Shaheen, Hirono, Collins Call on President Biden to Take Immediate Action to Ensure Women’s Rights and Safety are Protected after Withdrawal from Afghanistan

May 28, 2021

In Letter to the President, Senators Urge Appointment of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues as Senior Administration Official Responsible for Coordinating Whole-of-Government Approach to Protect Women’s Rights in Afghanistan  

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, joined U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in urging President Biden to take immediate action to ensure women’s rights and safety are protected during and after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Noting that protecting Afghan women and girls post-withdrawal will require a whole-of-government approach, the Senators called on the President to immediately appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues who can serve as the senior administration official response for coordinating the needed response. 

“We write to convey our deep concern for the fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces in the coming months. Given all that is at stake for Afghan women and girls, we ask you to take immediate steps to ensure women’s rights and safety after the U.S. departure, including the appointment of an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues to serve as the senior administration official responsible for coordinating all U.S. government efforts for the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan. This is an urgent priority as our forces withdraw from the country and thereafter,” the Senators wrote. “The Taliban rule that preceded U.S. intervention was marked by the violent repression of Afghan women and girls. Women were barred from working, attending school, and the basic freedom of movement. After twenty years of U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, uneven but undeniable progress has been made in advancing rights for Afghan women and girls in society. There is work still to do, but our progress must not be reversed.” 

The full letter can be downloaded here. 

Senator Shaheen has repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing negotiations a U.S. foreign policy priority. Senator Shaheen recently met virtually with women members of Afghanistan’s Parliament to discuss the rights and futures of women and girls in Afghanistan as the United States begins withdrawal. Shaheen also raised her concerns about the safety of women and girls amid the U.S. departure from Afghanistan with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing last month. She also partnered with humanitarian and filmmaker Angelina Jolie on an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for a meaningful and comprehensive strategy to address the safety and security of women and girls in Afghanistan as the U.S. draws down its presence. This week, led a bipartisan resolution with Senator Collins in the Senate condemning the recent devastating attack on a girls’ school in Kabul that killed over 85 and injured 150 people, and also expressing U.S. solidarity with Afghan women and girls amid the recent surge in violence.  

In a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Shaheen highlighted the stories of seven women who were brutally murdered by the Taliban and pointed to a newly declassified report that portends poorly for the fate of Afghan women following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The report finds that achievements in women’s rights have been made when the international community prioritizes women’s rights in Afghanistan. She previously raised this with Secretary of State Blinken, both before and during his confirmation hearing. During a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan in 2019, Shaheen met with a group of Afghan women who described how dramatically their lives had improved since the Taliban government was toppled nearly 2 decades ago. Shaheen is the author of the Women, Peace and Security Act, which was signed into law in 2017 and ensures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations.   

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