Afghan Women’s Rights Advocate Barred from U.S.

For Immediate Release

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Afghan Women’s Rights Advocate Barred from U.S.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government has denied a travel visa to Malalai Joya, an acclaimed women’s rights activist and former member of Afghanistan’s parliament, said organizers of her U.S. tour. Joya, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010, was set to begin a three-week U.S. tour to promote an updated edition of her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Tour organizers report that when Joya presented herself as scheduled at the U.S. embassy, she was told she was being denied because she was “unemployed” and “lives underground.” Then 27, 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 had the courage to speak up for women’s rights — it’s obscene that the U.S.  government would deny her entry,” said Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S.-based organization 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 known critic of the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan. Organizers argue that the denial of Joya’s visa appears to be a case of what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States.

When contacted by AFP, the State Department declined comment on the case.

Joya’s publisher at Scribner, Alexis Gargagliano, said, “We had the privilege to publish Ms. Joya, and her earlier 2009 book tour met with wide acclaim. The right of authors to travel and promote their work is central to freedom of expression and the 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.

Events featuring Malalai Joya are planned, from March 20 until April 10, in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and California.

MALALAI JOYA, SONALI KOLHATKAR
Joya is available for a limited number of interviews. Kolhatkar is co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence and is co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission.

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