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EXCLUSIVE: Brave female MP takes on Taliban in her native Afghanistan

By Kate Mansey, Sunday Mirror, July 26, 2009

Malalai Joya in Press Conference in Kabul on May 21
Malalai Joya has survived five attempts on her life

MALALAI Joya is dressed in a striped T-shirt and trousers with a scarf draped over her shoulders.

She also likes wearing jeans or, on more formal occasions, a smart suit. But in her native Afghanistan she has no choice but to wear a burkha - for fear of being raped, killed or doused with acid by male extremists.

At 31, she is her country's youngest and most outspoken MP - as well as its bravest woman. She has survived five assassination attempts and numerous death threats for speaking out against state corruption and the evil policies of the Taliban. And now she relies on 12 bodyguards who move her to a new safe house every few days. Yet, despite the threats, Malalai has defied her enemies to write a book - Raising My Voice - exposing corruption.

She has even denounced President Hamid Karzai's own brother as a drug-pusher and reveals how ministers travel on fake passports and take backhanders from the nation's massive opium industry.

Malalai also tells how poverty means women sell babies for as little as pounds 6.

But she also thinks British troops are fighting a losing battle - as fundamentalists sit in government and the Taliban can never be overthrown.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Mirror, Malalai reveals how she was even under serious threat when she married four years ago. She says: "All the guests - even the flowers - had to be searched because I have been threatened many times. Another time, a bomb placed on a bridge we were about to drive over exploded but it missed us. We were lucky.

"I don't fear death. One day they'll probably kill me - but they'll never silence the truth." Malalai was born in Afghanistan in 1978 - a year before the Soviet Invasion.

Her family had to flee when she was four, so they lived in Pakistan and Iran before returning when the nation was under Taliban rule. She says: "I was educated in refugee camps. I am of a generation that has only known war and repression. That's why I wanted to get into parliament.

"Education and health for women is not a gift like a bunch of flowers - it's a right."

In a land-marvictory, Malalai was elected to one of the 249 seats in the Afghan national assembly as Afghanistan's youngest MP in 2005.

"I don't fear death. One day they'll probably kill me - but they'll never silence the truth."

Her winning policies centred on education, health care and equal rights for women and she won votes after slamming the corrupt war lords who held power.

But she was thrown out in 2007 when she spoke out about corruption in government. Technically she remains an MP, but cannot take her seat.

Speaking from a safe house on a trip to London, Malalai says: "Rape and violence are increasing against women. After the US- British invasion, the Taliban and fundamentalists only got worse.

"Now women are terrified to leave the house without a burkha on because they fear they will be raped or have acid poured on their face."

Malalai adds: "I have seen places where women were so poor they would sell their fivemonth-old babies for pounds 6 each.

"We thought after 9/11 that the Taliban would be pushed out, but it just didn't happen.

"Now, teachers who educate girls are killed or have their noses and ears cut off."

Malalai says: "I don't want Britain to waste any more blood or money fighting a war in Afghanistan while terrorists sit within the government.

"The best way of helping is to leave - but to never forget Afghanistan."