Raising my Voice

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Malalai Joya, Rider Books; £11.99

Malalai Joya is an Afghan campaigner for women's rights and education, and an outspoken critic of the US occupation, the Taliban and warlords. She's also an elected MP. Joya's autobiography tells the story of many people in Afghanistan. It's a story of occupation and resistance, of displacement and isolation.

This book takes on part of this history, starting from Joya's birth and early family life. She describes how her early years, like many other Afghans, were shaped by the destructive Russian occupation of her country. Her family fled first to Iran and then to refugee camps in Pakistan.

It was in 1982 that her family joined the exodus of people leaving Afghanistan and drove to Iran. Originally from Farah province, Joya grew up with progressive parents. Her father was a democracy activist, and supported the education of his sons and daughters equally. The themes of democracy and education, and the struggle for both, shape this work and Joya's life so far.

Though barely in her 30s, Joya's life is as fragile as many others in Afghanistan with frequent threats to her life. Though many cannot afford the many bodyguards, safe houses and protective vehicles that Joya can, the attempts to silence her are part of wider attempts by the US and the Taliban to silence opposition.

Joya has been an outspoken opponent of the corrupt officials also elected to the parliament, with their connections to warlords, the Taliban or the US occupation. For her vocal resistance she has become hated by the traditional rulers of Afghanistan and has been expelled from parliament, but has refused to remain silent.

The fact that this book even exists is a triumph. Joya was educated partly in refugee camps in Pakistan, where much of the education was left to the madrasas and available exclusively to boys. She studied in the Watan School in Quetta, western Pakistan, one of the few schools to allow girls to study. The school was funded by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and, although Joya is not a member of the organisation, this collective of women has played a significant role in her political and social viewpoint.

While Joya's story is one of hope and resistance, as a piece of writing it tries to do too many things. It is part history of a nation, part polemic and part biography, and the lack of focus sometimes makes it a taxing read. For me what is most important is that people read this story of a person and of a country as part of a wider history of the Afghan people's struggle.

While the US, Britain and their allies continue the lost war in Afghanistan, there will be no justice, no peace, and a new generation of young men and women will grow up knowing nothing but violence and division.