Shaheen Leads Bipartisan Group of Women Senators in Letter to President Biden Urging Response to Taliban for Reneging on Commitment to Allow Afghan Girls to Return to School

March 31, 2022

**Shaheen, the only woman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led the letter this week following the Taliban’s reversal on an agreement to allow Afghan girls to return to secondary school.** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan group of women Senators in a letter to President Biden, urging his administration to take action in response to the Taliban’s decision to renege on a commitment to allow Afghan girls to return to secondary school. Shaheen is a leader in the Senate in support of Afghan women and girls. 

The Senators wrote, “While we are not surprised that the Taliban has once again dismissed the rights of girls and young women, we are alarmed by the implications of their decision for 50 percent of the population and the future of Afghanistan. To this end, we urge you to convey clear consequences to the Taliban for their actions, and take immediate steps to bolster support for Afghan women and girls.” 

The Senators went on to address how this latest decision by the Taliban is part of a broader assault on women’s rights and freedom. In the eight months since the Taliban overthrew the legitimate Afghan government in 2021, women have been banned from most jobs, are required to be accompanied by a male relative and are restricted in where they can travel. Most seriously, when women protest this treatment, they are arrested, beaten and disappeared. 

In their letter, the Senators conveyed their support for the Biden administration’s decision to suspend engagements with the Taliban due to the reversal on girls’ access to secondary school, and urged for additional action in response. These actions include reinstating travel bans under the United Nations Security Council sanctions regime, and working with Congress on additional measures to provide access to primary, secondary and tertiary education. 

The Senators also addressed the dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and called for the administration to, “…engage the women of Afghanistan as our partners in mobilizing the provision of food assistance, maternal and child health needs and education, not only for women and girls but for all Afghans. The humanitarian crisis has crippled Afghanistan and left 95 percent of Afghans hungry. In the face of such unprecedented strife, it is the Afghan women who have developed assistance networks and communal groups to support their families and communities. The U.S. and the international community must tackle any obstacles to engaging women activists and fully empower women’s groups in decision-making and programming to funnel assistance to those who need it most.”

In closing, the Senators reiterated how critical it is to protect the two decades of progress on women’s rights that Afghan women fought to secure.

Their letter can be read in full here. In addition to Shaheen, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Deb Fischer (R-NE) Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Shaheen has long championed for the rights of Afghan women and girls and has led Senate efforts to bolster Congressional support for vulnerable groups and human rights around the world. She continues to lead action in the Senate to shine a spotlight on Afghan women and girls. Senator Shaheen repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government a U.S. foreign policy priority. Last year, Senator Shaheen met virtually with women members of Afghanistan’s Parliament to discuss the rights and futures of women and girls in Afghanistan. During a Congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan in 2019, Shaheen met with a group of Afghan women and leaders in civil society. Shaheen is the author of the Women, Peace and Security Act, which she wrote with Senator Capito and was signed into law in 2017. Their legislation ensures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations. She has also led bipartisan efforts to address the unique barriers young girls in developing countries face in accessing a full education. 

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