ZNet | Afghanistan
by Gina Whitfield; Seven Oaks; May 26, 2007
Malalai Joya, the most outspoken of the 68 women currently elected in Afghanistan, has been suspended from parliament. A relentless critic of the warlords and assorted war criminals in the Karzai government, legislators kicked her out after viewing a television interview in which she likened the parliament to a “zoo”.
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 up shop in Kandahar.
From this “in-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 cup of coffee. 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, a constitutional assembly. Then in 2005 the young feminist, aided by the grassroots support she had generated, 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 parliamentary chambers, 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 25% of female 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:
“The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the ‘Northern Alliance’, which is made up of the sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, and are as dark-minded, evil, and cruel as the Taliban…
The Western media talks about democracy and the liberation of Afghanistan, but the US and its allies are engaged in the warlordization, criminalization and drug-lordization of our wounded land.”
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 that the Foreign Minister himself referred to a fellow parliamentarian as a “dog” in the House of Commons, without repercussions.
For speaking truth to power, 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.
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