The youngest female in one of the world’s youngest parliamentary systems, Malalai Joya recounts her life as an activist lauded, suppressed, and, finally, ousted from the infant Afghani government in A Woman Amongst Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.
Malalai Joya was elected in 2005 as the youngest member of the new Afghan parliament. Her strident criticism of the very government she was a part of soon got her suspended; she has yet to be allowed to return. In this book, she tells her personal story, recounting growing up amid civil and international warfare, and her rise to activism. Joya paints a bleak picture of contemporary Afghanistan, describing the dominance of criminal warlords, the oppression of women, widespread poverty, and the continual threat of violence from all sides—the Taliban, the warlords, and the occupying NATO troops. Though she denounces the Taliban and hopes for democracy, she accuses the U.S.-backed Karzai government of being a corrupt and ineffectual sham democracy. Her book is both an inspiring story of an extremely brave and dedicated woman and an informative short history of Afghanistan in the 20th century. As the U.S. continues to step up its military presence, Joya’s book shows how the NATO occupation looks through Afghan eyes and questions whether this presence is legitimate in any of its stated aims, such as controlling the rise of militant jihadists and improving the lives of citizens. Joya makes a strong case for the withdrawal of foreign troops as one of the crucial steps toward establishing a true and independent democracy in Afghanistan and returning some stability to a country that has lacked it for so long.