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Afghan Legislator Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya at RFE/RL's Kabul bureau on 19 December (RFE/RL) The roughly 90 female delegates could be spotted easily among the more than 300 members of the bicameral parliament at the opening session of the Afghan National Assembly. Twenty-seven-year-old Malalai Joya, representing the western Farah Province in the lower house, was among them.

Joya took up a seat in the national parliament in December after winning more than 7,500 votes in her province, putting her in second place with 7.3 percent of the valid ballots cast Farah in the September vote.

Wearing a black and white headscarf, Joya appeared nervous as she followed the inaugural session and the addresses closely. Asked later whether she was considering reiterating her criticism of former mujahedin warlords -- as she famously did during the Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003 -- Joya vows to "continue my struggle against warlords."

"I'll try to introduce legislation that will protect the rights of the oppressed and safeguard women's rights," Joya said. "Those who came here in the name of democracy shouldn't be given the chance to continue their crimes in the [guise] of democracy -- which means, first, I represent my people here; and second, I will also continue my struggle against warlords, no matter what party or sex they belong to. I'll continue my struggle especially against those parties that destroyed our country. As I am representing my people, I have high hopes."

Joya says she does not discriminate between male and female members of the parliament, adding that those who committed war crimes or violated human rights in the past should not be given another chance.

She says she believes the members of the upper house, or House of Elders (Meshrano Jirga), selected by President Hamid Karzai are the result of compromise.

"Unfortunately, we see that there are some [presidentially] selected members of the upper house with blood on their hands," Joya says. "They present a threat to the people of Afghanistan. The government should not trust those who have failed the people once. Instead, the government should have selected people with qualifications in legislation and those who have not committed any crimes. Many people are worried and concerned by Karzai's decision to take such a step."

(Hamida Osman)