For Immediate Release
A U.S. Embassy today granted acclaimed Afghan human rights activist and former MP Malalai Joya, a visa, a little over a week after she was initially turned down. The outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan was informed at her initial visa interview that because she “lived underground” and was “unemployed” she would not be allowed into the U.S. for an extensive speaking tour, even though she had been granted visas 4 times over the past several years. Due to the visa denial, Joya has already missed all her events in New York and Washington DC and is now on her way to Boston to attempt to finish up the rest of her tour.
Afghan Women’s Mission’s Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar responded to the news saying, “We are ecstatic and gratified that the government finally did the right thing and allowed Malalai Joya into the country so that Americans could hear what she has to say about the reality of the war, and particularly how Afghan women are faring under the occupation.” Kolhatkar added, “It is a testament to the nationwide campaign that was launched by our national coalition of organizations and individuals who worked very hard to put the events together and to bring her to the U.S.”
The co-writer of Ms. Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warlords, Derrick O’Keefe, was optimistic that the visa hold-up would boost audiences for her speaking tour. “This is a victory for free speech, and I’m confident that over the next couple of weeks thousands will welcome Malalai Joya into their communities — Americans need to hear in-person what she has to say about the U.S.-NATO war,” said O’Keefe.
The campaign to pressure authorities to grant Ms. Joya the visa was a multi-pronged one. Within days of her initial visa refusal, organizers in many states lobbied their representatives in Congress to send a letter to the U.S. Embassy urging them to grant her a visa. Washington Congressman Jim McDermott took the lead on signing the letter. Representatives Jay Inslee, Keith Ellison, Peter Welch, Betty McCollum, Bill Pascrell, and Senators John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, and Patty Murray co-signed the letter.
Following that an online petition was set up, which has been signed by over 3000 people to date, including well known activists and intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler, and many others. And, on Wednesday March 23rd, a national call-in day was announced, calling on Americans to flood the State Department with phone calls urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant Joya a visa.
While Ms. Joya was forced to physically miss all her events in New York and Washington DC, she managed to make a presence via live video chat or recorded video talks. She now heads to Boston to pick up the remainder of her tour. From Massachusetts she heads to Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minneapolis, Oregon, Washington, and California. Click here for a full schedule of events.
The nationwide speaking tour coincides with the paperback edition of Malalai Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner). Copies of her books will available for sale at her speaking events.
Malalai Joya is available for a limited number of interviews during her tour. Contact Sonali Kolhatkar (626-676-7884) or Natalie Reyes (562 319-3046) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Praise for Malalai Joya and A Woman Among Warlords:
‘The youngest and most famous of all the women in the Afghan parliament…a powerful symbol of change’
‘A courageous female MP’
– The Times
‘… one of the few symbols of hope for Afghanistan’s future.’
– New Statesman
‘Quite simply the most passionate and devastating critique of Western intervention in Afghanistan I have ever read.’
– Peace News
‘[Has] spoken her mind as few Afghan women dare to do’
– New York Times
‘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.’
– Noam Chomsky
‘Unwavering in her mission to bring true democracy to her country…Women have been known to walk for miles just to touch her. For them, she is their only real hope for a better future’
‘Joya is a model for women everywhere seeking to make the world more just.’
– Six women Nobel Peace Prize laureates
‘Joya’s pain and bravery are genuine and can be felt on almost every page’
– Christina Lamb, Sunday Times
‘A fascinating account of Afghanistan’s political reality…Malalai Joya has been compared to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi’
– Irish Times
‘Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women.’
– Human Rights Watch
– John Pilger
– The Independent