Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Raising My Voice by Malalai Joya

Category Afghanistаn, Iran
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The book I studied is “Raising my voice” by Malalai Joya. This is the extraordinary story of the award winning Afghan woman who dares to speak out. She was born in Western Afghanistan. Three days after she was born, a soviet-backed coup changed her life forever. Within a year, Afghanistan was an occupied country, and she says “since then war is all we Afghans have known. ” (p. 7, 2009) Her childhood was spent in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. Her family were forced to leave Afghanistan to avoid the war. This was not a welcoming experience.

“Afghans were seen as second-class humans by the Iranian government. (p. 19, 2009) Her father who was a Doctor was forced to do difficult jobs for very low wages, simply because he was an Afghan and not Iranian. Her family spent four years living in terrible conditions as exiles in Iran. “About 85,000 Afghans were squeezed into filthy, over-crowded camps. We were neglected and forgotten, where we baked in the heat of the day and shivered at night. ” (p. 20, 2009) Malalai’s father believed so strongly in the value of education, even for girls, so to him, what was even worse than these living conditions were the fact that there were no schools in these camps.

Afghan children were not allowed to attend Iranian schools and for this reason, her family decided to leave Iran and move to Pakistan. It was in Pakistan, that Malalai first attended a school. The school was the only school that allowed Afghan female refugees to attend. Malalai really enjoyed her classes and immediately valued the importance of education. In 1992, when Malalai was fourteen, her family moved back to Afghanistan. However, it wasn’t long before she would move back to Pakistan because it was far too unsafe to live in Afghanistan. “Young girls were being abducted, raped and killed by roaming gangs. (p. 30, 2009)

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“At night, armed fighters of criminal mujahideen groups would often walk right into people’s homes. All the children were locked in a bedroom with the light off and told to remain silent. We were terrified, but we could not cry out as we listened to these men yelling and turning things upside down around the house, taking whatever they pleased. ” (p. 31, 2009) Malalai used to listen to the radio with her father. There were regular reports about the intifada in Palestine, and how their children were bravely fighting against the aggression of Israeli troops.

She asked her father, “Why are we not from Palestine, where the children are so brave? ” He replied “If that’s the way you feel, why don’t you think about becoming like a Palestinian in your own country? ” (p. 39, 2009) I think this was what made Malalai go into politics and fight for her country. “This had a deep impact on me. I thought about what he said for days. I wanted to work to end what was going on in Afghanistan, and perhaps my father was showing me the way. ” (p. 30, 2009) In 1998, Malalai joined the Organisation for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) as a full-time social activist.

After living in exile for sixteen years, she returned to Afghanistan for her job to teach girls in defiance of the Taliban. This job came with a risk. However Malalai accepted the risk involved and adopted the surname Joya to protect her family’s identity. “Teaching at an underground girls’ school was a dangerous job, but I never considered giving it up. I felt it was a great injustice that Afghan girls were being denied an education. The Taliban wanted to keep them in the dark, because any time a group is denied education it is harder for them to know their rights and to fight for them. (p. 56, 2009)

Upon Malalai’s return to Afghanistan, she had to learn to wear the burqa as this was a requirement from the Taliban. “I didn’t like it. Not one bit. It’s not only oppressive but it’s more difficult than you might think. You have no peripheral vision because of the netting in front of your eyes. And it’s hot and suffocating under there. The only useful thing about those long blue robes was that they could be used to hide school books and other forbidden objects. ” (p. 44, 2009) Men had to grow thick beards as long as a “clenched fist”. (p. 3, 2009) according to the rules of male grooming. Books other than the Quran were forbidden.

Television, movies, and recorded music were also illegal. The Taliban considered practising any other religion un-Islamic so they made it a crime. They would blow up or scrape off the faces of any other religious statues, paintings or photographs. In the Summer of 2001, Malalai was named the director of OPAWC in Western Afghanistan so she had to move back to where she was born. “We were just getting re-established when, on the night of September 11th, the radio broadcast some horrifying news.

Within days everyone knew that there would be a war. ” (p. 57, 2009) America started dropping bombs on Afghanistan daily, killing the lives of innocent people. The Taliban was replaced by the Northern Alliance. In 2003, the OPAWC opened a health clinic which was run by Malalai, again her safety was at risk as this was illegal. This health clinic soon expanded into an orphanage. Throughout the history of Afghanistan, whenever the country faced important reforms or changes in government, tribal elders and other leaders have assembled in a traditional gathering called a Loya Jirga.

In 2003, the United Nations was called in to oversee elections to a Loya Jirga. At the age of twenty-five, Malalai decided to get involved in the new political process in Afghanistan. “I had come to know first-hand their extreme suffering-especially that of women. I felt that our people needed their voices to be heard. ” (p. 71, 2009) “I was determined to help put an end to the rule of the warlords and fundamentalists, and I knew the great majority of Afghan men and women shared this aim. I did not understand at the time how this decision would change my life forever. ” (p. 2, 2009) Malalai was the winner of this Loya Jirga.

The second Loya Jirga Malalai attended; she was shocked and appalled to see warlords and other well known war criminals there that had made Afghanistan the war ridden country that it is. So in her speech she spoke of this. “My criticism of all my compatriots is why you are allowing the legitimacy and legality of this Loya Jirga to come into question due to the presence of those criminals who have brought our country to this state. Why would you allow criminals to be present here? They are responsible for our situation now! ” (p. 3, 2009) During her speech, she was asked to stop and she was escorted out of the Loya Jirga. That night, men came to a place where they thought Malalai would be staying to rape and kill her.

Luckily, she was not there. Even though Malalai did not return to the second day at the Loya Jirga, her name was making headlines around the world. In 2005, at the age of twenty-seven, she was the youngest person to be elected to the new Parliament. Since then, she survived numerous assassination attempts and continued to press the cause of those who elected her. Whenever Malalai spoke in Parliament, her microphone would be cut off.

My days in Parliament were always stressful and lonely because I was constantly being attacked and insulted. Sometimes I would raise the red card on my desk in protest, or even walk out in disgust. ” (p. 153, 2009) In 2007, in a television interview, Malalai criticised the criminals and warlords in Parliament, “If the Afghan Parliament continued on its current path, people would soon call it a zoo or a stable. ” (p. 170, 2009) However, Malalai specified that this comment was intended for the criminals and warlords and were not intended for the MPs who were real representatives.

This part of her statement was left out when it was aired on television and it made her sound like she was criticising the whole Parliament which in turn is the nation because the Parliament is the ‘house of the nation. ’ “This programme ended up defaming me in the eyes of the Afghan people while giving my enemies in Parliament ammunition to use against me. ” (p. 171, 2009) Malalai was suspended from Parliament for ‘insulting the institution of Parliament. ’ Protests and rallies were held worldwide to get Malalai back into Paliament. The support Malalai received was astonishing. Even some of my fellow parliamentarians have approached me to discreetly tell me that they support me, but they cannot do so publicly. ” (p. 178, 2009)

However, Malalai’s banishment from Parliament has meant her message has been spread worldwide. “Although I am no longer able to stand up in Parliament and raise my voice for justice, my enemies have accidently given me a gift. Because now my message is being carried further than ever before, and the cause of my people is heard all over the world. ” (p. 188, 2009) The war is still continuing in Afghanistan to this day. She is not confident about this changing since Obama has been elected. He and his foreign policy advisors do not appear to have learned from the past seven years-the course they are pursuing will only push the region into a wider war and more destruction. ” (p. 249, 2009) “Today we live under the shadow of the gun, and with the most corrupt and unpopular government in the world. ” (p. 253, 2009)

Malalai has done a lot for her country and people and has no regrets. “I would never want to take back any of the speeches I have made, nor any of the statements I have issued denouncing the corrupt and violent men and women who use and abuse their power to keep Afghanistan in their grip. (p. 267, 2009) I truly believe Malalai has made an unforgettable mark in her country and she believes this also. “You can kill me, but you can never kill my spirit. ” (p. 270, 2009) I think Malalai diagnoses what is wrong with the strategic decisions being made by society throughout her life very accurately and very bravely. All her life, she has gone against what the rulings of Afghanistan have suggested is correct in order to fight for what she personally believes is correct. Malalai leads the reader to consider new strategic directions not just for the individual but also for society as a whole.

The majority of the people in Afghanistan especially women are just followers, even if they do not agree with something. Malalai was brave enough to go against this from a very young age. She was fortunate to be part of a family who treated boys and girls the same and luckily her father knew the value of education so made sure she went to school. Without education she would not have the knowledge or power to be the woman she is today. She wanted to give this opportunity to other Afghan girls, so she went against the Taliban to do this through her teaching with the OPAWC.

She also went against the Taliban by opening a health clinic and an orphanage. This showed what a genuinely caring person Malalai was and that she was willing to risk her life to help strangers. Malalai is the first person not to mention first woman to stand up in the Loya Jirga and speak about the warlords and criminals the way she did. In her 2007 television interview, I think she is very brave for saying the things she said, however, I feel that maybe the words she used were not correct.

She maybe should have been more professional as she should have remembered her role as a parliamentarian; however I think she spoke that way because she was so passionate about this subject and I do not believe these comments should have led her to be banished from Parliament, if anything she should have just been suspended. Through reading the whole book, speaking the way she did may have been the best route to take as all her other efforts seem to be unnoticed and although it resulted in her being banished from Parliament, she gained international recognition so that she can spread her views further than just Afghanistan.

I do find Malalai’s arguments and story convincing, because I think Afghanistan is a much oppressed country and a sexist country. I agree that the way the warlords have run the country have led it to destruction and war. It is wrong that women are forced to wear the burqa. Nobody should be denied of an education and anyone who can justify raping and killing young girls should not be ruling a country. In my own personal strategy in life, I believe in standing up for what I believe is right. You can achieve your goals if you have the right knowledge, strategy and will power to do so-as long as you know you are right.

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