Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

The Women in Time’s Most Influential List 2011: Maria Bashir

Again, Maria Bashir is not a name I recognize immediately, but let’s take a look before I make a decision on whether I think she is influential or not.

  • She is a prosecutor in Afghanistan, focuses especially on cases of violence against women.
  • She couldn’t work under the Taliban so she took to schooling girls in her house. Illegally.
  • She has been a hard voice of dissent to the Afghan government’s practices, especially those that restrict women.
  • She has been honor with the International Women of Courage Award by the US government.
  • She has faced assassination attempts.

I definitely think she is influential for a bunch of reasons. First of all, she is giving other women in Afghanistan someone to look up to. Women in Afghanistan need many things to be empowered, but one part of the picture is having positive female role models, so that women and girls have something to aspire to. Maria is providing that. Second, she illegally taught girls during the rain of the Taliban. This makes her influential because these girls will go on to have better lives because they are educated. Those girls have been directly influenced. Third, she is helping to ensure that laws are enforced. This will directly help Afghanistan to become a better place for women and children. She has been highly influential in this area. And not that I would say this is a true way to measure influence, but she has faced multiple assassination attempts and has guards who protect her. Generally, only people who have enough power to change things face these kind of circumstances. If there weren’t people who thought she was making a difference in Afghanistan, then they wouldn’t try to kill her. So I think she is definitely influential. What are your thoughts? Do you think Maria Bashir is influential or do you disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 


Leave a comment »

“I am never frightened when I tell the truth” – Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya. You many never have heard her name, but I want to introduce you to her, for I believe she is a hero among women and for women. All of the following are in no particular order, because I decided that all of them are of equal importance to know and of equal importance to hear and understand, so that you might get the picture. I know it’s kind of long, but whatever part you choose to read, should it be all or part, I hope you come across and understanding of who she is and what she is fighting for.

Among other things, she

  • was the youngest member of the Afghan parliament ever at 27 (until she was expelled for speaking up about something unpopular).
  • is living in hiding.
  • is still continuing to speak up despite this.
  • was denied a US visa until public outrage got that decision overturned.
  • has been assaulted.
  • has had threats of rape used against her.
  • is a survivor of attempts on her life (current count is at least 5).
  • opposes Karzai and his regime.
  • calls out the American government and says what they’re doing has nothing to do with humanitarianism (something that I agree with).
  • is the author of a book, A Woman Among Warlords, which has been translated into more than 12 different languages.
  • was named in Time‘s 100 most influential people.
  • receives death threats.
  • lives in constant presence of bodyguards.
  • moves every single day.
  • is forced to wear a burqa in order to hide her identity when out and about for her safety.
  • wants to see the war criminals answer to their crimes before international courts.
  • has written op eds about kill teams in Afghanistan for The Guardian.
  • believes people can make a difference, even when governments fail to.
  • established important services under the Taliban, including a health clinic and an orphanage.
  • taught refugees to read and write.
  • received the Anna Politkovskaya award for human rights.
  • got married despite the fact that she can hardly see her husband for the sake of his safety.

She has been described as

  • someone “who has spoken out with incredible courage against the torturers of the Afghan people: the Soviet invaders; the Islamic fundamentalists unleashed by Reagan and the Pakistani intelligence agencies; the medieval Taliban fanatics trained in the U.S./Saudi-backed madrassas established by Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq; and finally the U.S. forces and their NATO subordinates who restored the rule of the warlords and are now themselves killing and destroying in the name of ‘liberation’ and women’s rights” (Malalai Joya on connexions).
  • “Afghanistan’s most internationally recognized activist” (Give Malalai Joya a Visa).
  • “a lonely voice campaigning for women’s rights in her country” (Give Malalai Joya a Visa).
  • “an exemplar of the sort of democracy that embodies women’s rights” (Give Malalai Joya a Visa).
  • “a woman who doesn’t back down” (A Woman Among Warlords: Malalai Joya brings message of peace to Surf City).

Some of the things she has said include

  • “It was obvious from the very first days that the United States had compromised the rights of Afghan women by supporting some of the worst enemies of women that our country has ever seen” (Malalai Joya on connexions).
  • that Afghanistan needs most “an invasion of hospitals, clinics and schools for boys and girls” (Malalai Joya on connexions).
  • “These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears” (Malalai Joya on connexions).
  • “We remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that ‘a woman should be in her house or in the grave.’ In most places, it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished” (Give Malalai Joya a Visa).
  • “the fundamentalists are counting days to eliminate me and silence my voice” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS)
  • “I will never give up and will continue to be the voice of millions of voiceless Afghan people who are still being brutalized and smashed by fundamentalists like the Northern Alliance and Taliban” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS)
  • “The Afghan parliament is the most disgusting and corrupt parliament in the world. Over 85 percent of the MPs [Members of Parliament] are those who should first of all appear in the court for their crimes against our people. They are trying to use this body for their own interests and benefits. Most of the time the warlords present are arguing to increase the benefits given to MPs. They are bargaining for their salaries to be increased, but they have no intention or willingness to work on laws for the betterment of Afghan people” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS).
  • “The voice of me and a number of other democratic-minded MPs is not heard and we are not given time to speak. My microphone has been cut off a number of times when I criticize this situation and want to express my point of view. Once they even physically attacked me inside the parliament and one of them said ‘take and rape this prostitute’ (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS).
  • “Parliament is just a showpiece for the West to say that there is democracy in Afghanistan, but our people don’t need this donated B52 democracy. I am very fed up with the parliament and have no hope for it to do anything for our people. It is a parliament of killers, murderer, drug-lords and traitors to the motherland. The only reason I am there is to have the opportunity to expose the nature of the parliament and the policy makers and become the voice of my people in it. Being an MP gives me the opportunities to raise my opposition, and my voice is heard by others in Afghanistan and outside” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS).
  • “I think that no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Liberation is not money to be donated; it should be achieved in a country by the people themselves” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS).
  • (on the subject of what she wants Americans to know) “I want them to know that Afghan people have been victims of the U.S. government’s wrong policies in the past three decades following the Cold War. They should know that Afghanistan is not “liberated” at all as trumpeted by the Western media. They should know that their government is playing a chess game with our country and is not interested in its stability. They should now that worse enemies of the Afghan people, those who brought Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan and slaughtered our people and committed unbelievable crimes against its unfortunate women, are now in power and backed by the U.S. government. They should know that Afghan people are facing a 9/11 everyday. They should know that under the U.S. occupation, Afghanistan has become the world’s number one opium producer and a large part of it is smuggled to the U.S. Finally they should know that, like all human beings Afghan people love democracy and freedom and dream of a prosperous life. While we hate the war-mongering and criminal-fostering policies of the U.S. government, we feel, acknowledge and thank the sympathies and support of the U.S. people and learn from their humanism and dedication” (Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS).
  • “I never had to wear a burka before” (A Woman Among Warlords: Malalai Joya brings message of peace to Surf City).
  • “We have two choices . . . to sit in silence, or to do struggle. But I’m alive. I didn’t expect to be alive” (A Woman Among Warlords: Malalai Joya brings message of peace to Surf City).
  • “Firstly, the U.S. is not in Afghanistan to fulfill their empty promises of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ but for their own political, economic and regional interests. They installed a fundamentalist, criminal and corrupt regime which is mainly the root cause for many problems of my country—particularly the women’s rights catastrophe—and they continue to nurture them till this minute. Since 2001, more than 8,000 civilians—mostly innocent children, women and men—have been killed in their military operations, such as the massacre of 152 innocent women and children in Balabaluk village, 65 innocent women in children in Kunar province and over 140 villagers in Kundoz province. As the result of bringing such a treacherous government in power, Afghanistan is facing a women’s rights disaster; it is the second most corrupt country in the world and is the highest opium producer of the world, the outcome of which is extremely dangerous as now my homeland has fallen prey for drug mafias, who are far more deadly than terrorists. Afghanistan is suffering extreme poverty—over 80% of people live below the poverty line mainly because of the U.S. imposing globalization system on free market economy which only greatly widens the gap between rich and poor. This disastrous situation is gaining momentum under the very nose of 47 foreign nations present with more than 93,000 US troops and 39,000 NATO troops” (Malalai Joy: From the Frying Pan Into the Fire).
  • “Obama may have brought changes for American people but for my people, he is just a more dangerous Bush. It was during his tenure that civilian casualties increased by 24%. A surge of 30,000 troops was executed which only results in more bloodshed, disasters and mourning and wide military and intelligence bases of the US are being built all over the country” (Malalai Joy: From the Frying Pan Into the Fire).
  • “The current situation of women is quite depressing. Women are subjected to extreme kinds of violence such as rape, killings, kidnappings, acid attacks, cutting of nose and ears. Many such horrible and heart-wrenching crimes against the women and girls of Afghanistan are happening everyday. To escape their miseries, women commit self-immolation and its number is very high in many provinces. There is a huge emphasis in the media about education particularly girls’ education and they just magnify statistics and fool people that 6 million children go to school but now about 5 million children have dropped out—mainly girls because of the high insecurity. Even if they go to school, it is usually a roofless building with no proper books or notebooks and the conditions of schools are very bad. There are women parliamentarians and a women’s ministry and they are the heroines of the mainstream media but practically they are not doing anything for the betterment of the women’s conditions and the situation is getting worse everyday. Furthermore, there have been pro-women laws passed but it is clear that it would never get implemented and the law book is just a collection of useless papers for this regime full of anti-women elements”  (Malalai Joy: From the Frying Pan Into the Fire).
  • “These people are snakes in the sleeves of the government. Only if the government tackles them head-on will we see a brighter future” (Profile: Malalai Joy from the BBC).
  • “Today the Afghan government is the most corrupt in our whole history and the third most corrupt in the world” (Interview with Malalai Joya from Foreign Policy in Focus).
  • “Women’s conditions in some cities have slightly improved since the Taliban regime. But if we compare it with the era before the rule of the fundamentalists in Afghanistan, it has not changed much. Afghan women had more rights in the 1960s to 1980s than today. Rapes, abductions, murders, violence, forced marriages, and violence are increasing at an alarming rate never seen before in our history. Women commit self-immolation to escape their miseries, and the rate of self-immolations is climbing in many of the provinces. Afghanistan still faces a women’s rights catastrophe” (Interview with Malalai Joya from Foreign Policy in Focus).
  • “I am not sure how many more days I will be alive” (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  • “But I don’t fear death, I fear remaining silent in the face of injustice . . . I am young and I want to live. But I say to those who would eliminate my voice: ‘I am ready, wherever and whenever you might strike. You can cut down the flower, but nothing can stop the coming of the spring’ (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  • “Every day in Afghanistan, even now, hundreds if not thousands of ordinary women act out these small gestures of solidarity with each other. We are our sisters’ keepers” (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  • “For fundamentalists, a women is half a human, meant only to fulfil a man’s every wish and lust, and to produce children and toil in the home”  (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  • “If these criminals raped your mother or your daughter or your grandmother, or killed seven of your sons, let alone destroyed all the moral and material treasure of your country, what words would you use against such criminals that will be inside the framework of politeness and respect?” (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  •  “I am never frightened when I tell the truth” (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
  • “In Afghanistan we have a saying: the truth is like the sun. When it comes up, nobody can block it out or hide it” (Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced).
Here are some videos of her being interviewed. The first video is also shown at the beginning of the second video, but I think it’s worth seeing. At the time this video was shot, I believe she was 25 and speaking out against some of the most corrupt people in the world.
All of this is why I think that she is a hero among women and for women. First of all, for not being afraid to speak the truth in the face of intimidation. For speaking up for women in a place where the West portrays them as not being able to speak up. For all of her accomplishments. For everything she’s made it through. She is truly a remarkable woman to me and she deserves a lot of respect.

If you’re interested in reading her book, it can be found on Amazon here.

Malalai Joya on connexions
Give Malalai Joya a Visa
Interview: Malalai Joya on NOW PBS
A Woman Among Warlords: Malalai Joya brings message of peace to Surf City
Malalai Joy: From the Frying Pan Into the Fire
Profile: Malalai Joy from the BBC
Malalai Joya Bio from Afghanistan Online
Interview with Malalai Joya from Foreign Policy in Focus
US Blocks Visit from Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced
Why Can’t This Afghan Activist Get a Visa? 

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: