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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 485..

MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

One of the main problems in Afghanistan, Malalai advised, is that overseas aid is going into the wrong hands. Instead of being channelled to those that need it the most, it is going to corrupt politicians and NGOs. Malalai was quick to point out that impunity is one of the biggest problems with the Afghan assembly. There is much evidence of atrocious behaviour amongst parliamentarians, but none of these MPs is being brought to justice. That is a major problem which will hinder the development of Afghanistan. The longer these criminals are in parliament, the longer it will take for Afghanis to get back on their feet.

Malalai argued that the only way to fight this corruption is by providing funding at a grassroots level for building infrastructure such as schools which can increase the levels of education of Afghanis and, in turn, build a better society. She said that if people are educated they will not tolerate criminals dominating society. She has been chipping away, sometimes with success. In 2004, she and a delegation of 50 tribal elders persuaded President Karzai to dismiss a provincial governor who was a former Taliban commander.

Further, Malalai spoke of the particular struggle of women in Afghanistan. Women are still not safe in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Rapes, beatings and murders of women and young girls still go on. Due to her outspokenness, Malalai has been threatened with rape and death both within and outside the parliament. She has survived four assassination attempts and travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards. Her family and associates have suffered similar threats.

Malalai Joya is an inspiration not only to young women all over the world but also to parliamentarians worldwide. She has motivated unprecedented numbers of women in her province to participate in public demonstrations. Malalai told us that Afghanistan is far from safe and is far from a prosperous society, something promised by invading US forces. Hopefully, Malalai will be able to garner support from the international community to eradicate the corrupt politicians and bring justice and prosperity to the Afghan community.

Ms Malalai Joya

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.46): I thank Mr Gentleman for speaking so fulsomely about Malalai. I just want to add that it is of concern to me and to anyone who is worried about the plight of women and democracy in Afghanistan that, apart from Senator Humphries, who attended the morning tea here, no coalition members of the federal parliament or the Assembly would meet with Malalai Joya. What that means is that people are not getting information first hand. It means that the information to our federal government is filtered through the official channels of Afghanistan. It should be in the interests of us all that as broad a range of information be sought as possible and I have written to Senator Humphries to ask him to pass on the issues that were raised by Malalai Joya to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking of women who speak out about their lives, people will probably be very concerned to hear that in the crackdown by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe Mrs Sekai Holland, who is a leader of the democratic struggle for change there, has been captured. Mrs Holland has a strong relationship with Australia; she and her

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