Protest against suspension of Afghan female MP

AFP – A rowdy protest of about 200 people, half of them women wearing burqas, demanded that parliament reinstate a female MP suspended for comparing her colleagues to animals.

The demonstrators marched in the eastern town of Jalalabad to the offices of the United Nations where they were to hand over a letter expressing anger at the suspension on Monday of outspoken legislator Malalai Joya.

Protesters said parliament did not have the right to bar the MP because she had been elected by her constituency in the western province of Farah.

Former commanders of the anti-Soviet resistance who are now parliamentarians had targeted Joya because she has accused them of war crimes and abuses, they said.

One placard said parliament had “once again shown its real face” by removing Joya, who has been suspended until the end of the parliamentary term before the 2010 elections.

“Malalai Joya is chosen by the people, not the parliament,” one demonstrator named Mariam told AFP as the mob chanted slogans.

“The situation of Afghanistan right now is that it is in the hands of killers,” she said, referring to the former commanders.

A similar protest of about 150 people in Farah province on Thursday also said that parliament should not be able to suspend an MP elected by the people.

Joya, 28, enraged her colleagues by saying in a television interview that parliament was worse than a stable because in a stable, at least, there are “cows which provide milk and you have got donkeys which can carry loads.”

Leading international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said Thursday that that while parliament’s rules forbid lawmakers from criticising one another, MPs had regularly done so without anyone else having been suspended.

“Joya’s comments don’t warrant the punishment she received,” Brad Adams, the rights watchdog’s Asia director said in a statement.

“Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women,” he said.

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