US restricts visas for Taliban over repression of women, girls

Women’s protest in Kabul. August 13, 2022. Screenshot.

The United States has put in place a visa restriction policy for Taliban members over the repression of women and girls in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

Blinken in a statement on Tuesday noted that despite previous assurances that the Taliban would respect the human rights of all Afghans, they have “issued and enforced a series of policies or edicts that effectively bar women and girls in Afghanistan from full participation in public life, including access to secondary education and work in most industries.”

“The US is taking action to sanction those involved in repressing women and girls in Afghanistan. We continue to press the Taliban and others to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms—including the right to education—of all Afghans, including women and girls,” he added.

The US secretary of state cited a long list of policies the Taliban have imposed against women and girls since they came to power, including limiting access to secondary or higher education, preventing them from working and choosing their careers, and placing restrictions on their movement, expression and privacy.

Blinken also highlighted the Taliban’s violence and harassment against women and girls.

According to the US Department of State, the visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act will apply to current and former Taliban members, members of nonstate security groups, and other individuals believed to be involved in repressing women and girls in Afghanistan through restrictive policies and violence.

Immediate family members of those sanctioned may also have their visas restricted, the Department of State said.

“As a grim example, for more than a year, Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are systemically barred from attending school beyond the sixth grade, with no return date in sight,” Blinken said.

“The United States strongly supports the Afghan people and remains committed to doing all we can to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, including women and girls,” he added.

Many restrictions have been imposed on women and girls under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Wearing hijab when at work or outside the home, compulsory face masks for women when they appear on screen, closure of secondary schools for girls, and many more are part of the restrictions put in place by the Taliban so far over the past year.

Women from Afghanistan and groups supporting women’s rights outside the country have been urging the US to take action against such acts by the Taliban by putting a travel ban on them. They recently started a social media campaign about this.