Biography

H.E. Roya Rahmani
Afghan Ambassador to the United States

Embassy of Afghanistan
Washington, D.C.

Roya Rahmani is an Afghan diplomat and the first female Afghan Ambassador to the United States. She is also the designated non-resident Ambassador to Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. She has served in these roles since December 2018. She is known for being a powerful advocate for women’s rights, democracy promotion, and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

In her role as Ambassador to the United States, Rahmani has focused on highlighting the successes of the Afghan-American partnership and bringing to the American public the often unheard stories of Afghan’s everyday life and steady progression toward peace. She enjoys connecting with and expressing her deep appreciation for American veterans who have served in Afghanistan. Having experienced the horrors of war firsthand, Rahmani is strongly committed to building peace. She has said, “If I can stop even one bomb from going off, my goal in life will be achieved.” 

She has been featured in many prominent newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Jakarta Post. In 2019, she was featured on TIME Magazine’s “100 Next List” as a “fierce advocate of peace on Afghan terms.” During her time as an ambassador, she has received many awards and recognitions, including being honored by the Alliance for Peacebuilding for her efforts to create an inclusive peace process.

Rahmani was born in Kabul in 1978, a year before the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. She spent her early years there before her family fled to Pakistan in 1993 to escape the civil war. Rahmani has often spoken of her frustration at not being able to attend school during the civil war years, noting that her efforts to keep her mind engaged during this time led to a lifelong motto of “doing the best with what you have.”

In 1999, Rahmani was awarded a World University Service of Canada scholarship to McGill University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. After graduating, she returned to Afghanistan and worked for a number of nonprofits focusing on human rights, women’s empowerment, and education. During this time she also worked as a part-time subject matter expert with the NATO Joint Forces Training Center and a consultant to the New York Department of Education, the United Nations Secretariat in New York, the Department of Trade and International Affairs of Canada, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Women Living under Muslim Laws and other INGOs. In 2007, Rahmani was awarded the Best Human Rights Activist Award by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for her work on a marriage document that secured equitable rights for the family and contributed to data collection at a national level. 

Rahmani’s nonprofit work led her to believe that working within the government would be the most effective way to achieve the large-scale changes necessary to build a peaceful and prosperous nation, and she was inspired to change her career focus to public service. With this goal in mind, she returned to university as a Fulbright scholar, completing a master’s degree in public administration and international law at Columbia University in 2009. 

Rahmani joined the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Foreign Minister in 2011. From 2012-2016 she served as the first Director General for Regional Cooperation, during which time she developed and spearheaded important regional cooperation initiatives, such as the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. Regional cooperation and integration remain key elements of the Afghan government’s roadmap to peace. 

In 2016, Rahmani was appointed Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to Indonesia, non-resident ambassador to Singapore, and first ever ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  During her tenure, she helped develop a close relationship between Afghanistan and Indonesia by deepening economic and political ties and collaborating on the peace process, especially by engaging religious clerics. Her work in Indonesia led her to be named “The People’s Ambassador” in 2017 by Indonesia Tatler.

Rahmani has served as a board member for many different organizations. She is a Musawah Advocate, a member of the Munich Security Conference Young Leaders, and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow. She is the mother of a young daughter, and often speaks passionately about the importance of bringing women and youth into the democratic process. She believes that the Afghan people are her country’s greatest and most important asset on the road toward peace and prosperity.

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