A Woman Among Warlords: Malalai Joya on Book Tour in the US

Known as the “most famous woman in Afghanistan,” dissident parliamentarian Malalai Joya returns to the US, this time to share her new political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, co-written with Derrick O’Keefe.

Listen to Malalai Joya on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

“Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this inspiring memoir is that despite the horrors she relates, Malalai Joya leaves us with hope that the tormented people of Afghanistan can take their fate into their own hands if they are released from the grip of foreign powers, and that they can reconstruct a decent society from the wreckage left by decades of intervention and the merciless rule of the Taliban and the warlords who the invaders have imposed upon them. It is hard to find words to capture the incredible courage of this amazing young woman, and of the supporters who have gathered to protect her and carry on her work, particularly the many women ‘protesting with empty hands,’ evidence that ‘we are not only victims, and that women have the power to make changes in their lives and their country.’ She also shows how we can provide a helping hand — not with landmines, bullets, and bombs, but with ‘an invasion of hospitals, clinics and schools for boys and girls.’ Joya is raising an eloquent voice, and we owe to her, and to her people, to listen carefully, to learn, and to act.” – Noam Chomsky

“A chilling, vital memoir that reveals hidden truths about Afghanistan and directly addresses the misguided policies of the United States.” – Kirkus Reviews

“One of the few women, and the youngest, to win a seat in Afghanistan’s Parliament, Joya recounts in strong, uncompromising language her march to activism, from her humble origins to recognizing a burning need to bring the corrupted leaders to justice in her war-torn country.” – Publishers Weekly

Ms. Joya’s book tour will take her to New York, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco from late October to early November 2009.

Pre-order the book.


A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice by Malalai Joya with Derrick O’Keefe.

Malalai Joya has been called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan.” At a constitutional assembly in Kabul in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country’s powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan’s new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Often compared to democratic leaders such as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, this extraordinary young woman was raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan. Inspired in part by her father’s activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls’ schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn’t find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl’s family members sold her into marriage.

While many have talked about the serious plight of women in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya takes us inside the country and shows us the desperate dayto-day situations these remarkable people face at every turn. She recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change the country — the women who bravely take to the streets in peaceful protest against their oppression; the men who step forward and claim “I am her mahram,” so the fundamentalists won’t punish a woman for walking alone; and the families that give their basements as classrooms for female students.

A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no  matter the cost.


Recent reviews of Malalai Joya’s book in the UK and Australian Press:

  • “Malalai Joya is an activist, a dissident, and one of the bravest women in Afghanistan. But she is not a politician, and in this part-autobiography, part-manifesto, the youngest MP in her country’s parliament reveals the multiple tragedies of Afghanistan… Read more.
  • “She kept diaries throughout her adolescence but she was initially resistant to the idea of writing a book. A quiet, self-effacing character, she dedicates her biography to women and children, the invisible casualties of conflict and oppression to whom she has given a voice in recent years: “The Bashiras, Rahellas, Bibi Guls, Pukhtanas and all my oppressed people whose sighs, tears and sorrows nobody sees…” Read more.
  • “It is refreshing to read Malalai Joya’s version of events in Afghanistan from the perspective of a woman who has lived through the reign of the tribal warlords, the Taliban regime and the US-supported Hamid Karzai government…” Read more.
  • “This biography should have made Joya a leading player in Afghanistan’s post-Taliban political life. Instead, she is a poster child for its failure. Saluted abroad for her courage and nominated for, or the winner of, a long list of international human rights and peace prizes, she lives clandestinely in Afghanistan itself, suspended from parliament for allegedly insulting the warlords and drug barons who occupy most of its seats…” Read more.
  • “Joya has reasons for ensuring her security. Besides five assassination attempts, she was ousted from the Afghan parliament in 2007 – where she sat as its youngest elected member – on charges of insulting the parliament. Still, she refuses to be silenced. “The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people,” said Joya…” Read more.
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