Afghan parliament member warns of oppression in her country

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(Host) A member of the Afghan parliament says despite efforts to bring democracy to her country, regional warlords hold the power. Malalai Joya says the result is the same lack of freedom and women’s rights that marked the period when the Taliban was in power. She is visiting the Upper Valley to raise awareness of the situation in her country.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Few women in Afghanistan have attracted as much attention as Malalai Joya, some of it unwanted. In her home country she’s been the target of many threats and a number of attempts on her life. Armed guards accompany her when she travels in her country.

The 27-year-old Joya has run afoul of powerful people because she’s spoken out. She’s criticized her own parliament, the Afghan government and the courts, which she says are dominated by regional warlords who have little regard for human rights.

Joya says since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the faces have changed, but the attitudes have not. She says the U.S. invasion replaced one oppressive government with another.

(Joya) “They physically changed and they learned how to talk about democracy, how to wear a suit and tie, but mentally they are the same, like the Taliban. Because after the domination of the Taliban, there is no fundamental change in Afghanistan, unfortunately.”

(Zind) The Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights to women, but Joya says the reality is very different. She says women in the city of Kabul have shed the burka and returned to schools and careers, but it’s a different story in areas beyond the capitol. She recites a list of the names of women who have been killed by a spouse, stoned for an alleged transgression or kidnapped. Joya says in some parts of Afghanistan suicide is a major cause of death for women.

She calls the possible death sentence against an Afghan man who converted to Christianity an example of how warlords are using religion to exert power.

(Joya) “And this is the main reason right now these warlords are completely against secularism. Because if we have a secular government in Afghanistan, they do not have the chance to put someone in jail or kill them.”

(Zind) Joya says she’s come to the United States to appeal for the moral support of the American people and the material help of the U.S. government in helping individuals and organizations struggling to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Norwich.

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