September 22, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks Before Meeting with Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Rashid Al-Khater, Roya Mahboob, CEO and President of Digital Citizen Fund, and Afghan Girls Robotics Team

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Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Qatari Compound Doha, Qatar

MS. MAHBOOB:  (Inaudible.)  We also appreciate (inaudible) for (inaudible) in Afghanistan.  We had (inaudible) to learn about technology (inaudible).  We were supposed to build (inaudible) with a focus on AI, robotics (inaudible) in Afghanistan.  We had dreams that Afghanistan would become, within next 10 years, a country that is a source of high technology within (inaudible).  We don’t know what happened three weeks ago, but we just know that everybody is scared.  Everybody is scared about the future of Afghanistan.  Your (inaudible) government when three weeks ago everything changed.  We (inaudible) evacuated our teams (inaudible) here.  And they (inaudible) to saving some of the girls that they are really scared and they were in Kabul.  But there is still thousands of other students still in Afghanistan.  There are our teachers, coaches, and their families and there is (inaudible).  They’re all scared.  They don’t know what will happen to the future of Afghanistan.  There is lots of uncertainty.  And we want to ask of you to see what’s your plan, what’s your administration’s plan for the future of the millions of women and childrens and who has – in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much.  Thanks to all of you.  Look, I know I can’t possibly fully know, but I know this has been an incredibly traumatic experience and moment for all of you.  And I know that leaving behind everything you know, including, in some cases, families, friends, their community, is incredibly, incredibly hard.  And it raises so many questions about the future that must be going through your minds, and I’ll try and answer some of them.

But I also want to know – it’s actually an honor for me to meet all of you, because you’re famous around the world, a source of inspiration around the world.  And I think that no matter where you are physically, you’re going to continue to be a source of inspiration in what you’ve done and what you’re going to do.  And the story you’ve already told about what you’re doing, about the importance of girls and women engaging in science, in technology, education more broadly, that sent a very powerful message all around the world, well beyond Afghanistan.  And I know you’re going to find ways to continue to do that.

This is a really difficult moment.  There is so much change happening.  I can’t tell you where everything is going to land.  I can tell you that we’re committed – the United States is committed, so many countries around the world are committed to a few things.  We’re committed to supporting you and helping you as you’re making the transition.  We’re also committed to doing everything we can to help people who are still in Afghanistan and are looking for a different future.  That will play out in many different ways in the weeks ahead, in the months ahead, maybe even years ahead.

But many countries are coming together to support not only you, but also to make sure to the best of our ability that commitments that have been made by the Taliban they live up to.  They’ve told the world that they intend to allow people to travel freely.  The world is determined to see that they make good on that commitment.  They told the world that they intend to uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and girls.  We’ll be looking very, very carefully at that.  They told the world that they do not intend to engage in reprisals.  We’ll be looking very, very carefully at that.  And it’s not just the United States; it’s more than a hundred countries around the world that have come together and set clear expectations for the way forward.

So we’re not losing our focus.  We’re going to remain very focused and trying to do everything that we can to not just support you but support all those in Afghanistan who need assistance.  And we also know that the people in Afghanistan just need a lot of assistance because there’s a lot of suffering because of a lack of a strong economy, because of the drought, because of COVID, all of these things.  And there are many countries that are working to help.

So I know especially in these – in this moment, when things – there’s so much pain and your lives have been disrupted in such profound ways, it’s hard to see what the future will bring.  We’re going to work to try to answer some of those questions in the days ahead.

But I just, again, want you to know I was really looking forward to meeting you because we’ve – so many of us have heard so much about you and your story has gone around the world.  But I know you’re going to continue to write that story in different ways, and maybe in different ways than you thought a few weeks ago, but you’re going to do it, and we will do whatever we can to help you do it.  So thank you.

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