has been the only member of the General Assembly to speak out publicly about the warlords in her country, that her safety is not assured in any way from any location, even as she travels on tour inside the US.
On March 20, in Fremont, California, as Joya spoke about the current conditions for women in Afghanistan, Malalai’s engagement was suddenly disrupted by over a dozen men who threw aggressive verbal insults at her in an attempt to completely silence her. At the same time, inside Afghanistan, efforts to discredit Malalai have been stepped up by the warlords who also hope for Joya’s silence.
Currently, the Afghan central government is reducing financial allotments that have been made available to insure Joya’s personal safety. Malalai and her family now have twelve body guards to assist them. At a reported cost reaching into millions of dollars, DynCorp, a US based security agency funded by the US State Department, is currently in charge of maintaining security for Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. This same agency has, to date, never been assigned to protect Malalai Joya or her family.
Because of rising dangers, and the need for more security guards, the current total costs for protecting Joya are increasing. Due to this shift the funding that ensures the safety for Malalai and her family is now in a tenable and deteriorating condition.
In spite of four assassination attempts, and over one hundred threats to her life, Joya continues to speak out publicly. Recently, she told the BBC news, “They will kill me, but, they will not kill my voice because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but , you cannot stop the coming of spring.”
“I represent my people here”, said Joya in a Dec. 29, 2005 interview on Radio Free Europe. “I’ll continue my struggle, especially against those parties that destroyed our country. As I am representing my people I have high hopes”.
An ABC foreign correspondent follows MP Malalai Joya around on one of her usual days in Kabul, Afghanistan, as armed guards stay close-by because of the constant threat of her being murdered by those she has spoken out against inside the country.
As Editor-At-Large for WNN, humanitarian journalist, Lys Anzia, has been working to bring current news about global women to WUNRN – Women’s UN Report Network and has produced radio for WINGS – Women’s International News Gathering Service. She recently interviewed Malalai Joya for radio while Malalai was traveling on tour inside the US.
Other sources for this article include the Washington Post, the New York Times, Radio Free Europe, YouTube and the Defense Committee for Malalai Joya.
©2006 Women News Network – WNN