Malalai Joya, the woman the BBC has called "the most famous in Afghanistan", is in Vancouver to headline a benefit evening for the Canadian Boat to Gaza tonight: Tuesday, Oct. 12, 7pm at W2 Storyeum, 151 W. Cordova. The event at W2 will also feature Victoria-based Gaza flotilla activist Kevin Neish, as well as live music and other speakers. A share of the proceeds will also go to support a free medical clinic in Farah, Afghanistan.
“Since I was a child, I have been inspired by the struggle of the Palestinian people against occupation,” explained Joya.
“We felt it was important to raise funds for both Palestine and Afghanistan, because both suffer from Canadian government backed occupations,” explained Derrick O’Keefe, Canadian Peace Alliance co-chair and Canadian Boat to Gaza member.
Joya, 32, has become a voice known internationally for her fierce advocacy of women's rights and her opposition to NATO's war in Afghanistan. A former member of the Afghan Parliament -- in 2005 she was the youngest woman elected. In May 2007, she was unjustly suspended from her elected position because of her opposition to the warlords in the government of Hamid Karzai. Parliamentarians worldwide, including Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, signed a letter protesting Joya's suspension at the time.
This April, she was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. New Statesmen magazine recently named her as one of '50 people who matter' in 2010. Noted U.S. linguist and author Noam Chomsky has said that Joya would be a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
With hints that the Harper government is considering extending Canada's military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2011, Joya felt it was important to speak publicly in Canada again.
"This war is a disaster for both the Afghan and the Canadian people," Joya says. "Each year more troops have only brought more violence to my country, and I hope Canada will end its role in this occupation once and for all."