A few vulnerable Afghans, including women journalists, activists and politicians who may be targeted by the Taliban, may be eligible for an expedited visa pathway under the Biden administration, Reuters reports. As part of the plan to evacuate thousands of Afghans after the U.S. military pullout this month, rights groups have asked the State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas specifically for vulnerable women. Currently, translators who work with foreign forces are included in the plan. One of the officials said that the US government was not only looking at women under threat but also at men and minorities in high-risk professions.
Rights groups have urged the White House and State Department to include women who made gains during the two-decade U.S. occupation as well as their supporters and advocates. ‘There are lives 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. Every day, threats are made against their lives and safety’.
As part of their recommendation, this group and others recommend that these visas be made available to Afghans most at risk through an expedited activation process in the State Department and that U.S. officials pursue diplomatic efforts to secure them in other countries as well. Several women police officers, journalists, judges, and medical personnel have been assassinated in Afghanistan as foreign troops leave the country.
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Human Rights Watch reported in April that women who appear on television and radio face particular threats. ‘Female reporters may be targeted not just for the issues they cover, but also for challenging societal norms which discourage women from taking public positions and working outside the home. Under Taliban rule, women were barred from education or work, required to cover their bodies, and were not allowed to leave the house without a male relative. ‘Moral offenses’ were punished with flogging and stoning’.