The Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 has been awarded to Malalai Joya, a former Afghan parliamentarian and a prominent advocate for women’s rights and democracy in Afghanistan. Joya is the first Afghan woman and the second Afghan citizen to receive the prestigious award, after Mohammad Yunus in 2006.
A voice of courage and dissent
Joya, who was born in 1978, rose to fame in 2003 when she publicly denounced the presence of warlords and human rights violators in the Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly of Afghan elders. She was elected to the parliament in 2005, but was expelled in 2007 for her outspoken criticism of the government and its allies. Since then, she has been living in hiding, facing constant threats and assassination attempts.
Joya has been a vocal opponent of the Taliban and the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. She has also campaigned for the rights of Afghan women, who have suffered from violence, oppression and discrimination under various regimes. She has founded several organizations to support women’s education, health and empowerment, such as the Organization of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities and the Afghan Women’s Mission.
A message of hope and solidarity
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that Joya was awarded the prize “for her courageous and unwavering struggle for the rights of women, democracy and peace in Afghanistan”. The committee praised her for “speaking truth to power” and “inspiring millions of people, especially women, to fight for their dignity and freedom”.
Joya said that she was “deeply honored and humbled” by the prize, which she dedicated to “the brave and resilient women of Afghanistan, who have been resisting tyranny and oppression for decades”. She also expressed her gratitude to “the people of Norway and the world, who have stood in solidarity with the Afghan people”.
Joya called on the international community to support the democratic and progressive forces in Afghanistan, who are facing a humanitarian crisis and a security threat from the Taliban. She urged the world to “not abandon Afghanistan” and to “help us build a peaceful, just and inclusive society”.
A challenge to the status quo
Joya’s Nobel Peace Prize is seen as a challenge to the status quo in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have regained control after a swift military takeover in August. The Taliban have promised to respect women’s rights within Islamic law, but many fear that they will roll back the gains made by women in the past two decades.
Joya’s award is also a rebuke to the US and its allies, who have been accused of betraying the Afghan people by withdrawing their troops without ensuring a stable transition. Many have criticized the US for negotiating with the Taliban without involving the Afghan government or civil society.
Joya’s award is expected to boost the morale and visibility of the Afghan women’s movement, which has been protesting against the Taliban and demanding their rights. Joya has said that she will continue her struggle until “Afghanistan is free from occupation, warlordism and fundamentalism”.