Afghan schoolgirls walk along a path as they return from school in Mazar-i-Sharif on October 30, 2021.
Wakil Kohsar| AFP | Getty Images
All 24 female U.S. senators on Thursday sent a bipartisan letter to President Joe Biden, calling on him to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Jon Ernst, R-Iowa., are leading the group of senators in their call for the Biden administration to develop an “interagency plan” that preserves the political, social, economic and basic human rights of Afghan women and girls.
Such a plan should also address how the U.S. will work with international organizations, such as the United Nations, to hold the Taliban accountable, the senators said in the letter.
“You have committed to press the Taliban to uphold the rights of women and girls, and you have stated that America will maintain an enduring partnership with the people of Afghanistan resisting Taliban rule,” the senators said in the letter, which included signatures from each of them.
“We will advise, support, and enable those efforts through legislation and engagement with your Administration,” they continued.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
The U.S. wrapped up its final evacuation flights out of Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 30, ending a 20-year conflict in the war-torn nation. Biden has defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops despite the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan earlier that month, which left Afghan citizens living in fear for their lives under the group’s rule.
In their letter Thursday, the senators noted that U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan threatens some of “hard-won gains” for Afghan women and girls’ participation in public life. Last year, for instance, an estimated 3.5 million girls were in school, with 100,000 women who attended public and private universities.
Women also began to thrive in the business and government sector in the last year, the senators added in the letter. The Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported over 1,000 female entrepreneurs, and women were elected to senior government positions.
However, without a “legitimate” Afghan government and military forces to protect them, women and girls now face the threat of the Taliban regime that has historically brutalized, isolated and denied them of their rights, the senators said in the letter.
The senators noted that Taliban leaders are not upholding promises to ensure the safety of women under the new government.
Following the country’s transfer of power to the group in August, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid vowed not to infringe on women’s rights. Mujahid said the group was committed to upholding their rights within the framework of Shariah law and would allow women to study and work, according to NBC News.
But women have often been subject to targeted killings, beatings and are prohibited from leaving home without a male guardian, the senators said. For instance, photos surfaced in August showing bloodied women and children beaten by Taliban fighters that cracked down on a protest.
“Afghan women and girls need our action now,” the senators said in the letter, adding that they request a briefing from the Biden administration on its interagency plan.