Middle East/North Africa

Blinken appoints senior officials to address women’s rights in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced the appointment of two senior officials at the State Department focused on supporting the civil and human rights of Afghan women and girls. 

Blinken has appointed Rina Amiri as special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights. This position will report directly to the secretary.

As special envoy, Amiri will be focused on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of at-risk populations in the country, Blinken said in a statement. 

“We desire a peaceful, stable, and secure Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live and thrive in political, economic, and social inclusivity.  Special Envoy Amiri will work closely with me toward that goal,” the secretary said.

Amiri was most recently the director of the Afghanistan and Regional Policy Initiative at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, where she was also a senior fellow. 

She served during the Obama administration as senior adviser to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also served as a member of the United Nation’s Special Representative of the Secretary General’s political team in Afghanistan.

Blinken also announced the appointment of Stephenie Foster as the new senior advisor for women and girls issues within the State Department’s committee focused on relocating Afghans that were evacuated from the country in the summer. The committee, called the Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts (CARE) team engaged in evacuation efforts when the country came under the control of the Taliban in August. 

“Stephenie’s diverse public and private sector experiences, including at the Department, and her passion for advancing women and girls’ safety and equality will help advance CARE’s around-the-clock relocation and resettlement efforts on behalf of our Afghan allies and their families,” Blinken said in a statement.

Foster, founding partner of the consulting firm Smash Strategies, served during the Obama administration as senior adviser and counselor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and, previously, as the women and civil society adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. 

The two appointments mark an ongoing effort by the Biden administration to engage in human rights issues in Afghanistan, in particular the rights of women, girls and minorities, that have been suppressed and rolled back with the Taliban’s takeover. 

The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that is under sanctions by the U.S as a specially designated terrorist organization, has rolled back 20 years of advancement of women’s rights since taking over the country, by excluding women from government, barring their independent participation in society and blocking girls from attaining secular education. 

Nascent and sporadic protests organized by women, or with their participation, have been brutally suppressed with beatings and arbitrary arrests. Women who served as public officials or in security and justice roles also face threats to their safety, as the Taliban carries out acts of violent retribution against people they view as Western collaborators. 

The international community has withheld formally recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate governing body of Afghanistan in part over demands that the group take concrete steps to protect women’s access to education and participation in society. 

Tags Afghanistan Antony Blinken State Department Taliban Women's rights

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