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Activist from Afghanistan Wins US State Department’s Courage Award

VANCOUVER, CANADA – Benafsha Yaqoobi, a former member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was awarded the 2024 International Women of Courage award. This award is given annually by the U.S. Department of State.

The award was presented to Ms. Yaqoobi and 13 other women on Monday, March 4, by the U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House.

Benafsha Yaqoubi served in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission until the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.

According to a statement by the U.S. Department of State, the award was given to Ms. Yaqoobi for her years of advocacy for the rights of women facing violence.      

Being visually impaired herself, Ms. Yaqoobi co-founded ‘Rahyab Organization’ in 2008 with her husband to provide education to other visually impaired individuals in Afghanistan. During her tenure at the Human Rights Commission, she continued her also focused on disability rights and education.      

Receiving the award, Ms Yaqoobi said, “embrace courage. Stand firm on your values, even amidst stigma. When you reach your goal, therein lies the serene calm that prevails.”

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid tribute to women in Afghanistan who he said, “are leading the charge for their rights and for human rights and democracy around the world. And they’re demonstrating the importance of having women at the decision-making table.”      

American First Lady Jill Biden, presenting this year’s Women of Courage Awards emphasized gender equality and praised the recipients for their courage and commitment. 

The International Women of Courage Award, presented by the Department of State since 2007, is given to women who have shown exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in defending peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls.

Several other women from Afghanistan have also received the award in previous years. Last year, Belquis Ahmadi, the Afghan-American gender expert at the US Institute of Peace was among the recipients.

Women from Afghanistan win such accolades at a time when the Taliban in Afghanistan have nearly completely erased women from the country’s socio-political life.