Female senators urge Biden to protect Afghan women and girls

Afghan schoolgirls walk along a path as they return from school in Mazar-i-Sharif on October 30, 2021.

Deputy Kohsar | AFP | Getty Images

All 24 female U.S. senators on Thursday sent a two-part letter to President Joe Biden urging him to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Late. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., And Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., Led the group of senators in their call on the Biden administration to develop an “interagency plan” that preserves the political, social, economic and fundamental human rights for Afghan women and girls.

Such a plan should also address how the United States will work with international organizations – such as the United Nations – to hold the Taliban accountable, senators said in the letter.

“You have committed yourself to pressuring the Taliban to uphold the rights of women and girls, and you have declared that America will maintain a lasting partnership with the people of Afghanistan who oppose the Taliban regime,” the senators said in the letter.

“We will advise, support and enable these efforts through legislation and cooperation with your administration,” they added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States ended its last evacuation flights out of Kabul in Afghanistan on August 30, ending a 20-year conflict in the war-torn nation. Biden has defended his decision to withdraw US troops despite the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan earlier that month, leaving Afghan citizens living in fear for their lives under the group’s rule.

In their letter, senators noted that the US liberation from Afghanistan threatens some of the “hard-won gains” for Afghan women and girls’ participation in public life. Last year, for example, an estimated 3.5 million girls were in school, with 100,000 women attending public and private universities.

Women also began to thrive in business and the public sector in the past year, senators added in the letter. The Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that more than 1,000 women entrepreneurs turned up and women were elected to senior government positions.

But without a “legitimate” Afghan government and military forces to protect them, women and girls now face the threat of the Taliban regime, which has historically brutalized, isolated and denied them their rights, the senators said in the letter.

Senators noted that Taliban leaders are not keeping promises to ensure the safety of women under the new government.

Following the country’s transfer of power to the group in August, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised not to violate women’s rights. Mujahid said the group was committed to upholding their rights under sharia law and would allow women to study and work, according to NBC News.

But women have often been subjected to targeted killings, beatings and have been banned from leaving the home without a male guardian, senators said. For example, pictures appeared in August showing bloody women and children beaten by Taliban fighters cracking down on a protest.

“Afghan women and girls need our action now,” the senators said in the letter, adding that they were requesting a briefing from the Biden administration on its intergovernmental plan.

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