Afghanistan: Rallies and Human Rights Watch seek end to Malalai Joya's suspension Print E-mail

May 25, 2007

Rally held in support of Malalai Joya in Jalalabad

By Abdul Mueed Hashmi 

Participants of the rally, carrying banners and placards and chanting slogans in favour of the female MP

JALALABAD: Dozens of people, including women, Thursday staged a protest rally in this eastern city to support ousted female MP Malalai Joya and condemn those responsible for her expulsion from the Parliament.

Participants of the rally, carrying banners and placards and chanting slogans in favour of the female MP and against warlords, gathered at the Hospital Square.

They marched through the centre of the city to reach the office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The protestors handed over a joint declaration, demanding restoration of the membership of the female MP, to the UNAMA officials.

Shabana, one of the protestors, termed the Lower House decision as illegal and unconstitutional.

"Joya is not only representative of the Farah people, she is representing women all across the country," said Shabana, who asked for immediate restoration of the legislator.

Another protestor Gul Makai said Joya's ouster from the Parliament was a conspiracy hatched by those accused of war crimes and human right violations.

"They (warlords) have hijacked the Wolesi Jirga and consider Joya's presence in the House in tussle with their interests," said the young protestor.

The participants later peacefully dispersed. On Thursday, a similar protest demo was staged in the western Farah province, the home province of the 29-year-old ousted female parliamentarian.

In a TV interview on May 21, Joya criticised the parliament for failing to accomplish enough for the Afghan people. In a video presented to the parliamentarians, Joya was shown as saying that "a stable or a zoo is better than the legislature, at least there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk. This parliament is worse than a stable or a zoo".

Later, a vote of no-trust was presented against her in the House on the ground that she had violated article 70 of the legislature's rules of procedure, which forbids lawmakers from criticising one another. Her specific crime was mentioned as "insulting the institution of parliament".

On Thursday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also demanded reinstatement of Malalai Joya and asked the Parliament to ensure freedom of expression for the MP.

The HRW statement said that Joya had committed no crime by criticising her fellow MPs because the legislators are usually criticising each other.

It is still not clear whether her membership of the Parliament has been cancelled for the current session, which will last for a few weeks, or the rest of tenure of the existing Parliament, which will come to an end in 2009.

 May 24 2007

Rights body, people want Joya's reinstatemen

By Abdul Rauf Liwal/Zubair Babakarkhail

  FARAH CITY, May 24 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and hundreds of people from the western Farah province Thursday demanded the immediate reinstatement of female member of Parliament Malalai Joya.

Referring to Joya's suspension for criticising her colleagues, the HRW statement demanded revision of the parliamentary procedures that restrict freedom of speech.

On May 21, the Lower House of Parliament voted to suspend the MP from the western Farah province for comments she made during a television interview.

It is unclear whether Joyas suspension will run until the end of the current parliamentary session or she will be suspended for the remaining term of the Parliament which ends in 2009.

"Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and she shouldn't have been suspended from Parliament," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Joya's comments don't warrant the punishment she received and they certainly don't warrant court proceedings," he insisted.

In her criticism of the parliament what she called a failure to accomplish enough for the Afghan people, Joya told her interviewer: "A stable or a zoo is better (than the legislature), at least there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk. This parliament is worse than a stable or a zoo."

The HRW noted that members of parliament were regularly criticising each other, but no one else has been suspended.

"The article banning criticism of Parliament is an unreasonable rule that violates the principle of free speech enshrined in international law and valued around the world," said Adams. "The Afghan Parliament should be setting an example by promoting and protecting free expression, not by stamping it out."

The rights body urged the Parliament to take steps to revise article 70 and ensure that elected representatives can speak freely without fear of suspension or lawsuits.

"Joya is an inspiring example of courage," said Adams, who added: "Afghanistan's international friends should not hesitate to speak out in her defense."

Meanwhile, scores of people in the western Farah province took to the streets to register their anger at the ouster of Female MP Malalai Joya from the Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of Parliament.

Chanting slogans in support of their representative, the protestors, including a number of women, gathered at the main square in the city, where the organisers delivered speeches.

Head of the Farah provincial council Belqis Roshan rejected the suspension of Malalai Joya and said the move was an insult to the female MP.

Belqis said Joya was the true representative of the people as she had bagged more than eight thousand votes during the September 18 parliamentary elections from Farah province.