I wrote a blog post at the end of 2005 about Malalai Joya, a young female Afghan Member of Parliament who had caught my attention when I saw report of her speaking out against the warlords, war criminals and drugs barons she said were in the Parliament and holding senior government positions – calling them “blood sucking bats” clawing at the men and women of her country. This morning I had the privilege of hearing her speak at a breakfast organised by UNIFEM to mark International Women’s Day.
The breakfast attracted an enormous crowd of 1300 people, which gives some indication of the interest this very brave woman attracts. I believe she is also giving further speeches over the next few days in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide.
She gave a very powerful and quite confronting speech about the current situation in Afghanistan, which sounds truly appalling. The situation faced by most women remains dire, and the grip of various violent fundamentalists seems little better than it was under the Taliban. She was quite angry that people known to be involved in serious violence and killings were being supported in such power. She specifically mentioned recent legislation passed by the Afghan Parliament which provides an amnesty for war criminals.
She had held a small meeting the day before with members of the local Afghan community in Brisbane, most of whom are refugees. I saw a couple of them at the breakfast and asked them their views. They were very much in agreement with Ms Joya’s comments and said she was even more powerful and compelling at the meeting the day before, where she had been able to speak and engage in discussion in her native tongue.
I must say I have no idea how the situation in Afghanistan can be overcome. Taking on powerful warlords and trying to put them on trial, or even trying to sideline them, would probably generate even more upheaval. But things are certainly not going to advance if they keep receiving tacit support from western countries. I’m not sure of what the best alternative path is, but the current one seems to be heading the wrong direction. Supporting people like Malalai Joya and other genuine democrats seems like a good alternative
This Wikipedia entry contains some details about Ms Joya and many links to reports of her comments. The website of the Defense Committee for Malalai Joya also contains a lot of information. Her courage in standing on such fundamental issues make a stark contrast to the pathetic mud-slinging and pompous posturing that is currently dominating so much of Australian politics.
ELSEWHERE: An account of Malalia Joya’s speech can be found in this piece at Online Opinion. Some interviews and articles can be found in The Courier-Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph.