Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced

Getty Photo The story of Joya is the story of another Afghanistan - the one behind the burka, and behind the propaganda

Getty Photo The story of Joya is the story of another Afghanistan - the one behind the burka, and behind the propaganda

IF YOU READ ONLY ONE STORY ABOUT AFGHANISTAN, THIS SHOULD BE IT.

Read full story under ABOUT on the right of this post.  This BRAVE WOMAN’S story and her work is truly amazing.  She explains what it is like to live in Afghanistan and how the Afghan Government works and is ruled by warlords and criminals, and how our bombings and presence has helped destroy their way of life.

Visit her website:malalaijoya.com/index1024.htm    Below is a few paragraphs from Malalai’s story: 

Joya discovered just what this meant when she started to set up the clinic – and a local warlord announced that it would not be allowed, since she was a woman, and a critic of fundamentalism. She did it anyway, and decided to fight this fundamentalist by running in the election for the Loya jirga (“meeting of the elders”) to draw up the new Afghan constitution. There was a great swelling of support for this girl who wanted to build a clinic – and she was elected. “It turned out my mission,” she says, “would be to expose the true nature of the jirga from within.”

 

(EARLIER IN THE STORY)…She soon discovered that she loved to teach – and, when she turned 16, a charity called the Organisation for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) made a bold suggestion: go to Afghanistan, and set up a secret school for girls, under the noses of the Taliban tyranny.

 

So she gathered her few clothes and books and was smuggled across the border – and “the best days of my life” began. She loathed being forced to wear a burka, being harassed on the streets by the omnipresent “vice and virtue” police, and being under constant threat of being discovered and executed. But she says it was worth it for the little girls. “Every time a new girl joined the class, it was a triumph,” she says, beaming. “There is no better feeling.”

 

She only just avoided being caught, again and again. One time she was teaching a class of girls in a family’s basement when the mother of the house yelled down suddenly: “Taliban! Taliban!” Joya says: “I told my students to lie down on the floor and stay totally silent. We heard footsteps above us and waited a long time.” On many occasions, ordinary men and women – anonymous strangers – helped her out by sending the police charging off in the wrong direction. She adds: “Every day in Afghanistan, even now, hundreds if not thousands of ordinary women act out these small gestures of solidarity with each other. We are our sisters’ keepers.”

 

The charity was so impressed with her they appointed her their director. Joya decided to set up a clinic for poor women just before the 9/11 attacks. When the American invasion began, the Taliban fled her province, but the bombs kept falling. “Many lives were needlessly lost, just like during the September 11 tragedy,” she says. “The noise was terrifying, and children covered their ears and screamed and cried. Smoke and dust rose and lingered in the air with every bomb dropped.”

 

As soon as the Taliban retreated, they were replaced – by the warlords who had ruled Afghanistan immediately before. Joya says that, at this point, “I realised women’s rights had been sold out completely… Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality towards women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime. But this is a lie. Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban – and now they were marching back to power, backed by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.”

…The Afghan public, she adds, are on her side, pointing to a recent opinion poll showing 60 per cent of Afghans want an immediate Nato withdrawal. Many people in Afghanistan were hopeful, she says, about Barack Obama – “but he is actually intensifying the policy of George Bush… I know his election has great symbolic value in terms of the struggle of African-Americans for equal rights, and this struggle is one I admire and respect. But what is important for the world is not whether the President is black or white, but his actions. You can’t eat symbolism.”

 

US policy is driven by geopolitics, she says, not personalities. “Afghanistan is in the heart of Asia, so it’s a very important place to have military bases – so they can control trade very easily with other Asian powers such as China, Russia, Iran and so on.

 

“But it can be changed by Americans,” she adds. She is passionate now, her voice rising. “I say to Obama – in my area, 150 people were blown up by US troops in one incident this year. If your family had been there, would you send even more troops and even more bombs? Your government is spending $18m (£11m) to make another Guantanamo jail in Bagram. If your daughter might be detained there, would you be building it? I say to Obama – change course, or otherwise tomorrow people will call you another Bush.”

 

Thanks to Johann Hari of the Independent for this great interview: Their link is:

http://tinyurl.com/l2qzld

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One Response to “Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced”

  1. Tricia Says:

    What a woman!!! I wonder where that level of courage comes from? I wish we could leave–although I remain unsure that things will be any better for women when we go.

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