Monday, 5 October 2009

Raising her voice for democracy and equality in Afghanistan

Malalai Joya made the headlines in 2003 when as an elected member of the Afghan Loya Jirga, or Parliament, she denounced, in front of the entire world's press, the US occupation of her country on the one hand and the murderous warlords, gangsters and drug dealers handpicked to sit in its Government on the other. For speaking out against these unelected 'representatives' she was banned from the Parliament. Yet in doing so she became overnight a much loved heroine of the Afghan people.
I came across her story when she was in London recently. This extraordinary young woman, still in her twenties, stands up for the rights of Afghan women in the face of harrowing brutality. She confronted the repressive religious fundamentalists in the Taliban and their counterparts, the warlords, gangsters, rapists and murderers of the Northern Alliance. 'Raising my voice' was written to expose these 'representatives' of the Afghan people and to expose the role of US imperialism and their so called 'war on terror'.
She explains the heinous role played by the current political leadership in Afghanistan. President Hamad Karsai is exposed as a stooge of the hated occupying armies. Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against Karsai in the September's Presidential election, is, if anything, even more odious. This former leader of the Northern Alliance was just as bad as the Taliban in persecuting the Afghan people. She names all the warlords, drug dealers, torturers and rapists now sitting in Karsai's Government and explains how they have been granted immunity from prosecution over their blood curdling crimes. She shows why these people have no democratic mandate to run Afghanistan and why thousands of young Afghans are running off to join the insurgents.
It all reinforces the need to bring the British troops home. Despite being bestowed with dozens of humanitarian awards Malalai Joya refuses to escape the very real dangers she faces in Afghanistan every day.
In 'Raising my voice' she outlines what ordinary Afghans go through to survive the savage odds stacked against them. Her faith in their determination to build a multi cultural democratic, tolerant and progressive Afghanistan never falters. She has survived several assassination attempts made by the warlords and is determined to remain alongside her people.
She writes with a certain fatalism that she may not survive the next attempt in a style that reminds me of Dr Martin Luther King. Ironically she admits she is forced to travel the country underneath a full length burqa in order to conceal her identity, with several bodyguards protecting her. Yet this intelligent young woman who is fond of quoting the German playwright Bertholt Brecht to make a point, speaks with a deep passion, knowledge and determination about the cause of her people.
For those of us trying to make sense of contemporary political events in Afghanistan this book is essential reading. Malalai Joya is an inspirational woman offering hope to democrats and people of progress worldwide. Above all she reiterates the right of 33m Afghans to determine their own future and to live together in peace and greater prosperity.

*'MALALAI JOYA - RAISING MY VOICE' The extraordinary story of an Afghan woman who dares to speak out. Published by Rider Books £11.99

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