Ms Irene Zubaida Khan took up leadership of Amnesty International in August 2001, on the ocassion of the organisation’s 40th anniversary.
Ms Khan was AI’s seventh secretary-general but is the first woman, the first Asian and the first Muslim to guide the world’s largest human rights organization.
During her leadership of AI, she personally led many high level missions including missions to Pakistan during the bombing of Afghanistan, to Israel/Occupied Territories just after the Israeli occupation of Jenin, and to Colombia before the Presidential elections in May 2003.
Khan is deeply concerned about violence against women, and she initiated a process of consultations with women activists to design a global campaign by Amnesty International against violence on women.
Khan is also keen to draw attention to hidden human rights violations, such as the plight of asylum seekers in detention in Australia, victims of massacre in Burundi, and the discrimination of the mentally disabled in Bulgaria.
Khan was educated and trained in international and human rights law. She began her activism with the International Commission of Jurists in 1979. Between 1980 and her appointment at AI in 2001, Khan worked in various positions in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.