A female Afghan activist became a woman among many last weekend in Calgary.
Malalai Joya co-author of "A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice" spoke at the University of Calgary, during her cross-Canada tour. Promoting her book co-authored by Derrick O'Keefe, a Canadian writer, the Afghan born activist brought a message of peace and solidarity to an audience of about 40 people.
"Right now I'm honored that not only my voice become the voice of these voiceless people of my country, also it has been joined with the voice of anti-war movement around the world," said Joya.
Malalai Joya shows images of people in her war-torn country of Afghanistan to a crowded room at the University of Calgary on Sunday October 10, 2010.
Photo: Asha Siad/Calgary Journal
Condemning and criticizing warlords and political stakeholders of Afghanistan at the Loya Jirga inside the Afghan parliament in 2003, she was the youngest woman elected to Afghanistan's parliament in 2005. She has also survived five assassination attempts.
TIME magazine named the 32-year-old activist as one of it's 100 most influential people in the world for 2010, saying that she showed "true fiber" for landing a seat in parliament and refusing "to be silent in the face of the Taliban and warlord zealots."
The magazine noted that she triumphed despite "expulsion from parliament, warnings, intimidation and attempts to cut her life short."
Dressed in a grey suit and wearing a content look on her face, it's difficult to even comprehend what Joya's journey has been like and where it has taken her.
Marina Fawn, vice president of the Afghan Canadian Students' Association at the University of Calgary, said inviting Joya to speak was a decision based on Canada's involvement in the Afghan war.
"We decided that right now we are at a critical point in time where the Canadian government is debating whether or not to extend our mission in Afghanistan and [Joya] obviously has a very critical take on the occupation right now by NATO," Fawn said.
Joya's hope is that the people of Canada, the U.S and around the world give moral support and stand up against the wrong policy of their governments. Joya wants them to know the reality of the so-called war on terror by U.S and NATO and how democracy never comes by the occupation of a country.
Joya also emphasized that educational support is necessary for bringing peace.
"Education is the key to world emancipation," said Joya.
Fawn said it was a great opportunity for Calgarians to hear Afghanistan's on-going issues through a different perspective: one from an Afghan woman who has experienced and faced difficulties.
"She's a very active advocate for justice, whether or not people are supporting the occupation or they want our troops to pull out," Fawn said. "What's really important is that we're listening to a woman who has bravely stood up against corruption, against human rights abuse. She runs free medical clinics and she runs schools for children as well. This is a woman who is on the ground with the people."
Joya said she would like to use her fame for improving women's rights and human rights. She added that while today most woman in Afghanistan don't have human rights, most men and women in Afghanistan do not have liberation right now.
"They raise their voice many times, nobody listens their voice," said Joya.
Joya believes in equal rights for men and women and understands there is no unity having one without one another.
"Society is like a bird: one wing is woman, one wing is man," Joya said. "If one wing will be inactive society will not improve. Both must be active."