THE ISSUE: Twenty years after being removed from power in the U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban took over the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, on Sunday (8/15), facing little resistance from Afghan government forces. The Taliban was expected to gain ground after the US’s withdrawal. But the speed of the Taliban’s advance – and the US’s and Afghanistan president’s chaotic exit – has left people shaken. As the Taliban completes its total takeover of the government, women face terrible danger and risk.  

WHY IT MATTERS: Regardless of what Taliban leaders claim, the safety of women and girls in Afghanistan is at risk. The advances in women’s rights over the last 20 years are now void as Afghan women are already reporting that they are like prisoners in their homes. Hundreds of women journalists and judges have been assassinated in recent years by the Taliban. Unless they are evacuated, many more could become victims of the Taliban. Experienced observers doubt that the Taliban will protect women’s rights and liberties, and as soon as the world looks away, they will return to their old ways. We agree. 

THE STATUS:  There are steps that the Biden Administration must take that will assure the safety of Afghan women and girls, many of whom are reportedly in hiding. Taliban spokesmen have said that women’s rights will be respected “according to the Islamic faith.” But while they were in power twenty years ago, they followed edicts that kept women indoors, beaten if they appeared on the street without an accompanying male, deprived of education and employment, and unable to access medical care, among other extreme practices.   


WHAT CAN I DO?  Your members of Congress need to hear how concerned we are about the safety of all Afghan women and girls. In the last 20 years, women have made many advancements distinguishing themselves in government, the law, education, the media, business, as professionals and advocates. Even though the Taliban has said that women should return to their jobs, implying they will be safe, we should not assume that this will be the case.   

HOW DO I DO IT?  Members of Congress are in their home districts now, so calls could be placed to their in-state offices. You can go to your representative’s or senators’ websites to send a message or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121. And you can send a message on the White House website. 

WHAT DO I SAY?  Ask your Representatives and Senators to tell the White House that they are concerned about the safety of many Afghan women and girls. We must ensure that the thousands of interpreters, drivers, and other Afghan allies who helped the U.S. are safely evacuated. Time is short to get these persons to safety, and the Administration needs to accelerate all activities to get Afghan allies and women in jeopardy out of Afghanistan 

Additionally, here are some urgent requests of the U.S. government (per the Washington Post)*: 

  • Extend Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) that are being made available to protect Afghan interpreters and others to Afghan women seeking evacuation – and make it easier to access the Refugee Admissions Program  
  • Charter direct evacuation flights (without requiring a visa) for Afghan women activists most immediately under threat and those reporting their fear for their lives under Taliban rule.   
  • Utilize funds appropriated for “persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan” as part of livelihood assistance for Afghan women who are able to relocate. 
  • Establish a special parole program for at-risk Afghan human rights defenders; women’s rights activists; and politicians, journalists, other highly visible women who may be targeted for refusing to comply with Taliban dictates. The humanitarian parole program review could be conducted virtually – but should proceed quickly. 
  • Establish a high-level interagency review coordinator to manage the refugee coordinating process and relocation across the U.S. government and significantly increase processing capacity.