'Bravest' Afghan woman MP in live link at Galway peace party


A FEMALE politician described as “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” is to be guest of honour via a live link at a New Year’s Day peace party hosted in Galway.

Malalai Joya, a member of the Afghan parliament, has survived four assassination attempts and is said to be hated by the Karzai government which banned her from parliament, and by the Taliban.

She is due to speak by telephone link to the Galway Alliance Against War gathering in Galway Rowing Club at 7pm tomorrow.

The Galway anti-war alliance says Ms Joya’s address would be transmitted live from a safe house in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

She grew up as a refugee in Iran and Pakistan before returning to a Taliban-controlled home state, where she taught women as part of a secret educational network.

Her delight at the ousting of the Taliban in 2001 “soon faded when she realised history was about to repeat itself”. The first death threat against her was issued after Joya criticised involvement of warlords and criminals at an initial sitting of the national assembly.

Some 87 per cent of Afghan women are illiterate, and only 30 per cent of girls have access to education, aid agency figures show. One in three Afghan women is subject to physical, psychological or sexual violence, up to 80 per cent are forced into marriage, and average female life expectancy is 44. The suicide rate for women is higher than for men.

In her book Raising My Voice, co-written with Canadian author Derrick O’Keefe, Ms Joya describes the harshness of a political life in constant hiding.

Alliance spokesman Niall Farrell said the peace party’s purpose was to highlight the Afghan situation and to mark the new decade.

“The so-called ‘noughties’ was a decade of war, which was disastrous for the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for Irish neutrality. It’s time for a new resolution. It’s time for the Irish people to re-embrace our traditional policy of neutrality,” he said.

“Shannon airport should cease being a US military installation; the small number of our soldiers stationed in Kabul should be withdrawn from that war zone, not increased, as is the desire of some of those in Government and in the higher echelons of the Irish Defence Forces,” he added.