Lacking access to broadcasters and the media within Afghanistan means that her message “for women’s rights, for human rights, against injustice and occupation,” can be spread only by telephone, by clandestine meetings in safe houses and through a poster campaign.
The United States cited the status of women among reasons for its intervention in Afghanistan. Yet Ms. Joya, who taught girls in secret basement schools during the Taliban years, argues that the situation of women has not improved.
Pointing to the 1920s, when Afghan women traveled to Turkey to study without head scarves or male relatives to accompany them, and to the 1950s, when Afghan women had professional careers, she said that the decline of women’s rights in her country was above all an issue of power.
Levels of domestic violence, rape, forced marriage and suicide make the condition of women today “worse than hell,” she says. For that she blames what she calls President Hamid Karzai’s “corrupt, misogynistic government and his circle of warlords” and on his appointments to Afghan courts.
Hamed Elmi, deputy spokesman for Mr. Karzai in Kabul, discounted Ms. Joya’s accusations. “The government is not corrupt, but we have some corrupt people in government — we try to identify and tackle the issue,” Mr. Elmi said by telephone.
He added that Afghanistan had made progress in involving women at all levels of government and that it could not be ascertained that there were warlords in Parliament since the courts had not proven them guilty. “We have an independent judiciary system,” he said. As for whether the government was misogynistic, he said simply: “She is wrong.”
Back in her homeland, Ms. Joya said, the NATO forces were perpetuating the repression of women by propping up warlords she described as interchangeable with the Taliban.
She called for the immediate departure of foreign troops, even if it would lead to more violence in the civil war. “It is better to leave us alone,” she said. “We will know what to do with our destiny.”