A bipartisan group of senators on the foreign relations committee sent a letter on Monday calling on the Biden administration to support and evacuate Afghan women leaders after Taliban forces seized Kabul over the weekend.
In the letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, 46 senators from both parties (only three Republicans) signed the letter, spearheaded by committee chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in urging the creation of a “humanitarian parole category” to help Afghan women leaders, activists, judges and other public figures swiftly and efficiently relocate to the U.S.
“We strongly urge you to create a humanitarian parole category specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, judges, parliamentarians, journalists and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces and to streamline the paperwork process to facilitate referrals to allow for fast, humane, and efficient relocation to the United States,” the senators wrote.
The letter states that the committee and staff regularly receive reports regarding “the targeting, threatening, kidnapping, torturing and assassinations of women for their work defending and promoting democracy, equality, higher education, and human rights.”
“In areas captured by the Taliban, there are reports of war crimes including summary executions, public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence and forced marriage, as well as clampdowns on media and other forms of communication.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are among the signees of the letter.
The letter’s release comes as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan puts women and girls in the region in harm’s way. When the Taliban was in power from 1996 to 2001, women and girls were barred from taking most jobs or receiving an education.
The New York Times reported that in the two decades after the U.S. Afghanistan invasion toppled the Taliban, the U.S. has invested more than $780 million towards expanding women’s rights in the country, which include the ability to enlist in the military and hold political office.
Many Afghan women now reportedly remain cloistered in their homes and are in fear for their safety as the Taliban seizes property, targets government workers and journalists, and launches attacks toward crowds of civilians.
According to the Times, Kabul residents have recently taken down advertisements showing women without head scarves. In some areas of Afghanistan, women have been advised against leaving their homes without being accompanied by a male relative. Girls’ schools have also been shut down.