Sen. Markey joins Senate colleagues in bipartisan letter urging Biden administration to protect Afghan women leaders

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Monday were joined by 44 of their Senate colleagues, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), in urging the Biden administration to take swift, robust action to protect and support Afghan women leaders facing unparalleled danger following the Taliban’s violent sweep across Afghanistan and seizure of Kabul. In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the senators called on the Administration to create a humanitarian parole category specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces, and to streamline the paperwork process to facilitate referrals to allow for fast, humane, and efficient relocation to the United States.

“We and our staff are receiving regular reports regarding the targeting, threatening, kidnapping, torturing, and assassinations of women for their work defending and promoting democracy, equality, higher education, and human rights. While we welcomed the expansion of the eligibility requirements for Special Immigrant Visas and the creation of the Priority 2 category in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, we must also protect those women who might fall through the cracks of the U.S. Government’s response,” the senators wrote, raising concerns over reports of rampant war crimes – including public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence, and forced marriage – in areas captured by the Taliban. “We greatly appreciate your efforts to help save the lives of Afghans who have advanced U.S. and Afghan joint interests over the last generation, standing for peace, democracy, and equality. We are all in agreement that we owe them our unqualified support.”

In addition to expressing their support for the Administration’s efforts to evacuate those who are applying for humanitarian parole and those applying for Priority 1 or 2 pathways, including by allocating seats for them on SIV evacuation flights, the senators urged the Administration to increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and to immediately appoint an interagency refugee coordinator.

Sen. Markey was joined by 43 other Senators on the letter, including fellow Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

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