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Afghan Lawmakers Suspend Female Colleague Over Comments

May 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The lower house of Afghanistan's parliament today suspended Malalai Joya for recent remarks suggesting that the legislature is like a "stable or zoo," RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported.

In an interview broadcast by the independent Tolo Television, she also reportedly compared parliamentarians unfavorably with "donkeys," "cows," and loyal "dogs."

The suspension vote reportedly came with a show of hands, and could exclude Joya until the end of the current term in 2010.

In announcing the result to the chamber, Wolesi Jirga (People's Council) speaker Mohammad Yunos Qanuni said that Joya's "irresponsible comments, insults to the National Assembly and government officials," her membership "will be suspended until the end of the current term."

It was unclear after the vote whether she might have any legal or procedural recourse to challenge her suspension.

Parliament spokesman Mohammad Hasib Nuri cited an article of the legislature's code of conduct that bans members from insulting each other. He also said lawmakers have asked that a court complaint be filed against Joya.

'Political Conspiracy'

Joya, a , 29-year-old whose blunt assessments helped her earn a seat from the western Farah Province, did not attend today's parliamentary session.

She has called the vote a "political conspiracy" that follows strident opposition from an assortment of "criminals" since she began her "struggle for human rights...[and] women's rights."

She has vowed that if she is prevented from promoting her agenda inside the legislature, she will continue her campaign against "criminals" independently.

"I'm not afraid on any threat from [former warlords], and they will not be able to force me to turn my back on the true ideals and principles of my people," she said.

In a country where security and warlordism are a top concern, Joya has warned that "everyone would know" that her critics were responsible if any harm came to her.

But she also insists that she is "not alone" in her human rights and women's rights campaigns, saying today that "the international community is with me and all the Afghan people are with me."

Taking On The Warlords

Indeed, many former wartime leaders with questionable rights records hold key positions of power within the year-old legislature.

Joya complained publicly at Afghanistan's Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003 of the participation at that watershed event of mujahedin leaders -- some of whom she has suggested are war criminals.

In May 2006, Joya was pelted with empty water bottles by other female lawmakers while male colleagues made threats against her during a legislative session. That melee erupted after Joya accused some former mujahedin of mass murder.

The issue of the mujahedin legacy is among the most intensely divisive issues in Afghanistan.

While the mujahedin's fierce resistance eventually helped repel Soviet invaders after a bloody 10-year war, there is considerable evidence that many of those same leaders committed atrocities against fellow Afghans.

(with material from AFP, AP, dpa)

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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