"Exhibiting You" - Story

Bravest Woman in Afghanistan

August 2008 Podcast Transcript: Malalai Joya

Submitted: 07/29/2008

From the beginning of Parliament, every time I want to talk, they turn off microphone. And because they couldn't make me silent by threaten or by insulting, for example, they threatened me to rape inside of the Parliament. So you should think outside of Parliament what they are doing with woman. The situation of woman is worse than ever.

--Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya was elected the youngest member of Afghanistan's Parliament, and is currently on suspension for her outspoken opinions. On July 16, 2008, Malalai was interviewed on stage in San Francisco, California, before a live audience. Interviewing her: Marilyn Fowler, founder and president of the Women's Intercultural Network. Introducing the evening's event is Chris Yelton, CEO of the International Museum of Women.

CHRIS YELTON: This evening, we are privileged to welcome a woman who has made and is making a tremendous difference: Malalai Joya. As the youngest elected member of Afghanistan's National Parliament, and past elected delegate for Afghanistan's historic Constitutional Assembly, Ms. Joya has dedicated her life to fighting for democracy and to fighting for women's rights.

Ms. Joya sprang to fame at the young age of 25 years old for speaking out against the ex-mujahideen fighters who dominated Afghanistan's constitutional assembly and now are members of the country's national parliament. She denounced the mujahideen, citing them for their responsibility for Afghan Civil War, which only ended in 1996, after the Taliban seized power. The stance she took led to her suspension from her suspension in Afghanistan's National Parliament in 2007, which is currently under appeal. The stance she took also has led to numerous attacks, threats of rape and death, and four assassination attempts.

Proclaimed "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" by the BBC, Ms. Joya is undeterred by the dangers she faces, and continues to press her case against the ex-mujahideen leaders. Although only able to travel in Afghanistan wearing a burqa and surrounded by armed guards, Joya has insisted that no amount of intimidation will stop her efforts and prevent her from, in her own words, "tackling the warlords with great determination."

Born in the remote southwestern province of Farah, Ms. Joya spent most of her youth in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. She returned to Afghanistan during the Taliban reign, and although education for women was banned, she opened a school for women that conducted classes in secret. During that time, Malalai also established an orphanage and a health clinic, and was soon a vocal opponent of the Taliban. We are deeply honored to have you with us this evening, Ms. Joya.

She will be in conversation with Marilyn Fowler, the founder and president of the Women's Intercultural Network. WIN is a non-governmental organization consultative to the United Nations that links women across cultural, cultures globally and in the U.S. communities for collective action. Please join me in welcoming these two extraordinary women to the stage.

FOWLER: Thank you, Chris. I'm really anxious to find out what's going on in Afghanistan. I know you all are, because we don't know, really, what goes on behind the scenes there. But, I want to start by asking Malalai, because you've heard her history, you've heard her bio. I want to hear her story.

Tell us about your childhood. She left her country during Soviet occupation, went into refugee camps and both Iran and Pakistan, went back in the country, then under the Taliban...what was it like to be a child in an occupied country like that?

JOYA: Thank you. First of all, I would like to give thanks to the friends of International Museum of Women, who invited me here and gave me this opportunity to talk about the ongoing tragedy in my country, Afghanistan, and also about the realities of the so-called War on Terror by U.S. and NATO.

Regarding your question, when Russia attacked Afghanistan and their puppets come in power, most Afghans, they left Afghanistan because security was not good and because of the bad condition of life there. We also left Afghanistan and first went to Iran when I was four years old and, and then, at seven years old, we went to Pakistan. And since I finish 12 class in 1998, with my family, I move back to Afghanistan. It was the domination of Taliban, that there was no chance for woman and girls that, to go to schools and you know about these fascist people, that how much they are against democracy, woman rights, human rights.

And I was happy that on that time, at least, I should be as underground activist, woman rights activist. And we had some literacy courses for young generation, and also for girls, like elementary schools and these classes. But it was underground, with many problems, but I was happy that, even it was many problem, but we were able to teach some girls who are same age of me and some of them younger, and there was no chance for them.

But after two years working there, we left Harat province and moved with my family to Farah province, which is my own province. And there, we had health and education activities. Again, on behalf of that NGO which I worked in the period? of Taliban, the name is Organization of Promoting Afghan Woman's Capabilities, which famous in Afghanistan with the name of OPAC. And there, we start to have not only education activities, health activities, also.

As our friend Chris said, that, like a clinic, we had to give free medicine for patients as much as we could, and also, orphanage, literacy courses, computer courses, and unfortunately, today, day by day, we lose our project, because of lack of money and this government is a corrupt warlord/druglord government, like many other. Some other democrat NGO and democrat parties that we have in Afghanistan.

We also have much problems: security problems, economy problems, but we are happy. People support us, and we hope that together, next to our people, but by help of great democrat people around the world, men and women who join their hands and help us to improve our activities, especially education.

FOWLER: So how did you then become an activist out of that background?

JOYA: Yeah, when I was the oldest daughter of my family, that, when we left in refugee camps in Peshawar in Pakistan, that, in high school and 8 class, I start to be here like social activist. I become teacher of literacy courses. In the morning, I was a student. In the evening, I become teacher. So it was the first experience that I start working. And my people, especially woman.

And after, when I finished school in '98, I preferred to work with this NGO, to start working with them, because the main goal of them, which was interesting for me, that they said we have activities for woman and girls and children who are the most victims and first victims during the war. So that's why I get decision to continue to this, and went to Afghanistan and accept this risk, and still continue this struggle on behalf of my people, next to them against the enemies of woman, and also human rights and democracy in our country.

FOWLER: And then you went into Parliament in 2003, is that right?

JOYA: Yeah. As I had close contact with people in some villages that this, this [trades] that I went sometimes distribute some materials for people, poor people on behalf of this, like, NGO. So, everyone knowed about me. We had health and education activities. When I become candidate, I was the youngest one that...even I was not sure that people would vote me, but on this age, that after the clapping and voting, I understood I am the first winner, and it, it was a big responsibilities on my shoulders.

And then I went in Loya Jirga 2003, that there I saw those I heard a lot about them in refugees camps as close contact with people I had as a social activist then in period of Taliban and after that. And I read in some books about them. They're well known killers. They're criminals of our country, warlords, drug lords that unfortunately after 9/11, they come in power with the mask of democracy. That's what they found in our Loya Jirga in 2003 also.

For the first time, I saw their faces. The one, some wanted criminals, even by Human Rights Watch has been announced as a wanted criminal, that they must face to the court. So there, the situation of Loya Jirga, thereby they got non-democratic. That's why I thought this is a good tribune if I use for the benefit of my people to tear the mask off these warlords and criminals, not for my people. Everyone knowed about them, for the good people around the world, that they want to deceive them. That's why my life has been changed.

FOWLER: And tell us a little bit about women in Parliament. We have, in this country, we have 16% in the Senate. You have 22, 23% in your lower and upper houses. Is that right? In Parliament.

JOYA: In Parliament, for example, from 249 seats, we have 68 seats belongs to woman. More, even, than some European parliament. Everyone, when they are hearing this news, listening this news, it's a good news. Sounds for them good news. But unfortunately, as majority seats of Parliament, over 80% seats of Parliament belongs to warlords, drug lords, and criminals that, who, that cheating, who used guns, who were in power, controlled Afghanistan and they, that's why they found way in our national house.

So most of these representatives are not real representatives, and these woman also, as for some of them, these warlords that campaign, some of them are educated fundamentalist ladies. Democrat men and women in Parliament, we have very less. Even, we can count them, unfortunately. But majority seats belong to those that who are first of all, against the woman rights that unfortunately, even when a fundamentalist lady once threatened me to death, that said, "If you do not sit silent, I will do something against you that no man dare to do."

Just I said, "You are victim in my opinion." And we have this kind of woman also. Unfortunately, democrat woman are less, and this, the 68, most of them, they have just symbolic role, like [unintelligible] to deceive people around the world.

FOWLER: Do the women...do most of the women in Parliament work together? I mean, do you feel you have a, a sisterhood there, or a caucus of sorts?

JOYA: As I said, majority member of Parliament are not good members, and they have very bad background, and they have links with each other. Mentally, they are same like Taliban, but physically has been changed, because before domination of Taliban from '92 to '96, they did civil war in Afghanistan and alone in the capital of Afghanistan, they kill 65,000 innocent people. And they did many violences against woman rights, human rights.

So they come in power and they found when our national house, unfortunately. So most of these men and woman MPs, so-called MPs, are not real representative. But democrat MPs, men and women, they have no problem among each other. But unfortunately, we are less. We can do nothing, as they use democracy against our people as a majority seats belong to them and as they wish, they do.

For example, I remember when Parliament is start, they were so worried that because after when Saddam Hussein has been hanged, that they were worried that after that, maybe it will be their turn to face to court, that to be persecuted. So, the first thing that they did in Parliament, they made amnesty bill, that criminals forgive themselves, and it was easy for them.

FOWLER: Well...

JOYA: They voted, and even our president signed this disgusting bill. People did demonstration. Me and some other democrat MP that we were there, we raised our voice against this disgusting bill, but who listen the voice? And many example like this, as every law today in Afghanistan is on the paper. This constitution itself is like a beautiful thing in the shelf of these warlords, in this corrupt warlord/drug lord government to deceive people around the world.

And today, we have in Afghanistan jungle law. For example, four times in Parliament, they beat a journalist. We have freedom of press in our constitution. They threaten them to death, in national house. There's no freedom of speech, as it's elementary part of democracy that many times, from the beginning of Parliament, they threaten me to death, for example. They threaten me to rape inside of the Parliament. One of the fundamentalist MP shouted, "Take and rape her!" So you should think outside of Parliament, what they are doing with woman. As today, the situation of woman is worse than ever, and I have many example to say.

FOWLER: Didn't they pass...didn't they pass a specific law in order to put you out of Parliament because of statements that you've made?

JOYA: Yeah. As I said, from the beginning of Parliament, every time when I want to talk, they turn off microphone, threaten to death, et cetera. Because they couldn't make me silent by threaten, and also by turn off microphone and insulting, etc., so and also, censor, show censorship of interviews that I had, and also some speeches in the Parliament.

But recently, one year, before on 21st May, an interview I had about Parliament, as I said, members of Parliament separate to two parts. First part are democrat, who as I explained before, that we are very few in the Parliament, and there's no chance for us unfortunately, very less chance. The only things that we can do, we raise our voice against this act, through some media, that unfortunately, even there also, our voice has been censored. And now they quite banned me from media also right now.

And then they used one of my interview, they did censor first part, which was about democrat. The second part, which was about these fundamentalist MP and so-called MP's that I said that was an animal stable. It's like zoo, because of some crimes that not only in the past, lots of crimes they committed that right now, also under the name of this so-called democracy, they are doing against our people and also mix Islam with politics, especially against woman. Then let me to give you some examples, like a political conspiracy.

FOWLER: Now, wait a minute. What was...so the actual quote, her actual quote, which you said on television, was referring to the legislature, "A stable or a zoo is better. At least you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk."

JOYA: Yeah, I said.

FOWLER: And I said to her earlier, you know, this is mild compared to what goes on in our elections. And yet, they put her out of Parliament for that.

JOYA: I want to tell you here, at least you have maybe...I don't know about your parliament, but if here will be most member will be democrat, of course it will be like national house. There will be less chance for fundamentalist and at least the democrat can play their role and do something.

Anyway, but in Afghanistan, three forces today in the hands of these fundamentalists and infected with the voices of the fundamentalists today. Especially in Parliament, that, as I said, majority seats belongs to them, and it was like a political conspiracy that they used one of my interview that censored and against me.

Because of lack of time, just give, let me to give you only two example that, when...some of these so-called MP's, they did this crimes, and then you should compare with some animals that, as I mentioned some name that why I compared. For example, one MP, his name is Piramkul, he killed two innocent child. One was seven years old, another six years old. And put them in the pocket, which made by clothes, by stone, threw in the river when they were alive. Then people, they find the dead body.

They had a very big demonstration in Tahar province, but nobody listened the voice and this so-called MP enjoying in the Parliament, and the dad of this children come and they are crying. They are, they are telling me, "Malalai, please tell to everywhere that they killed my babies in this wild way. Why killing the babies?" And another is so-called MP has son, with three more men, they raped 14 year old girl. Her name is Bashira in Sar-e Pol province, and today, this son is free because he is the son of the so-called MP. Otherwise, the son, first of all, must go to the court.

And another is so-called MP, a wanted criminal, his name is [Seyof]. He seize the lands of the people by force and has government inside of government in Parvan province. And when people, they did demonstration and burned a picture of [Seyof] and threw the stone through the picture of this criminal, then he killed about 60 persons has been killed, and some of them injured. And some of them have been kidnapped, because he has personal jails.

And nobody's talking inside of Parliament. Four times, they had demonstration, once in front of the door of the Parliament. And this list can be prolonged, that crimes today, they are doing. For example, another wanted criminal, his name is [Rabani], right now enjoying in Parliament from Badakhshan. About a group of these warlords, they raped 22-year old woman there in front of the children, then peed on the mouth and face of the children.

And on the media, only few days, media giving this report, but nobody follow these cases, because nobody dare to talk about, and there is no justice. And this list can be prolonged, that these so-called MP are doing, head of the Parliament. [Kanuni] he's the...before he was Minister of Education, and he stole 25 million dollars from the education budget, and he has case. Right now, Attorney General means the court of Afghanistan has case for 30 persons of Parliament, members of Parliament that they must face to court, but they are not ready to face.

And many example like this. At least this animals, if doing any, for example, killing, like this, they are animals, wild animals, but they are so-called MP's. They are saying we are MP, we are human. And many example like this. But today, they censored my interview and used it against me. Tomorrow, people, they demonstration. One TV used my interview against me.

Another TV asked question from people around the world because of their own business...sorry, around Afghanistan, not the world, that, like, ask question: "Are you agree with Joya that she is saying this is worse than animal stable?" 80% of people the answer says yes. 20% said no. Another night, they add a question that "Can she go back to Parliament?" 90% said yes, 10% said no. And people had demonstrations, and outside of Afghanistan, supporters around the world raise their voice, even the demonstration, but who listen the voice?

And many example like this, and they told me if I say apology, I can go back to the Parliament. I said, "No. I must say apology to those useful animals, some I compare with these criminals."

FOWLER: And I read that you had outed some of the warlords in Parliament. I mean, how, how were they hiding themselves? How do...who are the warlords? How do you know who they are?

JOYA: Yeah, the warlords, they are well-known killers. As I said, from '92 to '96, they come, they did civil war in Afghanistan. Everyone, they wanted to be in power, and the foundation of the fundamentalist parties was in the pocket of CIA and [ISI], like, like [Rabbani], [Sayof], [Mohakech], [Halili], [Napiramkol], like, [Hazratelli], [Hajifferi], the list, at least nine persons of them right now in you can see in Human Rights Watch and many other websites. If you want, I can give you.

Like [Ismailhan], that right now, most of them are enjoying in Parliament. Some of them are ministers of Karzai, assistants of Karzai, and they made right now a national front. And in the beginning of this national front, when they announce this so-called national front, Mr. Karzai himself said, in the back of this order, foreign hands. Means they are puppet of Russia and Iran. Our people are saying, "If they are puppets, so why they are around of Mr. Karzai?" And, and, and many example like this right now.

They are in power, and that's why today, they changed Afghanistan to the mafia center, and also, there's lots of violences against women. System is so corrupt, I have many examples. Later, if we have chance, I should give you shocking news, and because they are mentally same like Taliban, that unfortunately, after 9/11 tragedy, with the mask of democracy, suit and tie, they come in power. And they imposed on our people by U.S. and allies of the U.S., just because of its own strategy policies, they come in power. And unfortunately, U.S. and allies of the U.S. occupied our country under the name of democracy and woman rights and human rights. And today, we are as far as from these values as were in 2001.

FOWLER: So what was the effect, what was the true effect after the U.S. invasion?

JOYA: I said that our country goes to a disaster. Now, some example, as I said now, Afghanistan, 93% of opium produced in Afghanistan. Even find its way on the streets of New York and Europe, and under the nose of thousands U.S. and eyes of troops, you are looking the most problem of our people is security. Every day is a bomb suicide in Afghanistan. Few days before I leave Afghanistan, a strong bomb suicide happen, horrible suicide in front of India embassy, that 200 people has been killed and injured.

And a baby, I saw that she lost her mom and crying for her, and family I know who lost five members of her family. And another bomb, bombing they did in wedding party, on, on 6th of July. That there, 48, sorry, 47 persons has been killed, and even the bride. Same happen in Nuristan province, that there, also, 27 persons in one day. Every day is a shocking news. This list can be prolonged, that under the nose of these thousands U.S. and eyes of troops are happening.

So when we don't have security, how we should talk about democracy, woman rights, human rights? And many examples like this, that it's true that for example, in some big cities like Kabul, Herot, Mazar-e Sarif, some woman, they have accesses to job and education, for example. And just, they show this through TV, but not the shocking news that catastrophic situation that in Afghanistan, just to deceive people around the world to put dust on their eyes.

And this is the policy of U.S. and also this corrupt government, warlord/drug lord government. As for example, you are looking that while billions of dollars, this so-called government receiving from the so-called international community under the name of widows, orphans, reconstruction of Afghanistan, etc. Two months, few months before, they are ready to sell their babies for only ten dollars. Could you believe?

And some people, they are eating grasses because of poverty, and about 15% in Samangan province in north of Afghanistan have died. And about fifteen school in Nimruz province, they close the door and teachers are not ready to teach their students, because this three months, they didn't get salary. And salary for every teacher per month is $60 to $20. That everything is expensive in Afghanistan, it is nothing, this salary. But while, those who are working with government and, they have very, very good salary, and very high, high level...how to say? My English is not very, very good.

Anyway, how much education is important. You are looking that how much it is day by day that they are burning schools, that teachers are not ready to go to schools and students because of security also. And many problem like this today, we have in Afghanistan. When, when you compare negative with positive, positive, even, I, I don't want to tell. It's very less. Very less. If we had a democrat government, that these warlords, drug lords, criminals who was not in power, it was possible to rebuild Afghanistan two times from that much money that we receive from this.

FOWLER: So, are the people of Afghanistan, are they supporting Karzai now, or not?

JOYA: If people of Afghanistan supported today, Karzai's government was not that much weak. Even Michael [McConnen], himself reported that government of Karzai has control only in 30% of Afghanistan, but on behalf of my people, I am telling you, Karzai's government has no control outside of Kabul.

Even in Kabul, you heard about [Sirina] Hotel. You heard about last incident in the front of the Indian embassy, how much they are safe place. You heard about [Vasirak Balhanda], the famous wanted criminal like [Dostom], with another, his commander. They are, they start fighting and kidnap and continue to their crimes, and nobody dare to make a case or a file against. And this example should be allowed that day by day, security getting worse, and even while people are saying Karzai is not able to be like a mayor of Kabul.

And this is good opportunity for Taliban, these terrorist people also, improve their activities. And also, neighbor countries make use from this situation, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, et cetera. U.S. also happy with this, because want to have a reason to stay longer in Afghanistan. And Karzai's government also happy, this corrupt warlord government that money also from the so-called international community goes in their pocket. And they are in power and continue to their fascism.

FOWLER: I'm going to shift to questions from the audience now. The first one is "Most Americans believe that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is important. How do you see that?" What do you think about that?

JOYA: As I said, unfortunately, U.S. and allies of the U.S occupied our country under the name of democracy, woman rights, human rights. And our history shows that we do not accept occupation. Three times, English attacked Afghanistan, didn't become successful. Once, Russia was superpower, same like U.S., didn't become successful. And they faced with the resistance of our people. And I am sure that one day, these troops also will face with the resistance of our people.

As today, you are looking, people are doing demonstration against the foreign troops, and, because you are looking that under the nose of these thousands U.S. and eyes of troops, the most problem of our people is security. And also, they are doing bombing some cities. We are killing Taliban, but the ordinary people are the victims. Most of them are children and women in our country. And many example like this.

For example, U.K. government is saying, "We need to stay in Afghanistan for 38 years to fight against terrorism." It's clear example of occupation. Our people are making simple fun that superpower country with 40 more countries are powerful, or medieval-minded people like Taliban, these terrorist people who created by U.S. and has been destroyed their government by U.S. and allies of the U.S. As I said, only they want to make a reason to stay longer in Afghanistan, and our people are saying, "We don't expect anything good from you, just stop wrongdoing." Right now, you are looking...

FOWLER: Right. So what would you suggest? This is the next question. What would you suggest the United States do to improve the situation in Afghanistan?

JOYA: Yeah, our people, they wish that after 9/11, they give chance to democrat being in power, the democrat...well-educated people in Afghanistan as we have. Inside Afghanistan and outside, very high-educated professors. We have well-educated men and women. We have, but unfortunately, there is no honored job for them. Government only support, and day by day, getting weak. And many problem, that they have security problem, economy problem, etc.

Anyway, but our people wish that after 9/11, these democrat come in power, they are the only alternative. But they brought in power these Northern Alliance, then they wished many times that they said, "Democrat organization, democrat intellectuals, etc.", that... for example, in 2003, I, myself, I said that this policy of U.S., allies of the U.S. is wrong policy. This is mockery of democracy and mockery of war on terror.

First of all, if they want to be honest for Afghan people, try to make disarm the Northern Alliance, slowly, slowly, who are the brother and creed of Taliban, as they disarm [Ismailhan], who was one of the wanted criminals. Few years before, they made powerless. Not true. Process such as D.D.R. [in Doyog], when they wanted, it was easy for them. And before, they said, "No. Ismailhan is powerful. It is impossible," etc. But when one day, when he kill 200 people, then are many crimes did like this in the west of Afghanistan, then it was easy for them to make him powerless.

And also, that second option, the international community, together with U.N., they must stop countries like Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, etc., who make use from this situation, support Taliban, and also, this Northern Alliance, they have their own puppets. And the third option, again, I am telling you, the only alternative is a democratic-minded men and woman in Afghanistan. Intellectuals and parties who are very big.

So this seven years, we are lucky that they don't want to put this action, three action, in practice. So they occupied our country. That's why our people believe that as soon as possible, they must leave Afghanistan. As you are looking, they are doing demonstration against foreign troops. And we don't want occupation. Our history showed. No nation can donate liberation to another nation, I strongly believe. This is the responsibility of our own people, to bring values, thank you, to bring values like democracy, woman rights, human rights.

And our only hope is that democratic-minded men and women, great people like you in U.S. and around the world, that you join your hands with democrat men and women of Afghanistan, voiceless and suffering non-educated people of Afghanistan, that nobody listen their voice. You are the only hope. And always, again, I am telling you, nations are separate from their own policymakers. We are so honored that we have the strong solidarity and support of great people of U.S. and around the world, which gave us hopes, determination, courage to continue to struggle against these fundamentalists and warlords.

FOWLER: What...here's the question for...a personal question. How is your family, who are in Afghanistan? How are they treated now?

JOYA: My family, as my second name is my personal name, which I liked, and nobody know about my family, where they are living. They are in Afghanistan, but fortunately, nobody know because of their security. And many propaganda right now in Afghanistan, they left Afghanistan. She's not anymore in Afghanistan. They banned me from media and also, they even took my diplomatic passport that, they know when I am going outside, I expose their mask for the great people around the world. And people of Farah province, before a letter of government goes there, they made another ordinary passport for me. Itself shows the solidarity of people that day by day, what I said coming true and day by day, people do more support. Those people, who are very suffer, very poor people, and they, I am honored that they support me and didn't leave me alone. And my family, also, they are not better than them. Fortunately, they support me.

FOWLER: All right. Are you speaking with democratic governments around the world other than coming through the U.S., and if so, what has their response been?

JOYA: Democratic?

FOWLER: Other Democratic governments around the world.

JOYA: Yeah. Those who are policymakers, high-ranking officials, they don't want to meet, of course. I expose the mask of their agents, as we have a puppet government today, their puppets are in power, and but what some democrat who are working with government in some countries, their supportors organize some event with them, especially with the democrat members of Parliament in different countries. I had meeting with them. You can see on my website.

But it is not enough. As I told you, it's a prolonged struggle, a risky struggle. We need more support and solidarity. More than politician, we need the support of great people around the world that they must raise their voice against the wrong policy of their government, especially those who are working with government. These democrat, always, I said: The silence of good people is worse than the action of bad people.

FOWLER: Taking to account your very long history, what do you feel is a realistic future for Afghanistan and women?

JOYA: For women, now, what it is...it looks like a daydream for our people that those who committed many crimes against woman rights and human rights in our country, first of all, they must face to the national, international criminal court. That, of course, we wish that first, our people physically, they themselves will face them to the court, but we need at these moment, helping hand of great democrat people, human rights, woman rights activists around the world.

And for woman, as of a population of a country, as woman, always I'm saying a country is a society is like a bird. When one wing will be injured, how the bird can fly? So the society, of course, woman also. If they do not play their role, how the country will improve? As in the history of our country, we had many heroine in our country that now we follow their path that even they, they sacrificed their life for what they believed, for woman rights, like Malalai [unintelligible], Nahid, Raijyah, Minah, who are the great leaders of Afghan woman, that they believed in woman rights and also some activist woman that recently has been killed in Afghanistan that, like, maybe you hear, like, [Shekipa Sangalmaj], [Zekia Zeki], [Safi Almajan], Nadia [Enjeman], this list can be prolonged.

That they want to play their role. They, they lost their lives, and many more secret heroines in Afghanistan today, we have, that underground, they are working, and openly, they are working, risking their lives. But nobody listen their voice and they need your help. And this government don't want to give chance and political power and economic power and social powers and cultural power and every part. I believe if to give to chance to democrat woman, especially some of them play their role much better than some men. But unfortunately, this government don't want to give them chance.

Anyway, and I am risking the life and working in this mission, and the men hope and wish that this fundamentalist face to call the leaders of this three-period war in Afghanistan. As today, this is the policy, main policy of the U.S., to want to make united the criminals of three-period war in Afghanistan: puppet of Russia, criminal mujahideen, and leaders of Taliban. As today, while even one member of Parliament is Talib, another member of Senate is the Talib, Mullah [As-Allarah] [Moni], Mullah [Raketi] is in Parliament. Mullah [Matawakal], foreign minister of Taliban, has a very good life in Kabul in the safe place, every expense is paying from government.

And why he is not going to Guantanamo Jail, all of these dirty-minded elements? And [Rahmatallah Hoshibi], and other dirty elements, dirty mind elements? He was the spokesman of Taliban when they destroyed our borders status. Right now, he's enjoying in the [Yale] University. First of all, democrat members of this [Yale] University, these democrat teachers, professors, students, they must take out this dirty elements from the university. Why he is not going to Guantanamo Jail, as we have many democrat, many good...how to tell you, intellectuals...no, sorry...talent, students, we have, that, Afghan students in the U.S. that they don't have this chance to go to Yale.

And many example like this that U.S. don't want to make them powerless, and the only hope is again, I am telling you, democrat people around the world, that, to work in this mission, that one need to face them to the court. They are like Pinochet, Hitler, Khomeini, Mussolini, Suharto, etc. One journalist telling me, "Malalai, why you do not sometimes compromise with them? Maybe it will be good for the future of Afghanistan. Maybe they regret from their past." I said, "First of all, they are not ready to regret."

As you are looking, this is after 9/11 that the continue more with their fascism, and give the very bad view about democracy to this most suffer people of Afghanistan, and same, give a very bad view about Islam to the people around the world, as committing many crimes under the name of Islam against our people, especially woman. And they are so afraid from secularism. So today, they are in power. So as long as they will be in power, there's no hope to come positive changes in the life of men and women in our country.

FOWLER: Here's a next question, and this person put her name on it. This is from Sylvia. If you had a chance to take over power from Karzai, if you personally had that opportunity, what are the first three things you would do to improve the life of Afghans, children and women?

JOYA: Yeah. First of all, I wish that those who come in power will be a democrat, not a puppet. And when you try to do honestly, something for your people practically, as our people are looking, who do something practically? Then people will support. As I believe, power of people is like power of God. If today, people, if these, most of suffer people of Afghanistan supported this government, today that much was not weak.

And another main goal was that to have security. When we don't have security, how should we talk about other values, that right now, we don't have in Afghanistan. Security is more important than food and water. And as a president, as someone who's coming in power, first of all, for example, after many years' war in Afghanistan, must accept some risk! Risking the life. Do not do compromise with the sworn enemies, tested enemies of their country as our president right now doing compromise with these warlords.

For example, I am telling you one example. [Izatellah Waseffi], [Izatellah Waseffi], for four years, in [Nawadah] stayed in jail. As a drug lord. After when he become free, he become governor of Farah province, where I'm living. From Farah means I am from this province. There, after six months, he did lots of corruption, drugs, violence against women, etc. People did demonstration, but Karzai instead to make powerless this man, shifted to higher post after demonstration of people. Today, this [Izatellah Waseffi]'s head of anti-corruption in 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

And many example like this. Because of lack of time, I can't tell you. So, must not do compromise. Then, education is very important key. Key solution of the country, that if the people will have education, nobody will be able to deceive them. And they themselves stand up. As you are looking, people are doing demonstration. Most of these, non-educated suffer people, man and woman. If they will have education, they will play their role much better than today.

These are steps to our democracy. And also, for children, of course, that the family will not be worried that someone will kidnap them, will rape them, as case rape happens a lot, rising in Afghanistan, even more than in the history of Afghanistan. And unfortunately, again, because of lack of time, I can't tell you. And also, we want justice, how much it is important, and the main wish, and daydream again, I'm telling you, that leaders of three-period war in Afghanistan, we want to face them to the national and international criminal court.

And the leaders, when go to the court, face the court, be powerless. Then their commanders do not dare continue to their fascism. As today, our people are like sandwich between two powerful enemies: Taliban, who are anti-U.S. Terrorist, Northern Alliance, who are pro-U.S. terrorist. Both of them are enemies of our people.

FOWLER: Let me ask you one last question. We have lots of questions. My hunch is that if you write them, can they send them to your website?

JOYA: You should give them my website. Maybe have more questions. Unfortunately, because of lack of time, now, I ...

FOWLER: Yeah. What's...tell us your website.

JOYA: My website, malalaijoya.com.

FOWLER: Okay. Let me ask her one closing question for all of us. Afghanistan will be a big issue in our presidential election, and what do you want to say? What would you want to say to the next president, the next Congress of the U.S., which will be coming in January?

JOYA: First of all, on behalf of my people, I want to say that they must change this policy, which is a mockery of democracy and mockery of war on terror if really, they want to be honest for Afghan people and try to support democratic-minded men and women intellectuals in Afghanistan who are unfortunately, they are very weak.

And also, these troops, as soon as possible, they must leave Afghanistan, as we don't accept occupation. And also, when they are giving money, do not give money to this warlord corrupt government, as recently as Paris Conference 21, million dollar again, they wanted to give, promised to give to such a corrupt government. As some example, I told you about how much people are poor, and about more than 60% people of today, they are jobless, and we need that they, they start our factory, work on this. And many other, I don't know the name in English, that the country can stand up on its feet, like mine. Mine? You are say...underground, some precious stone that we have. Something like this.

Anyway, to find job for people to do something. To find job for people. But right now, we are looking that most of money from the so-called international community goes into pocket of these warlords, and education is very important. We want to improve. And again, I am telling you, we don't have any wish from the, the, these so-called governments, as you are looking, that this, they are occupied Afghanistan and also Iraq. At least, these two countries should be example.

The only hope is the democrat people around the world, including U.S., that you must raise your voice against the wrong policy of your government and do a struggle here and join your hands with democrat men and women in Afghanistan, as I believe, a famous saying: "The nation who liberates itself is free, but the nation who pose as liberators of others will lead them into slavery," as we saw that, practically, at the end. Thank you.

At the end, I want to tell you, they will destroy all of the flowers, but they never can stop the spring. One day, we will have democracy, women rights, human rights in our country. And we need your more solidarity and support, which has huge, huge moral value for us.

FOWLER: Thank you, Malalai.

HOST: You've been listening to Afghan politician Malalai Joya, in conversation with Marilyn Fowler, founder and president of the Women's Intercultural Network. The evening's event took place in San Francisco on July 16th, 2008 as part of the International Museum of Women's speaker series: Extraordinary Voices, Extraordinary Change, in conjunction with the online exhibition Women, Power and Politics.

Extraordinary Voices, Extraordinary Change brings together notable women doing extraordinary things on behalf of political, social and economic change for women worldwide. The series is made possible by generous support from Wells Fargo Bank.

Women, Power and Politics is a groundbreaking multi-media, multi-lingual online exhibition that showcases inspiring stories of women claiming and exercising their power. It connects women from around the world to transform their communities for the better.

Visit our website to explore more stories of remarkable women at exhibitions.globalfundforwomen.org. If you enjoyed this podcast, we hope you'll subscribe to our monthly series.

Thanks for listening!


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