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First Woman Provincial Governor Named in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2005 – Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai appointed the country's first woman governor March 3, coincidentally, during the opening days of Women's History Month.

Karzai named Habiba Sarobi, former minister of women's affairs in the transitional government, as governor of the central province of Bamiyan, according to news reports.

The historic appointment is considered a major step forward for the Afghan government, which is promoting more women in positions of power and encouraging wider political participation among women.

That represents a sea change for a nation ruled for six years by the Taliban regime, which severely limited women's rights until being overthrown by Afghan and coalition forces. Under the Taliban, women were banned from participating in politics, business and all advanced education.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in an interview earlier this year, cited the widespread participation of women in Afghanistan's national elections last October as a positive sign of things to come in that country. Of an estimated 8.5 million Afghan voters, about 40 percent were women "who came out and voted even though the Taliban was trying to scare them away," he said.

During a town hall meeting in Kuwait last December, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld counted the Afghan elections, and the "determination of the women who braved violence and cast their ballots" among the "pivotal moments in history" he said were made possible through the help of America's men and women in uniform.

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