Afghan parliament ousts female lawmaker

By RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press
Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament voted Monday to oust an outspoken female lawmaker who has enraged former mujahedeen fighters now in President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government.

The lawmaker, Malalai Joya, compared parliament to a stable full of animals in a recent TV interview.

The video clip was shown in parliament on Monday, and angry lawmakers voted to suspend her from the body, said Haseb Noori, spokesman for the parliament. No formal vote count was held, but a clear majority of lawmakers voted for her suspension by raising colored cards, Noori said.

A parliament rule known as Article 70 forbids lawmakers from criticizing one another, Noori said.

Joya, 29, said the vote was a “political conspiracy” against her. She said she had been told Article 70 was written specifically for her, though she didn’t say who told her that.

“Since I’ve started my struggle for human rights in Afghanistan, for women’s rights, these criminals, these drug smugglers, they’ve stood against me from the first time I raised my voice at the Loya Jirga,” she said, referring to the constitution-drafting convention.

It was not immediately clear if she could appeal against her ouster.

Joya, a women’s rights worker from Farah province, rose to prominence in 2003 when she branded powerful Afghan warlords as criminals during the Loya Jirga.

Many of the commanders who fought occupying Soviet troops in the 1980s still control provincial fiefdoms and have been accused of human rights abuses and corruption. After ousting the Soviets, the militias turned on each other in a brutal civil war that destroyed most of the capital, Kabul.

Some faction leaders, like former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a deeply conservative Islamist, have been elected to parliament. Others, like northern strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, were appointed by Karzai.

Sayed Alami Balkhi, a lawmaker from the northern province of Balkh, said the speaker of the upper house of parliament sent a letter to the lower house on Sunday saying that Joya had humiliated and attacked both houses.

“If the lower house does not take a decision about her, we will take a decision,” Balkhi quoted the letter as saying.

Joya’s outspoken ways have earned her many enemies in Afghanistan. In February, during a rally to support a proposed amnesty for Afghans suspected of war crimes, thousands of former fighters shouted “Death to Malalai Joya!”

Last May, Joya called some lawmakers “warlords” in a speech at parliament, prompting some parliamentarians to throw water bottles at her. A small scuffle broke out between her supporters and detractors, and Joya later told The Associated Press in an interview that some lawmakers threatened to rape her as payback.

Joya said Monday that if she couldn’t remain in parliament, she would fight against “criminals” independently. She said if anything were to happen to her — a reference to a possible assassination attempt — that “everyone would know” that the people she has criticized like Rabbani or Sayyaf would be responsible.

“I’m not alone,” Joya told reporters. “The international community is with me and all the Afghan people are with me.”

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