Feminist Leaders Implore Biden-Harris Administration: Don’t Abandon Afghan Women and Girls

“We are appealing to you to fulfill the promises made to protect human rights globally, especially Afghan women and girls whose lives and futures are now in peril.”

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An Afghan girl attends a female engagement meeting in Afghanistan’s Balish Kalay Village in the Urgun District on March 27, 2011. (DVIDSHUB / Flickr)

In a letter signed by almost 100 signatories, feminist leaders and advocates are urging the Biden-Harris administration “not to agree to a deal that includes recognition and support of a Taliban regime” and that “any deal by the United States that would include recognition and support of the Taliban regime would be a reversal of U.S. commitments that were made …” and would undermine the administration’s commitments to human rights globally. 

Second, the letter urges the Biden administration to take immediate action to save the lives of Afghan “women’s rights and human rights leaders and advocates …  who are now being targeted by the Taliban.”

The letter credits the work of Afghan women’s rights and human rights leaders [that] “led to increases in education and opportunities for Afghan women and girls, increases in representation of Afghan women in government and all sectors of society, improvements in civil liberties and civil rights, and decreases in maternal and infant mortality.” 

“All of these gains—and the very lives and futures of Afghan women and girls—are now in grave jeopardy.”

The letter was signed by a wide range of civil society members—ranging from current and former lawmakers, to voting rights advocates, to racial justice leaders—including Melanne Verveer, former U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues; Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.); Dolores Huerta; Gloria Steinem; Cecile Richards, co-founder of Supermajority; former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold; National Organization for Women president Christian Nunes; Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda; Erin Vilardi, CEO of Vote Run Lead; Dani Ayers, CEO of MeToo International; and many more. (See the full letter and list of signatories here.)

Read the letter in full below:

Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,

We are heartbroken by the devastating news coming out of Afghanistan about Taliban’s advances and are writing to you with our plea for your administration to take actions to protect Afghan women and girls and to address this unfolding human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.

As you have stated, America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked the U.S. on September 11th. But we also made commitments. Twenty years ago, the United States made promises to the women and girls of Afghanistan. The contributions of literally billions of dollars the U.S. and NATO countries in support of the work of Afghan women’s rights and human rights leaders led to increases in education and opportunities for Afghan women and girls, increases in representation of Afghan women in government and all sectors of society, improvements in civil liberties and civil rights, and decreases in maternal and infant mortality.

All of these gains—and the very lives and futures of Afghan women and girls—are now in grave jeopardy. As the Taliban has taken over territories, they have committed war crimes and engaged in the same brutal tactics that marked their rule before they were removed from power. We have heard reports in the media and directly from our colleagues in Afghanistan that women’s rights and human rights activists and journalists have been assassinated; girls’ schools have been closed; women and girls are being forced to marry Taliban soldiers in what amounts to sexual slavery; and women and girls are being forced to stay in their homes and punished even for using cell phones. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been internally displaced and are attempting to flee to Kabul and neighboring countries in the midst of an historic drought, raging coronavirus pandemic and widespread hunger. The situation of internally displaced women who are fleeing with their children, who comprise 80% of IDPs, is especially dire.

This is why we implore your administration not to agree to a deal that includes recognition and support of a Taliban regime. The U.S. and U.N. previously refused to recognize the Taliban based on their brutal disregard of human rights, especially of women and girls. Any deal by the United States that would include recognition and support of the Taliban regime would be a reversal of U.S. commitments that were made to the Afghan people, especially women and girls, and would undermine commitments by the U.S. and your administration to human rights globally and the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017.

Further, we implore you to take immediate action to save the lives of Afghan women’s rights and human rights leaders and advocates who have selflessly and courageously worked at great risk to advance the rights of women and girls and are now being targeted by the Taliban. We ask for the evacuation of these leaders and Afghan women students who have secured commitments at universities here to pursue their education. Safe passage to the United States must be provided immediately.

Your administration, President Biden, has accomplished much for women and girls in the United States over the past seven months, and you have achieved an extraordinary record in the Senate and as Vice President in combating violence against women. And Vice President Kamala Harris has worked over many years for women’s rights, especially women of color. That is why we are appealing to you to fulfill the promises made to protect human rights globally, especially Afghan women and girls whose lives and futures are now in peril. 

We respectfully await your response to our urgent requests.

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