Washington (AFP) – The top US diplomat to Afghanistan on Thursday apologized for tweets that suggested struggling Afghan women might find inspiration in African American history and culture — particularly the #BlackGirlMagic social media movement.
US envoy Karen Decker tweeted that several of her posts earlier in the week went “awry” despite her “best intentions” when she suggested Afghan women could learn from examples such as pop culture icons Beyonce and Lizzo.
Her comments sparked online indignation from users who objected to the seemingly tone deaf comments about the plight of Afghan women, who have seen their rights severely curtailed since the ultra-conservative Taliban swept back to power in 2021.
Since then the hardline Islamist rulers have banned women working for most aid groups, going to school or university, parks, gyms and public baths, and ordered them to cover up in public — effectively segregating them from public life.
The poverty-stricken nation is also facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. More than half of its 38 million people are facing hunger this winter, and nearly four million children are suffering from malnutrition, according to aid agencies.
“Sometimes our best intentions go awry because we haven’t listened enough or don’t truly understand others’ lived experience,” Decker posted.
“My efforts to celebrate courageous African Americans this month fall in that category. I apologize to any and all who I may have offended or hurt.”
Decker’s apology came after her tweets drew a rare rebuke from the State Department, with spokesman Ned Price saying on Wednesday that her messaging was “rather inappropriate and ineffective.”
In a series of tweets over several days, Decker — who has had multiple postings in Afghanistan dating as far back as 2006 — evoked themes from Black History Month in relation to Afghanistan and Afghan women.
“Are Afghans familiar with #BlackGirlMagic and the movement it inspired? Do Afghan girls need a similar movement? What about Afghan women?” Decker tweeted on Wednesday in a now-deleted post.
“Teach me, ready to learn.”
At the bottom of her tweet, Decker put hashtags for Beyonce, Lizzo and actress Regina King. In other tweets she also cited civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the Super Bowl, and Abraham Lincoln.
#BlackGirlMagic is a movement born on social media that celebrates Black women with millions of uplifting and laudatory posts.
“Decker asked if the country needed a ‘movement,’ apparently oblivious to its real need, which is food. Is she aware of the impending famine?” tweeted Lee Slusher, an international security expert.
“What the hell is this? Apparently the Biden Administration isn’t embarrassed enough already by their Afghanistan debacle,” Donald Trump Jr, son of the former US president, tweeted.
Fawzia Koofi, a former Afghan woman lawmaker who fled to Britain after the Taliban takeover, tweeted: “I don’t think many girls in Afghanistan are familiar with #BlackGirlMagic but they definitely (have) made day and night sleep difficult for (the) Taliban.”