Rabble News, May 24, 2007
Malalai Joya kicked out of Afghan parliament
For speaking the truth, Malalai Joya has been tossed out of the Afghan parliament
by Gina Whitfield
The expulsion of this outspoken feminist illustrates the hollowness of the claims of women's advancement under occupation, something that is confirmed by human rights reports that tell of continuing women's inequality.
Malalai Joya, the most outspoken of the 68 women currently elected in the parliament of Afghanistan, has been suspended from parliament. A relentless critic of the warlords and assorted war criminals in the Karzai government, the legislators kicked Joya out after viewing a television interview in which she likened the parliament to a "zoo."
Malalai Joya, the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament (Photo: Darren England)
Ordinary Canadians can be forgiven if they have yet to hear of Malalai Joya. After all, the main things about Afghanistan in the media of late have been the Stanley Cup's visit (accompanied by ex-NHL tough guys Bob Probert and Dave "Tiger" Williams), assorted celebrities entertaining the troops, and the fact that Tim Horton's has opened shop in Kandahar.
From this "n-depth" coverage, Canadians might think that "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" is a reference to one of the low-paid Tim Horton's workers at the base handing the troops their roll-up the rim to win mocha. In fact, it's the tagline being used to promote a Sundance award-winning documentary that looks at the courageous career of Afghanistan's most prominent women's rights activist.
Malalai Joya first made global headlines when, still in her early 20s, she denounced the presence of warlords and fundamentalists at the loya jirga preceding the 2005 elections when the young feminist, aided by the grassroots support she garnered, was elected. In parliament, Joya has continued to speak out against the presence of human rights violators in government, including many former Mujahideen fighters and commanders.
For this, she has had water bottles thrown at her, been shouted down, denounced as a “prostitute,” and threatened with rape and murder — all of this occurring in parliament, no less. Forced to travel under armed guard, she has survived several assassination attempts.
This war in Afghanistan has been justified, ad nauseam, as an effort to free women from their oppressive men by the likes of notorious women's libbers Stephen Harper and George and Laura Bush. So it's outrageous that a woman like Joya lives in constant danger, and has now been ousted from the “democratic” parliament. (The Afghan Constitution does, it should be noted, unlike Canada or the U.S., guarantee a minimum of 25 per cent of women representatives).
But, of course, Joya's message goes considerably off script as far as the architects of the “war on terror” are concerned. In April of this year, for instance, she was in Los Angeles to tell a story rarely heard in North America:
One can see why officials of the Karzai government and its NATO backers have failed to champion Joya's case. But the expulsion of this outspoken feminist illustrates the hollowness of the claims of women's advancement under occupation, something that is confirmed by human rights reports that tell of continuing women's inequality.
Even without this latest outrage against Malalai Joya, the notion of a feminist foreign policy by the Harper government is absurd. After all, this Conservative government has cut funding to equality seeking groups, scrapped the national day care program, and gutted Status of Women Canada. And lest we forget, the Foreign Minister himself referred to a fellow parliamentarian as a “dog” in the House of Commons, without repercussions.
For speaking the truth, Malalai Joya has been tossed out of the Afghan parliament, and it would seem unlikely that the Harper government will protest this blatant attack on women's equality and participation. More likely the spin doctors in Ottawa will continue planning frivolous photo ops with more retired hockey enforcers, while leaving the women of Afghanistan at the mercy of the goons in the NATO-backed government.
Gina Whitfield has an M.A. in Sociology and Equity Studies from OISE at the U. of T. She's a feminist activist and photographer and a contributing editor at Seven Oaks Magazine.
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