In Afghanistan Hearing, Shaheen Shares Brutal History of Taliban’s Violence Against Women & Warns of Dire Consequences with Swift U.S. Withdrawal

April 27, 2021

Shaheen at SFRC hearing on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today raised concerns around the preservation of rights for women and girls in Afghanistan to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. 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.

“We can call them courageous, and certainly we do, but they shouldn’t have to be courageous to do what they tried to do. It should not require courage?to be a journalist, like Malalai Maiwand… it should not require courage to stand up for basic human rights, like Fatima Khalil and Freshta Kohistani both did,” said Shaheen. “But unfortunately that is exactly what is required of women in Afghanistan today. And I worry that this reality is only going to escalate after our departure.”

Shaheen made clear that the actions the United States takes over the next four months will impact the lives of women for generations to come, and today’s girls deserve the opportunity to grow in a world with the freedoms their mothers fought to secure. She noted the decades of hard work that could be abandoned if we don’t act to ensure hard-fought rights are preserved and demand that violence against women ends. 

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. She concluded by noting that the U.S. must continue our efforts to promote women’s beyond the withdrawal of U.S. troops. 

Her remarks can be viewed here.

Senator Shaheen has repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing negotiations a U.S. foreign policy priority and on MSNBC earlier today she reiterated her concerns about the future of Afghan women amid conversations around a U.S. troop withdrawal. She most recently 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.