An outspoken female legislator was physically and verbally attacked by her colleagues after saying on the parliament floor that some of Afghanistan’s mujahedeen leaders were criminals who shouldn’t now be lawmakers, officials said Monday.
Malalai Joya, who apparently was unhurt, said several female lawmakers hit her with empty plastic water bottles, while male lawmakers made death threats and lobbed insults at her after her speech on Sunday. One lawmaker had her hair pulled during the scuffle, another official said.
Moderate lawmakers in the 249-member lower house formed a circle around Joya to protect her, she and other lawmakers said.
“I said there are two kinds of mujahedeen in Afghanistan. One kind fought for independence, which I respect, but the other kind destroyed the country and killed 60,000 people,” Joya told The Associated Press.
Shukari Barikzai, another female lawmaker, said Joya’s speech accusing some lawmakers of being warlords was calm and dispassionate, but she was attacked anyway. She said one female lawmaker pulled the hair of a female colleague protecting Joya.
“This kind of situation creates concern for the future of parliament,” Barikzai said. “I felt very bad for how they treated her. It was a very sad day. All the female lawmakers were upset.”
Lawmaker spoke out in the past
Joya, who represents Afghanistan’s western Farah province, has spoken out against warlords and drug lords before. One of the first times was during Afghanistan’s first loya jirga, a council of leaders that helped establish the interim government in 2002 after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
In December, during Afghanistan’s first full session of parliament, Joya called for all of Afghanistan’s human rights abusers and “criminal warlords” to be brought to justice. Delegates responded by pounding their fists on the tables to demand she sit down. But she refused, shouting that she had a right as an elected official to speak her mind.
On Monday, she again said Afghanistan’s parliament has former warlords and members loyal to the Taliban. She said death threats would not quiet her.
“They may kill me, they may slash my neck. I will never stop my words against the criminals, against the drug dealers,” she said.
Karzai's office mum
The spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, Karim Rahimi, tried to stay out of the fray. “The lawmakers are the representatives of the Afghan people. We are sure they will solve their own difficulties,” he said, refusing further comment.
Qasim Ackajhar, a political analyst and the spokesman for the Freedom of Speech Association, based in Kabul, said this was the first outbreak of violence on parliament’s floor.
“It has damaged the dignity of Afghanistan and the dignity of parliament,” he said.