U.S. considers visas for vulnerable Afghan women after military exit


  • World
  • Thursday, 08 Jul 2021

FILE PHOTO: Women walk at a street in Kabul, Afghanistan February 4, 2021.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration is considering offering an expedited visa path for vulnerable Afghans including women politicians, journalists, and activists who may become targets of the Taliban, U.S. officials say.

Rights groups have been asking the State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas specifically for vulnerable women and women's advocates to a developing policy plan to evacuate thousands Afghans after the U.S. military pullout this month. The current plan https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-visas-idAFKCN2DR2KG includes translators who worked with foreign forces.

One of the officials said the administration is looking not only at women who are under threat, but also men and minorities in high-risk professions.

Women who made gains during the two-decade U.S. occupation, and their supporters and advocates, should be part of any expedited list, rights groups have argued to the White House and State Department.

"Lives are at risk,” said Teresa Casale, advocacy director for Mina’s List, which advocates for women’s representation in governments around the world. "Women leaders are being actively targeted and killed by Taliban forces. They receive threats against their lives and safety every day."

The group and others are recommending these visas be added to an expedited activation process for Afghan people most at risk, by creating a fast track program in State Department, and that U.S. officials actively pursue diplomacy to other countries as well to secure them.

The White House declined to comment on the push to secure more visas for Afghan women's rights advocates. President Joe Biden will speak Thursday afternoon about the U.S. military's withdrawal, and is expected to mention women's rights.

Women police officers, media workers, judges and medical workers have been assassinated in Afghanistan as foreign military left the country.

Women who appear on television and radio faced particular threats, Human Rights Watch wrote in April. "Female reporters may be targeted not only for issues they cover but also for challenging perceived social norms prohibiting women from being in a public role and working outside the home."

Under the Taliban, women were barred from education or work, required to fully cover their bodies, and could not leave home without a male relative. "Moral offenses" were punished by flogging and stoning.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Heather Timmons, Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michael Perry)

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