Press Releases

Hickenlooper, Bennet Join Bipartisan Letter Calling on Biden Administration to Protect Afghan Women

Aug 17, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and 44 of their Senate colleagues called on the Biden administration to take swift action to protect and support Afghan women leaders following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul. 

Hickenlooper, Bennet, and the senators urged 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, citing reports of rampant war crimes. 

“We are gravely concerned about the safety of women leaders, activists, judges, parliamentarians, and human rights defenders.  The shocking violence and alleged atrocities occurring have caused mass displacement which, during a global pandemic and severe drought, has created a major humanitarian crisis.  In areas captured by the Taliban, there are reports of war crimes including summary executions, public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence and forced marriage, as well as clampdowns on media and other forms of communication.” wrote Hickenlooper, Bennet, and the senators.

The senators urged the Biden administration to continue evacuating those who are applying for humanitarian parole and Priority 1 or 2 pathways, and increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

“We also urge you to increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and to immediately appoint an interagency refugee coordinator.  We support your 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.” 

In addition to Hickenlooper and Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Jack Reed, Chris Coons, Patty Murray, Tim Kaine, Chris Van Hollen, Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth, Tom Carper, Richard Blumenthal, Jacky Rosen, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Brian Schatz, Tina Smith, Ben Cardin, Ed Markey, Debbie Stabenow, Sherrod Brown, Maggie Hassan, Raphael Warnock, Sheldon Whitehouse, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Warner, Mark Kelly, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kyrsten Sinema, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, Bill Cassidy, Bob Casey, Alex Padilla, Mazie K. Hirono, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, Chris Murphy, Maria Cantwell, Jon Ossoff, Lisa Murkowski, and Jim Inhofe.  

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas:

As the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorates and the Taliban has taken control of Kabul, we appreciate the urgent measures you and the Department of Defense are taking to protect Afghan women leaders and others most at risk for retaliation by the Taliban.

We strongly urge you to create a humanitarian parole category specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, judges, 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 also urge you to increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and to immediately appoint an interagency refugee coordinator.  We support your 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.  Finally, the United States should do everything possible to enable charter flights to safely land at and depart the airport even after U.S. Embassy personnel have been evacuated, and that clear instructions for safely accessing their aircraft are provided to those who are trying to depart and to organizations that have referred people and their dependents.

We are gravely concerned about the safety of women leaders, activists, judges, parliamentarians, and human rights defenders.  The shocking violence and alleged atrocities occurring have caused mass displacement which, during a global pandemic and severe drought, has created a major humanitarian crisis.  In areas captured by the Taliban, there are reports of war crimes including summary executions, public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence and forced marriage, as well as clampdowns on media and other forms of communication. 

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. 

Particularly for women who are currently targets—even hunted by Taliban fighters who are going house-to-house with their names—the path to protection and safety under the Priority 2 designation is not accessible.  While we understand there is little processing capacity at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, for these women to access a third country for processing is almost or completely impossible with all borders crossings now closed or controlled 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.

Sincerely,

###

Recent Press Releases

Hickenlooper Applauds Six-State Colorado River Framework

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper released the following statement after six states in the Colorado River Basin announced a framework for modeling future management of the river as declining flows continue to threaten water levels at key Colorado River...

read more