By Rita Stephan and Dr. Charles Kiamie III
Arab-Americans in Foreign Affairs Agencies (AAIFAA), an official interagency employee affinity group with a membership surpassing 450 people, is celebrating its eighth anniversary in 2022. In April, they will celebrate National Arab American Heritage Month. The Biden-Harris administration has been applauded for their inclusion of Arab-American appointees and career staff in prominent foreign affairs, development, and national security positions—which is something that AAIFAA fully supports and applauds. Among the many distinguished names of recent appointees are: Reema Dodin, deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; Sara Minkara, the first U.S. special advisor on international disability rights; Christy Abizaid, director of the National Counterrorism Center; Hady Amr, the Department of State’s deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, Kelly Razzouk, deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and Fayrouz Saad, director of public engagement at USAID. Minkara, Amr, Razzouk, and Saad are all members of AAIFAA.
As Arab-Americans continue to define their voices in American public life, the work of Arab-American colleagues in government has become even more important. It sends a strong message to Arab-American communities across the country that public service is commendable. It also counters the perception of exclusion by some in the Arab-American community who do not see themselves reflected in government demographics. AAIFAA commends those who have shown others that the U.S. government does and should look like them—and admires the legacies of Arab-Americans who have come before today’s leaders, including Phillip Habib, former Department under secretary of state for political affairs.
AAIFAA welcomes members from across all U.S. federal agencies. Many of AAIFAA’s members are not Arab-Americans, and the group enthusiastically invites anyone interested in advancing its mission to support the promotion, protection, and utilization of Arab-Americans, and to advance the cultural, linguistic, personal, and professional assets that Arab-Americans bring to foreign affairs in support of the American people. AAIFAA proudly collaborates with other employee affinity groups to cultivate a workforce reflective of the populace that public servants serve.
To learn more about AAIFAA, email their board.
Rita Stephan is the regional coordinator for religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa in USAID’s Middle East Bureau. Dr. Charles Kiamie III is the deputy director for the Center for Education in USAID’s Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation.