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A Woman Among Warlords book signing with Malalai Joya

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Malalai Joya was invited to speak at the University of Calgary by the Afghan Canadian Students' Association. Calgary, Canada. 10/10/2010

Tory Ansuwan, Co-Founder, Demotix News, 11/10/2010

Malalai Joya University of Calgary

Malalai Joya is an Afghan politician who has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan." As an elected member of the Wolesi Jirga from Farah province, she has publicly denounced the presence of what she considers warlords and war criminals in the parliament. She is an outspoken critic of both the Taliban as well as the present Afghan government of Karzai and its western supporters.

Emotions filled the room as Malalai Joya (this petite and seemingly quiet woman) gathered her notes from the previous television interview and made her way to the lonely desk I was anxiously waiting at.

Sweating and shaking from nerves created by a mix of first-time-meeting jitters, a meager timeframe, and a venture into a world I felt would change mine forever, I decided the best way to feel comfortable was to use Malalai’s policy and speak the truth. My heart jumping, like it was in competition with Kurt Browning, I explained that she was my first real interview. This tiny but mighty woman in front of me looked down like a shy school girl and said, “Oh, I hope I do good!” I immediately relaxed and thought to myself - she’s human!

My first question was how she saw Afghanistan in 2020. She did not hesitate to take the realist approach by speaking truthfully about the war. “The tragedy of 9/11 was a good excuse to occupy my country.…In time people stand up and choose a democratic mind. But it take(s) time.”

A Woman Among Warlords

Malalai’s book describes many of her personal inspirations. I, like so many others, wanted to know who motivated her to be so strong. The words she spoke were not surprising. She explained that there are many heroes and heroines around the world that contributed to her resolve, stressing that her fellow Afghan women were a constant reminder that she must never give up. Although her words did not surprise me, her emotions did. I'm sure Malalai has answered this question a thousand times yet she still choked back tears while talking about "her people" and the strength they gave her. She told me through her emotions that what she says is not mechanical and rehearsed but from the heart.

Reading from page 34 of “A Woman Among Warlords”, I quoted: “Why are we not from Palestine, where even the children are so brave?” I asked Malalai if these are the people that set an example for the Afghan people to follow and if there is a country that she would see Afghanistan model its future after. Malalai's response was more powerful this time saying that the Palestinian people have been an example around the world. She went on to accuse all governments of corruption and criminal acts against humanity blaming them for creating super-powers around the world and producing dictatorships they call democratic. On a softer note she emphasizes that "we must all learn from each other (good and bad)."

Our time had quickly run out but this last question seemed to have struck a chord with Malalai as she persisted with facts and strong words for countries that call themselves "democratic." I wanted to learn more about the "truths" about the rulers of the world and we agreed to connect again for further discussion.

Throughout the interview Malalai fixed her eyes on mine and they did not stay once. While she answered any question I had with conviction and honesty she was just as intent on making sure I was getting her message right so that I would in turn relay it with total understanding.

I could have sworn this woman now towering above me had, only 10 minutes earlier, come up to my shoulder. It took less than ten minutes to change my world and grow 2 feet!!

As I walked out of the room, proud of myself for controlling and resisting my star-struck urges to praise Malalai, get her to autograph everything I had and touch her burka-free hair (she loves her hair) for the entire 10 minutes, I felt a deep understanding and connection. I felt like she was a friend. I trusted her, respected her and appreciated her.

Little, mighty Malalai walked proudly into the room of 150+ people waiting to hear her speak. Her dark hair was pinned slightly back with a button fastened on either side of her blazer that read “No to Nato” on her left or "Out of Afghanistan NOW!" on her right. She glanced from her notes to the audience (which did not consist of any member of the Canadian parliament might I add) respectfully waiting to speak after her introduction as a "very inconvenient woman".

Back to her petit self, Malalai stood at the microphone and let out a soft hello and a shy thank you for the introduction and applause. She immediately dove into the facts and her purpose for being in front of everyone. She grew again!

Stop wasting tax dollars and lives in Afghanistan. The civil war is inevitable as “freedom cannot be donated,” so let Afghanistan have their war and solve their own problems (problems the westerners cannot possibly truly understand) instead of delaying the process, creating more enemies to fight, and killing more innocent people. This is Malalai's mission in a nutshell until it is completed. She has fact after fact, story after story and the passion and knowledge to make everyone in the audience want to shed a tear, fight for peace, get angry, learn more, do more and take a stand.

Malalai's passion is contagious and her love for her country is endless. She wants to ensure that everyone understands the truth and will not be deceived. She is right and will modestly prove it. She may be the inspiration of many around the world but many around the world were, and still are, the inspiration for her.

One person may not be able to change the world but they can inspire and improve it, which is very powerful! Even Malalai Joya, who has stood bravely on the frontlines of the political war and fight for women’s rights and will continue to do whatever it takes to be heard, understands the power that each and everyone of us has and trusts that we will all take just 10 minutes to change the world with truth.