As Afghanistan prepares to hold presidential elections later this
month, issues such as security, corruption and lack of economic
development are at the forefront. But many say one key promise seems
to have been forgotten - improving the rights of women. Veteran
Afghan women's rights advocate, Malalai Joya, made the case recently
during a visit to London.
London, Malalai Joya is free. Free of her burqua, free to gaze from a
window without fear of being shot, and free to speak her mind on the
issue of women's rights in Afghanistan.
Joya is here to promote
her memoir, "Raising My Voice". It documents her life from when her
family was forced to flee Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, to
the present day. She says her generation has only ever known war.
brings out a photo of young girls going to school in Kabul in the
1960s. She says women then had more freedom than they do now. She says
the fight for women's rights and against government corruption must
"You know, the truth itself is enough to give me hope,
power, determination," said Joya. "Also, the suffering of these poor
suffering people of my country, innocent people of my country...men and
VOA first met with Joya last year in Kabul - after an
arduous drive through the city with Joya's bodyguards directing every
move to make sure no one was following and the meeting would be safe.
Here, she wears her burqua.
"Most of the women are wearing burqa just to be safe. I wear burqa because of security," she said.
has reasons for ensuring her security. Besides five assassination
attempts, she was ousted from the Afghan parliament in 2007 - where she
sat as its youngest elected member - on charges of insulting the
Still, she refuses to be silenced. "The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people," said Joya.
It's images like these motivate Joya. She says Afghanistan's women and children are suffering the most.
photos, taken by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan, document an increasing and frightening trend of
self-immolation, or suicide by fire, among Afghan women.
"They don't have a human life. Situation is like hell for them, as there is no justice," said Joya.
will go to the polls later this month but Joya says she has no
confidence a truly democratic government will be elected.
it has become increasingly difficult for people like Joya to speak
out. Many, including journalists, have paid with their lives.
Joya says she knows she could be next. "I don't fear death. I fear political silence against injustice," she said.
Joya says if the fight for women's rights does cost her her life, there
are many young, brave women in Afghanistan who will carry on her fight