A Woman Among Warlords Virtual Book Discussion

A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice by Malalai Joya. Published in 2009.

Synopsis: At 25, Malalai Joya was elected to represent women in her community at the Loya Jirga – a national assembly that would pave the way for Afghanistan’s new constitution and government. After speaking out at the assembly against the many warlords that comprised Hamid Karzai’s government, her life was soon in danger, she was forced to travel at all times with bodyguards, and she became the target of several assassination attempts. Later becoming the youngest member ever to sit in Afghanistan’s new parliament, she was soon banished for being an outspoken advocate, but her struggle continues. This is her story.

About the Author: Malalai Joya is an Afghan social activist and former member of the Afghan Parliament. Fleeing Afghanistan at the age of four, she spent time at a refugee camp in Iran before moving to Pakistan with her family, where she received her education. As a young women, she returned to her native Afghanistan to operate a secret school for girls (banned by the then-ruling Taliban), before becoming a politician and social activist. The recipient of numerous human rights awards, Joya has been compared to well-known Burmese political activist Aung San Suu Kyi. It should also be noted that this book was co-written with Derrick O’Keefe, a Canadian writer and peace activist.

My Initial Reactions to This Book

I felt this was a timely book to read, given the recent news coverage of the Afghanistan conflict and ‘war on terror,’ the killing of Osama bin Laden, criticisms of Hamid Karzai’s governments, and public critiques of the U.S.’s role in Afghanistan.

Told from the perspective of a young, educated Afghan woman, the book offers a perspective that we rarely hear in Western media. Joya strongly speaks out against the U.S. government-led occupation of Afghanistan, repeatedly stating that the Afghan government is filled with U.S.-financed warlords and that women are no better off than when the Taliban was in power. For example, on page 178 of the book she states, “The Taliban is not the problem, it is a symptom of the disease of corruption, violence, and feudalism that has plagued my country since the United States, Pakistan, and Iran started funneling arms and money to fundamentalist terrorist groups and warlords.” This book makes you wonder what the United States’ true intentions are in Afghanistan.

Rather, Joya promotes foreign military withdrawal from Afghanistan, allowing the Afghan people to liberate themselves (similar, I wonder to what has recently happened in Egypt and in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Joya stresses the importance of investing in education and human services to alleviate poverty, something that I strongly agree with.

As the book was initially published in 2009, at the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency, I found myself wondering if the U.S. politics have changed any with the new administration. For up-to-date news on what’s really happening in Afghanistan, as told from the point-of-view of Afghan activists, Joya refers us to http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/. From her Wikipedia article, it appears that she has recently launched a U.S.-based speaking tour to try to raise awareness to end the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan, so it appears that things have not yet changed for the better in terms of a foreign-sponsored corrupt government.

So what did you think of the book? Did it change your perception on politics in Afghanistan? Feel free to post your opinion in the the comments section below.

Next up for discussion: Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club). Discussion begins June 2nd.

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