Rina Amiri becomes Joe Biden’s special envoy for women’s rights in Afghanistan


The appointment of this former advisor to the Obama administration crowns twenty years of commitment to peace and development in her native country.

Just days after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15, the whole world watched with horror the image of women fade from the streets of the Afghan capital. The US military had finally disengaged from a war that had lasted two decades, while the female figures painted on the walls quickly disappeared. On August 18, Joe Biden’s administration grew alarmed at the repercussions a change of government would have on women’s rights. The United States jointly signed a declaration alongside the European Union and 18 other countries: “We are deeply concerned for women and girls in Afghanistan […] for their rights to education, work and freedom of movement.The international community declared itself ready “To attend [les femmes du pays] with humanitarian aid, and [à apporter] its support to ensure that their voices are heard ”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken named two profiles on Wednesday “highly qualified and respected ” to advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan: Rina Amiri, who becomes Joe Biden’s special envoy for women, girls and human rights in Afghanistan, and Stephenie Foster, new senior adviser on women’s issues and girls within the CARE team (Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts). “We want a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live and thrive in political, economic and social inclusion”, underlined the head of American diplomacy in his press release.

Since the withdrawal of his troops, the American president has repeatedly insisted that the fate of Afghan women was one of his priorities. The appointment of Rina Amiri aims to make this ambition a reality.

A chaotic operation

Aged 53, Rina Amiri was born in Afghanistan, a country she left as a child with her parents who emigrated to California. She undertook studies at Tufts University in Boston, and demonstrated against the Taliban regime, then in power since 1996, shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. For twenty years, Rina Amiri has advised governments, UN institutions, circles of reflection. Associated with the Center for Innovations for Successful Societies in Princeton, lecturer at the Center on International Cooperation at NYU and at the NYU Center for Global Affairs, she also runs an awareness-raising platform for peace, security and development in Afghanistan and the region.

Under the administration of Barack Obama, she became the principal advisor to the United States special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke. She then joined the team of the representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Afghanistan, in the years following the signing of the Bonn Agreements on December 5, 2001. She was also a life member of the influential American think tank Council of Foreign Relationships. The magazine Newsweek distinguished her among the 125 “women of influence” in 2013.

During the withdrawal of American soldiers in August, Rina Amiri had denounced a chaotic operation, describing the exit from the country of Afghan civilians, especially women, as a “disaster”. On December 13, the US State Department indicated that it had welcomed more than 74,000 Afghans through the various evacuation operations carried out since July.

A few days before her appointment, on December 27, Rina Amiri reacted on Twitter to new measures governing the travel of women in Afghanistan, which prohibit them from traveling long distances without an accompanying person: “I wonder how those who gave back a legitimacy to the Taliban assuring the world that they had changed may explain the return of draconian and regressive policies against women. ”

Advocacy for more diplomacy

November 9, in the review Foreign Affairs to which she contributes regularly, she wrote, in an article entitled “New Afghanistan, Same Old Taliban” : “Humanitarian aid will not be enough to prevent the collapse of the economy, nor to prevent further radicalization and instability […] [Les Etats-Unis et l’Europe] must redouble diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, working in concert with the United Nations and regional actors to harness the full arsenal of political, economic and human rights tools needed to deal with the gravity of the situation . “

As early as 2002, a few months after the collapse of the Taliban regime, Rina Amiri was already linking the fate of Afghan women to the stability of the country in a forum in the New York Times, “The Fear Beneath the Burka” : “Reality [des femmes] is also closely linked to the situation across the country. Just as the repression of Afghan women represented the political extremism of the Taliban, the shrouded figures of Afghan women today mean that real peace is elusive. ” Twenty years later, shis words resonate with particular acuity.



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