The United States Government have denied a travel visa to Malalai Joya, former member of Afghanistan's parliament. She was set to begin a three week US tour to promote her memoir 'A Woman Among Warlords'. Joya's publisher at Scribner, Alex Gargaliano, said "We had the privilege to publish Ms Joya, and her earlier 2009 book tour met with great acclaim. The right of authors to travel and promote their work is central to freedom of expression and a full exchange of ideas."
Joya's memoir has been translated into over a dozen languages and she has toured widely including Australia, the UK, Canada, Norway, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands in support of the book over the past two years.
Ms Joya presented herself at the US Embassy and was told she was being denied a visa because she was "unemployed" and "lives underground". Malalai Joya was the youngest woman elected to Afghanistan's parliament in 2005. Because of her harsh criticism of warlords and fundamentalists in Afghanistan she has been the target of at least five assassination attempts. "The reason Joya lives underground is because she faces the constant threat of death for having the courage to speak up for women's rights. It's obscene that the US Government would deny her entry" said Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women's Mission, a US based organisation that has hosted Joya for speaking tours in the past and is a sponsor of this year's national tour.
Joya has also become an internationally celebrated critic of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan.
Events featuring Malalai Joya are planned, from March 20 until April 10, in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and California. Organisers of her speaking tour are encouraging people to contact the Department of State to ask them to fulfill the promise from the Obama Administration of "promoting the global marketplace of ideas" and grant Joya's visa immediately.
Noam Chomsky said "Malalai Joya leaves us with hope that the tormented people of Afghanistan can take their fate into their own hands if they are released from the grip of foreign powers"
The Irish Times described Joya's book as " A fascinating account of Afghanistan's political reality...Malalai Joya has been compared Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi"
The Daily Telegraph commented that Joya was "Unwavering in her mission to bring true democracy to her country...Women have been known to walk for miles just to touch her. For them, she is their only real hope for a better future"