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Afghanistan: Suspended Lawmaker Insists Hers Is Voice Of The People

May 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In Afghanistan, legislator Malalai Joya was suspended on May 21 by her colleagues in the parliament after she compared them unfavorably with barnyard animals. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged her reinstatement, calling her a "staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and Joya says she is waiting for the country's Supreme Court to rule on the validity of the suspension. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan broadcaster Freshta Jalalzai spoke with Joya, who has waged a long campaign for justice against "criminal" warlords and perpetrators of wartime atrocities.

RFE/RL: Some have said that you suffer from a mental illness. Is that true?

Malalai Joya: No I'm [fine]. I want to tell you that this is the result of the political bankruptcy of the enemies of our country -- particularly enemies of women and democracy, who make such accusations and spread such poisonous propaganda. I'm happy that with each passing day, I realize the truthfulness of my comments. And I've been supported all along by my people, and it encourages me every day. Yes, I'm fine and healthy.

RFE/RL: Will you attend a parliamentary session?

Joya: They have fired me from the parliament. I don't grant it any importance, because to me what's important is that our people voted for me, and I'm an elected official. The legal experts, lawyers who have contacted me, have said that this is not within the competence of the parliament and that I should attend [parliamentary sessions].

RFE/RL: So you will go?

Joya: No, they've referred me to the court. If a trial is supposed to take place; then the criminals should be tried first. [Editor's note: Joya's reference to "criminals" is presumably a reference to former warlords and perpetrators of wartime atrocities.]

RFE/RL: If you think [the suspension] is against the law, then why don't you attend the parliamentary session?

Joya: I don't recognize these [procedures outlined in the unpublished Code of Conduct that was cited by legislators] that they have on their agenda. The fact that I don't go there means that I grant no importance to the [procedures] they create or to their behavior. But I will wait until things become more clear; I want to see people's reactions.

RFE/RL: Why did you receive so little support among women in the parliament?

Joya: Unfortunately, in many cases, women who have been in power have had only a symbolic role. In the parliament, there are also women who got votes from warlords and criminals; and they campaigned for them, so they act based on what those [warlords] want. Women have been beaten up because of me, they have stood by me. But those women who have threatened me -- even with knives and scissors; they've said, 'We will treat you in a way that even men will not,' -- women who have insulted me and those who have made an arrangement with criminals. I don't take [their lack of support] personally.

RFE/RL: Do you agree that you insulted the other side?

Joya: No. This is also because of their political [failure]. My power lies in my voice; and I've acted according to my conscience. Fortunately, all of my speeches and interviews have been documented -- they've been taped. And some journalists -- specifically Tolo Television -- [published my comments in a sensationalistic manner] intentionally to alter opinion and [stir up] people's views about me. Inside the parliament, those legislators who go on foreign trips and pose as politicians, they want to change the views of people around the world. This is vain and futile. When I call the parliament "a stable" -- or, as people claim, I call it "a zoo" -- I'm of the same view as our people. As each day passes, I realize the undemocratic nature of the parliament. Compare this with comments by legislators who break the law and pose as lawmakers. What is the difference? Which is more indecent?

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

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