Irene Zubaida Khan joined Amnesty International as the organisation’s seventh Secretary General in August 2001. She is the first woman, the first Muslim and the first Asian to head Amnesty International, the world’s largest human rights organisation, which has more than 1 million members in 140 countries. As secretary-general, Ms Khan is Amnesty’s spokeswoman and strategic leader as well as chief executive of the international secretariat.
Born in Dhaka, Ms Khan, 45, studied law at the University of Manchester and Harvard Law School, specialising in public international law and human rights. She is the recipient of several academic awards, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, and the Pilkington “Woman of the Year” Award 2002.
Interested in working directly with people to change their lives, Irene helped to found the development organization, Concern Universal, in 1977, and began her work as a human rights activist with the International Commission of Jurists in 1979.
Irene joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1980, and worked in a variety of positions promoting the international protection of refugees. From 1991-95 she was Senior Executive Officer to Mrs. Sadako Ogata, then UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She was appointed as the UNHCR Chief of Mission in India in 1995, the youngest UNHCR country representative at that time, and in 1998 headed the UNHCR Centre for Research and Documentation. She led the UNHCR team in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis in 1999, and was appointed Deputy Director of International Protection later that year.
Sources: Amnesty International; the Financial Times