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Rally: Let Malalai Joya Speak!

When: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 2:30 pm
Where: Harvard Sq Pit • At the exit from the Harvard Sq T stop • Cambridge

The United States has denied a travel visa to Malalai Joya, an acclaimed women’s rights activist and former member of Afghanistan’s parliament. Ms. Joya, who was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010, was set to begin a three-week US tour to promote an updated edition of her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Malalai Joya

Come to a rally to demand our right to hear Malalai Joya and to oppose use of visas for ideological exclusion!

Joya’s publisher at Scribner, Alexis Gargagliano, said, “We had the privilege to publish Ms. Joya, and her earlier 2009 book tour met with wide acclaim. The right of authors to travel and promote their work is central to freedom of expression and the full exchange of ideas.” Joya’s memoir has been translated into over a dozen languages, and she has toured widely including the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Norway, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands over the past two years.

When she presented herself as scheduled at the U.S. embassy, Joya  was told she was being denied because she was “unemployed” and “lives underground.” Because of her harsh criticism of warlords and fundamentalists in Afghanistan, Joya has been the target of at least five assassination attempts. “The reason Joya lives underground is because she faces the constant threat of death for having had the courage to speak up for women’s rights – it’s obscene that the U.S. government would deny her entry,” said Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S. based organization that has hosted Joya for speaking tours in the past and is a sponsor of this year’s national tour.

Joya has also become an internationally known critic of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan. Organizers argue that the denial of Joya’s visa appears to be a case of what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States.

Six Members of Congress and three U.S. Senators wrote a letter last week to the State Department asking that the visa be granted (see and Massachusetts Representatives Michael Capuano and Richard Neal  also wrote their own letters Friday.

Joya’s local sponsors plan to hold a rally protesting the visa denial Wednesday, March 23, 5:30 pm in Harvard Square.

Events featuring talks by Malalai Joya are planned March 25 in Cambridge, March 26 in Jamaiaca Plain, March 28 in Amherst and Northampton, and from March 20 until April 10, in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and California.  Organizers said they would attempt to have Joya speak at the events by online video conference in case her visa has not been granted at the time of the events.

Organizers of Joya's speaking tour asked people to sign an online petition and to contact the Department of State to ask them to fulfill the promise from the Obama Administration of “promoting the global marketplace of ideas” and grant Joya’s visa immediately. 


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