Led by chants of “Let Joya Speak,” a crowd of about 25 protesters attended a rally yesterday in Harvard Square to protest the U.S. government’s decision to deny a travel visa to an Afghani activist.
The activist, Malalai Joya, was supposed to speak Friday alongside Professor Noam Chomsky at an event called “The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Ralph Lopez, a protester, said that he came out for the rally because he believes that Joya has an important perspective on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
“It’s important that people hear Malalai’s point of view and her opinions about what’s really going on in Afghanistan because the American media doesn’t tell us,” said Lopez.
“She believes that American troops are doing more harm than good and she’s calling for a withdrawal of American troops and that’s not something the Obama administration wants American people to hear.”
Nancy Murray, director of education at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said that the Obama administration has not abandoned the practice of excluding those critical of its actions.
Murray, who attended the rally, said that if public pressure is not able to reverse the visa decision, the ACLU would consider bringing the case to court.
There is precedent for similar cases. The ACLU won court decisions that ultimately granted Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib visas despite initial visa denials.
“In those cases, the courts agreed that excluding these people was a violation of our first amendment right to hear and interact with these people, and the same is now happening again,” said Murray.
However, Murray said that because the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has not released official documentation about why Joya’s visa was denied, she could not yet definitively call the visa denial an act of ideological exclusion, although organizers of the rally, said that his main goal was to raise awareness in the community both about Joya’s visa denial and about ways that people can voice their opinions and change the decision.
“We wanted to let all of the people interested in the event know not only that she has been denied a visa, but that we can do something about it,” said Petersen-Smith.
He added that those involved in the rally wanted to send a message to the government that its actions to exclude activists like Joya will not go unnoticed.
“People are not going to stand for it,” said Petersen-Smith.
Visa or no visa, Neil Peterman, a member of the International Socialist Organization and student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said that Joya will speak at Friday’s event either by telephone or in a video conference.
—Staff writer Monica M. Dodge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Formerly Banned Muslim Scholar Visits HLSAdam Habib spoke yesterday at Harvard Law School about ideological exclusion in one of his first speeches in the United States since the Bush administration barred him from entering the country in 2006.
Nieman Fellow Hollman Morris May Be Granted VisaA Colombian journalist who was denied entrance to the United States may be granted his student visa to participate in a journalism fellowship at Harvard, according to an e-mail sent this morning to the organizations and individuals who rallied to his aid.
Nieman Fellow Wins International AwardHollman Morris Rincon, a Colombian journalist and Nieman Fellow who was initially denied a visa this summer to study in the United States, was recently awarded the 2011 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award for his coverage of human rights violations in Colombia.
Female Afghani Activist Denied Visa to Visit USMalalai Joya, a former member of Afghanistan’s parliament and a celebrated women's rights activist, was denied a travel visa to the United States Wednesday and will be unable to make her scheduled appearance at Harvard on March 25th.
A Woman Among WarlordsThe anti-war nature of her tour should not influence her visa application.
Activist Granted Travel VisaMalalai Joya, an acclaimed Afghani activist, was granted a travel visa yesterday after her application was initially denied.