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     Volume 4 Issue 71 | November 18, 2005 |

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Malalai Joya

"I hope by being a Member of Parliament I will be able to serve my people, especially the women," Ms Joya told reporters. "I will do my best to stop the warlords and criminals from building any laws that will jeopardise the rights of Afghan people, especially the women."

The 27-year-old women's literacy and health worker will take her seat in the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, representing the remote province of Farah. Joya, daughter of a former medical student who was wounded fighting the Soviets, rose to prominence for denouncing warlords at a constitutional forum two years ago.

She received a number of death threats after interrupting the "loya jirga" (grand council) with her criticism of the mujahideen, fighters who fought against the Soviet Union and then among themselves. Joya told the constitutional convention the mujahideen were responsible for Afghanistan's civil war which only ended when the Taleban seized power in 1996.

Joya continued to press her case against the former rulers of Afghanistan - last year she, together with a delegation of 50 tribal elders, persuaded President Hamid Karzai to dismiss a provincial governor who was a former Taleban commander. She has survived at least four assassination attempts since her speech at the constitutional convention. According to reports, Ms Joya employs armed guards and travels incognito.

"I know that if not today, then probably tomorrow, I will be physically annihilated," Ms Joya told the BBC World Service's Outlook programme. "But the voice of protest will continue, because it is the voice of the people of my country." Joya has said she is used to intimidation after being threatened "again and again" by the Taleban when she started her work in the country in 1998 after returning from Pakistan and Iran where her family had emigrated during the civil war.

During that time she established an orphanage and health clinic, and was soon a vocal opponent of the Taleban.

However, Joya was spurred into action when she first saw the capital, Kabul, and how it had been destroyed. "I saw the misery of the people," she recalled. "When those people put their trust in me and elected me as their representative, I decided to bring their suffering to the world's attention - so that the world would know that even though the men and women of Afghanistan have had to live in ignorance and poverty for many years, they don't trust the Mujahideen." Joya said the government with the support of international forces should "tackle the warlords with great determination".

"These people are snakes in the sleeves of the government. Only if the government tackles them head-on will we see a brighter future."

"If they don't there will be more bitter and dark days ahead. "During the civil war, Joya first fled with her family to Iran. Then they moved to Pakistan, where she started teaching refugees to read and write. She is married to a Kabul-based student of agriculture and has six sisters and three brothers.

This article was first published on bbcnews.com.

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