Afghanistan ousts outspoken lawmaker

Malalai Joya, an activist determined to fight human rights abuses, is booted from parliament.

Published May 21, 2007 10:55PM (EDT)

Today, Afghanistan's lower house of parliament ousted Malalai Joya, a fierce female lawmaker who has campaigned tirelessly against human rights abuses. The vote for her ouster came after a segment from a recent TV appearance was shown in which she compared the legislative body to "a stable full of animals," reports the Associated Press. The comparison isn't exactly off base: A year ago, we wrote about how her colleagues threw water bottles at her on the parliament floor and some threatened to rape or kill her after she criticized the mujahedin.

But, see, there's a law on the books that prohibits lawmakers from criticizing each other. Seriously. Joya suspects the law was written to target her specifically. "Since I've started my struggle for human rights in Afghanistan, for women's rights, these criminals, these drug smugglers, they've stood against me," she said. The 29-year-old certainly came onto Afghanistan's political scene swinging -- in a now-infamous speech in 2003, Joya called the country's warlords "criminals" (as well as "the most anti-women people in the society"), inciting several mujahedin to rush the stage. She also once famously said, "Today, 70 percent of our Parliament are warlords, and the Taliban also have leaders there." Unsurprisingly, she has made plenty enemies -- a few months back, former soldiers rallied in support of a proposal to grant amnesty to those suspected of war crimes and chanted, "Death to Malalai Joya!"

But Joya has plenty of supporters, too. If she is permanently banned from Afghanistan's parliament -- as yet it's unclear whether she'll be allowed to challenge today's decision -- she promises to continue her fight from the outside because "the international community is with me and all the Afghan people are with me."

It seems appropriate to sign off with this recent sound bite: "They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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