Women in Afghanistan await US protection, as promised

WASHINGTON – Even as they cling to the hope of being rescued by the U.S. government, Afghan women who have worked with the United States...


WASHINGTON – Even as they cling to the hope of being rescued by the U.S. government, Afghan women who have worked with the United States for the past 20 years are destroying all traces of this association – shredding documents written in English, removing social media apps, then burying their cell phones.

Current and former U.S. officials and activists have described the desperate steps Afghan women have taken since the takeover of their country by the Taliban this week as a grim reminder of the increased threat they face due to their gender.

Any attempt to contact US or international refugee agencies is a risk most Afghan women are unwilling to take, officials and activists have said. Even go to kabul airport, trying to get a seat on an American or international flight overflowing with anguished Afghans has become a life and death decision.

“The most dangerous place in Afghanistan right now is Kabul airport”, Rina amiria former State Department and United Nations official said on Tuesday. She told stories of women and their families caught between gunfire, or beaten by Taliban supporters, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to find a plane that would take them off.

“It’s just overwhelming that the United States and the international community have put these women in the position of having to risk not only their lives, but the lives of their children and families, in order to leave and save themselves. and their families, ”she added. said Amiri.

Afghan men wear makeup most performers and cultural agents who worked for the United States during the 20 Years War and, in turn, were granted special access to immigration. This is one of the reasons why relatively few women are among the thousands who were evacuated from Afghanistan in the past month, including more than 4,000 on Wednesday morning since the Taliban took control of the government. in Kabul. Tens of thousands of visa applicants remain stranded across the country.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has expanded refugee immigration and resettlement programs to allow more Afghans – including women – to enter the United States. “We will do whatever we can, as long as we can, for vulnerable Afghans,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.

They include, in many cases, “vigorous advocates of their Afghan compatriots, women and girls,” he said.

On Wednesday, the United States joined 20 countries and the European Union in demanding that the rights of Afghan women be protected and pledging to send humanitarian aid and other support “to ensure that their voices are heard ”.

“We are deeply concerned about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement,” the countries said in a joint statement released by the State Department.

But leading congressional lawmakers said that was not enough to secure even a limited number of women – politicians, human rights activists, journalists, soldiers and democracy advocates – who could top the list of targets of the Taliban.

This week, most Democrats and two Republicans in the Senate urged Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas to rush high-risk Afghan women into the United States under a temporary status, and to deal with the papers after they have been out of danger.

“We and our staff regularly receive reports of targeting, threats, kidnappings, torture and killings of women for their work,” the senators said. wrote in a letter Monday.

They added, “We also need to protect women who might fall through the cracks of the US government’s response. “

In remarks Monday, Biden said the United States “will continue to stand up for the basic rights of the Afghan people – women and girls – just as we do all over the world.”

Taliban leaders have described their group as more socially evolved than it was 20 years ago, when extremists beat women without warning, forced them to wear head-to-toe burqas, restricted their public outings, refused to let them work and prevented the girls from attending. school.

“We assure that there will be no violence against women,” Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, told reporters on Tuesday. He promised that “no prejudice against women would be allowed”, and said that they could participate in society – “within the limits of Islamic law”.

The Biden administration warned the Taliban that Afghanistan would not receive financial support if the group returned to its extremist roots, including oppressing women. Monday, UN Security Council made it clear that in order for the Taliban to be considered a legitimate government – and to receive assistance – they must not only reject support and refuge for terrorist organizations and allow humanitarian access to Afghanistan, but also protect human rights human, especially for women and girls.

“The United States must be careful about the recognition it gives to the Taliban,” said Lisa Curtis, who oversaw policy for Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central and South Asia in the National Security Council during the Trump administration. “We need to see concrete examples showing that they will guarantee human rights, that they will uphold the rights of women.

Already, Afghan central bank assets detainees in the United States have been frozen by the Treasury Department, and other direct US aid to the government in Kabul has been cut off to prevent the Taliban from abusing funds, two officials said.

Just two months ago, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it would send $ 266 million in aid to help Afghans struggling with food and clothing shortages caused by the conflict. This brought the agency’s total funding to Afghanistan to nearly $ 3.9 billion since 2002, most of it channeled through relief agencies.

Much of this money has been used to educate Afghan women, train them for jobs, and ensure they have better access to maternal, pediatric and other health care. A United States-funded program known as Promote, prepared nearly 24,000 women who were once homebound to join the country’s workforce and honed the negotiating skills of 5,000 so they could lobby for gender equality , including in the peace process with the now defunct Taliban.

An American aid program that trained midwives was so successful that it became a flagship project of the World Bank and secured funding from the European Union.

But while some schools across Afghanistan remain open, others are closing. In parts of the country, the Taliban assured female doctors and health workers that their clinics would remain open. In other areas, women are unsure whether they should even venture out of their homes without their husbands.

“I want to go out, I want to drive – I love to drive,” Fahima Saman said in an interview from Kabul on Tuesday, speaking only on condition that she is not identified by her full name for fear of reprisal of the Taliban. “But because of this situation, I can’t – I’m afraid.”

A high school teacher and mother of two, Fahima, 29, said she and her husband had never applied to immigrate to the United States, as they both had jobs and believed that the Afghanistan’s future would be more stable than its past. More recently, as the threat from the Taliban increased, Fahima said she had not sought help from the U.S. embassy or international diplomats for fear that other Afghans would think she was doing something wrong. unseemly or immoral.

Fahima said she did not believe the Taliban would respect her rights. “It’s a very bad situation; it’s very dangerous, ”she said.

Ms Amiri, a native of Kabul and a naturalized U.S. citizen, called on the Biden administration to back up its words of support for the rights of Afghan women by at least evacuating those who were at high risk.

“It shouldn’t be just rhetoric,” she said. ” Everything is possible. But it takes the political will and appetite to do it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Women in Afghanistan await US protection, as promised
Women in Afghanistan await US protection, as promised
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