Asia Crisis

U.S. makes mockery of Afghan democracy-ousted MP

(Corrects in third paragraph to indicate it is not Joya's first trip to the United States)

NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) - The United States is making a mockery of democracy and the war on terrorism by supporting corrupt Afghan lawmakers who are criminals and warlords, said an outspoken female Afghan politician, who was removed from parliament.

Malalai Joya, 29, was effectively expelled last month when the lower house of parliament voted to suspend her for the remaining 3 1/2 years of her term after she described the legislative body as "worse than a stable" during an interview.

Washington "supports the same enemies, who are mentally like the Taliban. ... They brought them back into power," soft-spoken Joya told Reuters in an interview during a visit to the United States.

"This is the wrong policy. Do not support fundamentalist warlords," she said. "Every day for the people of Afghanistan is Sept. 11. Please pressure your government to change this policy, it is a mockery of democracy, it is a mockery of the war on terror."

The United States invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 hijacked airliner attacks on New York and Washington to oust the Taliban government after if failed to surrender Osama bin Laden, leader of the Islamist al Qaeda network.

Afghanistan has been fractured by rival warlords since the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989 and its lower house of parliament, elected in 2005, is full of ex-warlords and former militia leaders along with suspected drug dealers.


Dressed in a gray pinstriped suit with her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and sitting in the New York offices of Human Rights Watch, Joya said the parliament had kicked her out so she could no longer oppose and expose their actions.

"Many, many times they insulted me, even inside of the parliament they threw water at me and they threatened me with death, and one of them shouted, 'Take her and rape her,'" she said. "They turned off my microphone.

"This is a completely non-democratic parliament, they stand up against the constitution and they do non-democratic acts," she said ahead of the screening of a documentary about her 2005 election campaign at the Human Rights Watch film festival.

One such act was a proposal in the lower house of parliament for a blanket amnesty for those who committed war crimes over nearly 30 years of conflict. She asked, "How can criminals forgive themselves?"

Joya said the Afghan people had been hopeful the U.S.-led invasion "would bring democracy for them and security for them and many more things like that, but unfortunately we are looking at a worse situation than the Taliban period."

Last year was the bloodiest in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion and, while a threatened spring offensive by insurgents has not materialized, violence has continued through suicide bombings and other attacks.

Despite death threats, Joya vowed to fight on for her people and to stand in the next election.

"I will continue more and more with my struggle because most of my people are with me," she said.