As U.S. Begins Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Shaheen Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to Women’s Rights in Conversation with Afghan Women Parliamentarians

May 04, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today 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. Last month, President Biden announced that the U.S. would withdraw U.S. forces by September 11, 2021. Shaheen has expressed disappointment in the President’s decision, underscoring the risks of losing hard-fought gains in the country and serious concerns regarding the rights of women and girls at the hands of the Taliban. Just last week, Shaheen raised these issues with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with women members of Afghanistan’s Parliament earlier today. Hasina Safi, Nahid Farid, Shinkai Karookhail, Frozan Nawabi, Mary Akrami and other women engaged in the political and civil discourse around the rights of Afghan women and girls are so brave. But they shouldn’t have to be,” said Shaheen. “As the United States begins its withdrawal, the safety of women and girls and the health of their communities are at risk, especially amid increasing violence from the Taliban. We cannot afford the hard-fought gains for women and minority populations to be lost. In the months ahead, I’ll work with the Biden administration however I can to ensure every effort is made to safeguard the progress made and support our partners on the ground to secure a stable and inclusive transitional government.”

Participants in Shaheen’s virtual meeting included:

  • Ms. Hasina Safi, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs
  • Ms. Nahid Farid, Chairwoman of Women's Affairs, Lower House, Parliament of Afghanistan
  • Ms. Shinkai Karookhail, Chairwoman of Women's Caucus, Lower House, Parliament of Afghanistan
  • Ms. Frozan Nawabi, Director General of Human Rights and Women's Affairs
  • Ms. Mary Akrami, Director, Afghan Women’s Network

In the hearing last week, Shaheen vividly portrayed the consequences of what may happen if the Taliban returns to power once U.S. troops withdraw by highlighting the stories of seven women who were brutally murdered by the Taliban. Shaheen also 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.

Senator Shaheen has repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing negotiations a U.S. foreign policy priority, and on MSNBC last week, reiterated her concerns about the future of Afghan women. She previously raised this with Secretary of State Blinken, both before and during his confirmation hearing. Senator Shaheen repeatedly pushed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make women’s inclusion in Afghan peace negotiations a U.S. foreign policy priority under the Trump administration. In one hearing, Shaheen slammed Pompeo on his reticence to support the rights of Afghan women during peace talks. 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 secures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations.