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Bangladeshi Muslim woman to head Amnesty
When 44-year-old Bangladeshi Irene Zubaida Khan took over as secretary
general of Amnesty International on 18 August, she became the first woman,
the first Asian and the first Muslim to head the human rights watchdog.
Khan formally replaced Senegal's Pierre Sane as head of the London-based
organization on 17 Aug. after a 21-year career with the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees. Born on December 24, 1956 in the
Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, she is an expert in public law, international
law and human rights law after studies at the University of Manchester,
England and at Harvard Law School in the United States.
She began her career as a legal assistant with the International
Commission of Lawyers in Geneva, before joining the United Nations High
Commissioner in 1980 as a counsellor for the protection of refugees.
During postings in Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Britain and the Republic of
Ireland, Khan is said to have always been particularly motivated by her
work in the field. In 1995 the United Nations High Commissioner appointed
her chief of mission of their Indian bureau, where she was responsible for
the protection of 200,000 refugees.
Three years later, she was named head of information and research at the
agency, before becoming deputy director of the international protection
service in 1999. Khan becomes the seventh secretary general of Amnesty
International in its 40-year history. q