In a display of the importance of women’s substantive political leadership, all 24 women members of the US Senate recently signed a letter to President Joe Biden urging his administration to “develop an interagency plan to preserve the political, economic, social, and basic human rights of Afghan women and girls.”
The bipartisan letter, led by Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), notes that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan “puts at risk hard-won gains for Afghan women and girls.... Women and girls are now suffering the predations of a Taliban regime with a track record of brutalizing, isolating, and denying them life and liberty.”
The letter builds on previous work of women members of the US Congress to keep Afghan women and girls at the center of US policy-making in Afghanistan. During the chaotic US withdrawal, women Congress members consistently pressed the administration to protect Afghan women and girls.
This is a welcome example of how women can use their positions of leadership to help and support other women.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, there has been a major rollback of the rights of women and girls. The regime has yet to formally allow girls to attend secondary school, women have been restricted from leaving their homes without a chaperone and prevented from returning to work.
More worryingly, women – particularly those who were working as judges, police, activists, or in government before the fall of the former government – have been targeted by the Taliban with beatings, home raids, and even killings. Many of these women’s families have also been targeted in these reprisals.
Alongside the direct threats, women and girls in Afghanistan are also disproportionately affected by the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy, the growing famine, and the humanitarian crisis that is worsening as winter takes hold.
Mina’s List is proud to stand alongside these women senators to fight for the rights and protection of Afghan women and girls. We join the calls for a plan of action to protect their basic human rights and to hold the Taliban accountable. We look forward to the appointment of a senior State Department official to oversee the administration’s efforts to protect women, girls, and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan. And we hope that the administration will heed senators’ calls to create a special humanitarian parole category specifically for Afghan women leaders, activists, parliamentarians, journalists, and others whose lives are at stake under Taliban rule.
As the 24 women senators wrote: “Afghan women and girls need our action now.” There is no time left to waste.
Read the full letter from the women of the US Senate here.