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The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan

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Malalai Joya goes to extraordinary lengths just to stay alive.

Dheera Sujan. South Asia Wired, March 15th, 2010

Malalai Joya collecting one of her many international prizes

She’s been called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan”. But then again, Malalai Joya comes from a country where you’re taking your life in your hands by simply speaking your mind. It’s a risk that the elected parliamentarian takes daily.

Malalai Joya’s demands for basic rights for women have earned her a place on the Taliban’s most hated list, and when in 2007 she denounced some of her country’s most excessive warlords, aka, fellow MP’s, they responded by publicly threatening her with rape and execution. She is still fighting her suspension from Parliament.

Joya passionately demands that all western military forces should leave her country and calls their presence there an Occupation. She believes that over the course of the last eight years, despite millions of aid dollars and much trumpeted western re-construction efforts, the life of the average Afghan has not improved. In a recent interview she gave for South Asia Wired during her most recent trip to The Netherlands, she said that “jungle law” still ruled Afghanistan.

Malalai Joya goes to extraordinary lengths just to stay alive. She can maintain no semblance of what most of us would call a “normal” life. She sleeps in secret and frequently changed locations; it’s not safe for her to maintain an office to meet the people who seek her help, and she can travel around her country only under the shadow of burqa and bodyguards.

Malalai Joya talking to Gert Jan Rohmensen for South Asia Wired:

Considering how many women have been killed in Afghanistan for the simple act of going to teach or study at a school, her chances of making her 50th birthday seem slim.

But in response, she has this simple truth for her enemies: “You can destroy the flowers, but you can never stop the spring.”