UPDATE, March 24, 2011: After mounting pressure and support from activists and members of Congress, the US government has granted Malalai Joya a visa to enter the United States, according to Afghan Women’s Mission. The center’s co-director, Sonali Kolhatkar was pleased to hear the news,
“We are ecstatic and gratified that the government finally did the right thing and allowed Malalai Joya into the country so that Americans could hear what she has to say about the reality of the war, and particularly how Afghan women are faring under the occupation.”
Malalai Joya is set to continue on with the speaking tour she was scheduled to do, including a visit to San Francisco in the Global Exchange sponsored event, “Ending the War in Afghanistan: An Evening with Malalai Joya.”
Ever since her speech in 2003, where she stood in front of an assembly of fundamentalist leaders calling them anti-women “warlords” that should be prosecuted for their crimes against humanity, Malalai Joya has been a target of five assassination attempts.
The youngest person to be elected to the Afghan Parliament–a post she won by a landslide–Malalai Joya has been a vocal defender of human rights, has called for the end of the oppression of women and above all has been an outspoken critic of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan.
It is Malalai’s bravery to speak the truth about the crimes of the warlords, of the religious fundamentalists and of her country’s struggles against foreign occupation that has led to her getting kicked out of Parliament and has forced her into hiding to be shielded from the constant death threats. Despite these numerous attempts to silence her, Joya refuses to remain silent.
A few days ago, Malalai Joya was set to arrive in the United States for a three-week speaking engagement to promote her book, A Woman Among Warlords, when she was faced with another attempt at being silenced. However, this time it was not the Afghan Parliament trying to keep her quiet, it was the US government when they denied her a travel visa due to the fact that she is “unemployed” and “living underground.” Reasons that make no sense, especially since her applications have never before been rejected.
One can only suspect that she was denied a visa due to her clear criticism of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan. In an e-mail interview with TIME Magazine, Malalai stated,
“[The Afghan government] has probably requested the U.S. to not let me enter… because I am exposing the wrong policies of the U.S. and its puppet regime at the international level.”
This move by the US government has been deemed unacceptable and a violation of rights. According to ACLU’s Carol Rose,
If her criticism of US foreign policy is the reason for her visa denial, then Joya is the latest target of ideological exclusion [which] denies the right of American citizens to hear and engage with prominent thinkers from other countries. In so doing, it violates the rights of free association and speech of Americans who wish to engage in an exchange of ideas with visiting authors, journalists, and scholars.
When our government excludes leaders, journalists, scholars, authors and poets from our shores, it violates the the First Amendment rights of the American people.”
You can take action. A national network of activists have declared today, March 23rd a National Call-in Day to demand Malalai Joya’s Visa.
Call Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department at 202-647-5291 between 9 am to 5 pm Eastern Standard Time. Press “1” and leave a comment stating that you are outraged at Malalai Joya’s exclusion from the U.S. and that you would like the State Department to immediately grant Ms. Joya an emergency appointment and visa at any U.S. Embassy she has applied.
We should not allow the administration to go against its promise to promote a ‘global marketplace of ideas’ nor should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–a noted advocate for women’s rights–allow for the exclusion of a prominent female voice in the public discourse.
Malalai Joya’s speaking tour was set to begin on the 20th, where she was set to travel to several cities, including a Global Exchange sponsored event on April 9th, to call attention to the on-going war in Afghanistan and demand that foreign troops leave.
- Malalai Joya is one of many human rights heroes that have been nominated in Global Exchange’s People Choice Awards. Cast your vote or nominate your own human rights hero.
- Find out firsthand about women making change in Afghanistan by going on one of our Reality Tours.