Joya is a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Farah province. The Wolesi Jirga is
the lower house of Afghanistan's parliament or national assembly. In September
2005, she became the youngest female member of the Wolesi Jirga, when she
received the second highest number of votes in Farah province. However, she was
suspended on May 21, 2007, after she violated Article 70 of Afghanistan's
parliament, which prohibits its members from openly insulting one another.
Joya had recently compared the members of the Wolesi Jirga to a "stable or
zoo" on an interview with Afghanistan's Tolo TV. The video of the interview was
shown to the members of the Wolesi Jirga, and they voted by a clear majority
that Joya had broken Article 70, and disrespected her fellow Wolesi Jirga
members. They suspended her for the rest of her term. Well known western
personalities and organizations have been pushing for her suspension to be
Joya gained international attention on December 17, 2003, when as an elected
delegate to the Loya Jirga convened to ratify Afghanistan's constitution, made a
brief speech in which she criticized her "compatriots" as to why they were
bringing the legitimacy of the Loya Jirga into question by including the
presence of criminals, and that they instead should be put on trial for their
crimes. By criminals she was referring to the former Mujahideen leaders who
fought against the Soviets, and were also present in and participating in the
Since then, Joya has repeatedly referred to the former Mujahideen as criminals
and warlords and has asked for them to be removed from the government and
punished for what she states are "war crimes" against the people of Afghanistan.
Well known Afghan figures such
Mohammad Yunis Qanuni,
speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, and
Mohammad Ismael Khan, former governor of Herat and current a member of Hamid
Karzai's cabinet have been targets of Malalai Joya's verbal attacks in the
media. Ismael Khan is considered by many Afghans to be a hero for his fight
against the Soviet invaders and the way he rebuilt Herat after the war was over.
While Kabul was in chaos after the Soviet war, Herat had a booming economy, and
Ismael Khan had built schools, parks, and drastically improved the lives of
Afghans in the province.
Joya has not only been openly critical of Afghanistan's government, especially
it's elected Mujahideen members, but the United States as well. In an article
she wrote for the US based, The Nation, published on October 7, 2008, Joya
wrote: "US and NATO forces kill more Afghan civilians than enemies of Afghan
people. Thousands of innocent Afghan women and children have been killed in the
US/NATO operations." In the same article, Joya also wrote: "My suffering people
have been well and truly betrayed over the past seven years by the US and
allies. They were invaded and bombed in the name of democracy, human rights and
women's rights...” She ended the article with this: "Afghan people today believe
that the United States is willing to put us in danger as long as its own
regional and economic interests are met. Because years of conflict in
Afghanistan have raised political consciousness, people here hold the United
States responsible for pushing Afghanistan to its current tragedies."
Since her suspension, Joya has done numerous international media interviews and
public appearances in the west, speaking against former Mujahideen which she
refers to as warlords, and voicing her opinions on Hamid Karzai's government and
the United States, and what she sees as their utter failures. She has even won
various human rights awards, such as the Anna Politkovskaya award which she
received on October 6, 2008 in London. However, there are many Afghans that are
very critical of Joya. She is seen as politically unsophisticated. Some wonder
if her attacks on various former Mujahideen members are ethnically motivated.
She has even angered many by accusing Afghan officials of using Islamic law as a
tool to limit the rights of women in Afghanistan.
Malalai Joya was born in 1978, and is married, but with no children.
by Abdullah Qazi / October 16, 2008