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) “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...