Huffington Post: A Woman Among Warlords: An Interview With Malalai Joya

By Suzanne Persard
Published in Huffington Post on 10/25/2013

Most publications incorrectly report the number of assassination attempts Malalai Joya has received — the number is seven, not six; and these are only the number of plots that have been counted.

In 2007, Joya, the youngest elected member to the Afghan parliament, was expelled from the government for her denunciation of incumbent corrupt warlords. The then 28-year-old Joya advocated for women’s rights, spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and their locally installed puppets, while deeming the Taliban medieval. Death threats against her immediately erupted, followed by several unsuccessful assassination attempts by the Taliban.

Following her indefinite expulsion from a parliament she has likened to a “non-democratic mafia,” Joya’s unpopularity, which surged at home, spread like wildfire abroad. Applying for entry to the U.S. in 2011 to promote her newly released book, A Woman Among Warlords, while continuing to speak out against the U.S. occupation and its devastating impact on the Afghan people, the State Department denied her entry, citing “unemployment” and “living underground.” Public rallying, including a petition of over 3,000 signatures — including the signature of Noam Chomsky — prompted the department to renege and her visa was granted.

Joya, who appeared in New York City for a series of speaking engagements earlier in October, is easily confused with another similar-sounding activist: 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who also survived a Taliban assassination attempt, but has received much more attention from American news outlets. While Yousafzai was headlined on every major American news channel, Joya’s presence in the U.S. was relatively unnoticed. Although the State Department granted two visas, only one could serve as justification for Western intervention and serve as the voice for oppressed Muslim women everywhere.

But Joya has never subscribed to an imperialist narrative that places the U.S. as the sole liberator of the Afghan people. She has refused to be another poster-child for wars waged under the false banner of Western liberation, and is quick to name the U.S. and NATO as committing the same violences against women as the Taliban and local warlords.

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