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A Sept 25 file photo shows Rina Amiri speaking during a seminar in Los Angeles on the theme, “Rise For And With The Women Of Afghanistan”.—AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday appointed two special envoys for defending women’s rights in Afghanistan’s as the country’s new Taliban rulers further tightened gender restrictions.

Rina Amiri, an Afghan-born US scholar and mediation expert who served at the State Department under former president Barack Obama, will take the role of special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights.

Stephenie Foster, also a former State Department official with diverse public and private sector experiences, will be the new Senior Adviser for Women and Girls Issues in the office of the Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts (CARE).

“Two highly qualified and respected leaders will advance the State Department’s vital work to support Afghan women, girls, and human rights,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement issued by his office.

Mr Blinken said that Ms Amiri will address issues of “critical importance to me” and the rest of President Joe Biden’s administration. “We desire a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live and thrive in political, economic and social inclusivity,” he added.

Earlier this week, the Taliban imposed new restrictions, banning women from working and limiting their access to education. The moves go against the pledges Taliban made after their Aug 15 takeover when they promised a moderate policy on such issues.

The new rules prevent women from traveling long distances without a male escort and forbid vehicle owners from giving rides to women unless they wear headscarves.

On Monday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also expressed his concern on this new development. “Saying that women can’t travel alone or go to schools and colleges — this kind of retrogressive thinking is a danger for Pakistan,” he said at a public meeting in Islamabad.

Secretary Blinken said Ms Amiri “will work closely with me” on issues like “fundamental freedoms of women, girls, and other at-risk populations in all of their diversity.”

Special Envoy Amiri’s important work will be complemented by the contributions of Stephenie Foster, he added.

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