Afghanistan appoints first female ambassador, and sends her to Oslo

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An author, former journalist and women’s rights advocate will be arriving in Oslo soon to take over as Afghanistan’s new ambassador to all the Nordic countries. Manizha Bakhtary most recently has been chief of staff for the Afghan foreign minister.

Now she’ll be taking over the top diplomatic post for Afghanistan’s relations with Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Afghanistan’s Nordic embassy is based in Oslo.

Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen (photo, right) met Bakhtary (left) in Kabul two weeks ago and said the 37-year-old diplomat has “an exciting background.” She’ll be Afghanistan’s youngest envoy, in addition to its only female ambassador.

“I also think it’s great that she wants to work for closer relations in a wide range of areas, like culture and education,” Strøm-Erichsen said. “Afghanistan has so much more to offer, and isn’t just a country in conflict.”

Bakhtary told news bureau NTB that she’s never been to Norway before but has visited both Denmark and Sweden. She said she was especially looking forward to learn more about Nordic equal rights.

She said the situation in Afghanistan isn’t as bleak as reported in the international media. “There also are some bright spots,” she said. “Girls are going to school and there are students at the university.”

Bakhtary said she’s grateful for the aid sent from to Afghanistan, both military and civilian. She said she’s worked hard to achieve her own career post in the male-dominated country. “My children have become accustomed to not seeing me,” she said.

Bakhtary is also known for a blog she maintains, where she writes about Persian and western literature.

Afghanistan’s former ambassador to the Nordic countries, Jawed Ludin, left during the summer after two years in Oslo, for a new posting in Canada.