The Times, May 9, 2006

Woman MP is attacked in a blow for democracy

Joya: “I have lots of threats. I have had people call me to threaten me, and in Kabul have to stay in a different house every night."

From Tim Albone in Kabul

BOTTLES were thrown, insults traded and chairs knocked over in the bedlam. This was no bar-room brawl, however. It was the scene in the Afghan parliament on Sunday when a woman MP dared to stand up to a male colleague.

Malalai Joya ( ), 28, interrupted a former warlord as he praised the holy warriors — or Mujahidin — of Afghanistan during a debate to mark the anniversary of their defeat of communism.

She declared that there were “two types of Mujahidin — one who were really Mujahidin, the second who killed tens of thousands of innocent people and who are criminals”.

Angry members of the assembly, which is dominated by former faction members, threw a plastic bottle and swore at the woman MP, Malalai Joya, during the late yesterday session.

"One hurled a bottle of water at Malalai but missed her," said Mohammad Hasib Noori, a parliamentary press officer. "Some cursed her and one woman MP even pulled her hair."
Reuters, May 8, 2006

This was a step too far for the parliament’s Islamic extremists and former warlords, who are still getting the hang of democracy. They leapt from their seats and rushed towards her. They hurled abuse and water bottles. Punches were thrown. Even women MPs joined in.

Moderate MPs had to form a protective ring around Mrs Joya as she was hurried from the chamber. “My supporters heard one MP tell someone to wait by the door and knife me as I walked out,” she said.

Omid Yakmanish, a television cameraman, was hit as he filmed the uproar, and dropped his camera. He said: “The MP (Al-haj Khyal Mohammad Husaini, from Ghazni) said in an interview, ‘I have the right to beat people up if I want to’.”

The session was adjourned.

Mrs Joya told The Times yesterday: "There are two problems for these people: firstly, that I am a woman and, secondly, that I believe in democracy. They don't believe in democracy. They don't believe in women's rights."

She went on: "I have lots of threats. I have had people call me to threaten me, and in Kabul have to stay in a different house every night. I don't feel safe. I'm never scared because I tell the truth and I believe in the truth and in democracy. They can kill me but they cannot kill my voice."

The episode was another embarrassment for the Western nations who invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime and install democracy.

It comes shortly after a man named Abdul Rahman was arrested for converting to Christianity and threatened with the death penalty. Mr Rahman was spared only because of international outrage, but he had to be given asylum in Italy.

Qasim Ackajhar, a spokesman for the Kabul-based Freedom of Speech Association, lamented that the violence had “damaged the dignity of Afghanistan and the dignity of the parliament”.

But Mrs Joya’s opponents showed little remorse yesterday. Parwin Durranai, a woman MP for the nomadic Kuchi people, who charged at her, said: “I am not regretful. She spoke against 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s people. She is rude in the way she speaks.”

Haji Niyaz Mohammad Amiri, one of the male MPs accused of trying to attack Mrs Joya, told The Times: “I didn’t hit her or try to hit her. That was some of the brave female MPs.”

Mrs Joya caused a similar outburst at a Loya Jirga — a traditional gathering — in 2003 by insisting that former warlords guilty of atrocities deserved punishment.

Characters Count: 4177

URL for news «Woman MP is attacked in a blow for democracy»