Zeenat Karzai, First Lady of Afghanistan
Dr. Zenat Quraishi Karzai is the wife of Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the first lady of Afghanistan. She is an ethnic Pashtun and approximately 39 years old. Originally from the city of Kandahar, she moved to Kabul where she currently lives. Dr. Zenat worked previously as a gynaecologist, treating mostly Afghan refugees in Pakistani hospitals before she married Hamid Karzai.
Born and raised in the southern city of Kandahar, the daughter of a civil servant, Zenat Quraishi moved to Kabul after high school to attend Kabul University. In 1993, she and her family fled from the civil war to Quetta, Pakistan. She was a gynaecologist by profession, and has worked in hospitals treating Afghan refugees in Pakistan before she married Hamid Karzai. She is a distant relative of the President and they a son who was born in 2007, named Mirwais Karzai. Dr. Zenat belongs to the Quraish family line and her husband Karzai is from the Popalzai tribe.
She has been in Kabul for more than seven years but she rarely ventures beyond the many layers of security of the presidential palace, which includes four security checkpoints, two body searches and a secret code word. Although during her early years, before the 2004 presidential election, she used to go shopping alone. Most Afghans are not even aware that their president, Hamid Karzai, has been married since 1999.
For a president who has been credited for helping the women of Afghanistan regain their civil rights, Karzai has also been criticized for being overly conservative with his own spouse. Many have accused Karzai of keeping the first lady out of the media’s reach over fears of criticism from conservative mullahs and religious leaders.
Karzai’s picture can be seen in dozens of newspapers and magazines every day, but he has made sure that Zeenat is kept out of the public eye. The first lady has expressed her desire to work for Afghan people and women.