For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Rachel Myers, ACLU national, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;
Christopher Ott, ACLU of MA, (617) 482-3170;

State Department Grants Visa to Prominent Afghan Human Rights Activist After Concerns Raised by Rights Organizations

NEW YORK - The State Department has granted a visa to prominent Afghan politician, writer and human rights activist Malalai Joya, reversing an earlier decision to deny Joya entry to the U.S. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and PEN American Center sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing concern over the denial of a visa to Joya.

"We welcome the State Department's decision to grant Ms. Joya a visa,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU. “The vitality of our democracy depends in part on our openness to visitors with different experiences and different ideas. Ms. Joya has a great deal to add to ongoing conversations about women’s rights, Afghan politics and the effectiveness of American military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan.”

Joya sought a visa to visit the United States for a three-week speaking tour relating to the paperback edition of her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords. Joya toured the U.S. last year in connection with the release of the hardcover edition of the book. Last year, Joya was named to the “TIME 100” list, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Foreign Policy magazine named Joya one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

In 2010, State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh wrote that, in assessing whether to grant a visa, the State Department would “give significant and sympathetic weight to the fact that the primary purpose of the visa applicant’s travel will be to assume a university teaching post, to fulfill speaking engagements, to attend academic conferences, or for similar expressive or educational activities.”

"We hope the decision to grant a visa to Ms. Joya is a signal that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "As Americans, we have a First Amendment right to hear what Ms. Joya and other notable thinkers from around the world have to say and to engage with them in face-to-face dialogues. When our government excludes leaders, journalists, scholars, authors and poets from our shores, it violates the First Amendment rights of the American people."

The groups’ letter is available online at:

Information about ideological exclusion is available online at




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