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OP-ED: Women Have More to Lose in Afghanistan

August 26, 2021
Jean Schmidt News

Afghanistan is a region once again held in the seventh century; controlled by terrorists, but longing for the freedoms of the western world.

After the deadly attack on our nation twenty years ago, American troops invaded Afghanistan in an effort to rid the region of terrorist cells and move towards 21st century.

Before we intervened, Sharia law placed extremely harsh restrictions on women. Women were not permitted to be educated or hold a job, they were required to wear a burka with complete face coverings, and they were required to have a male escort when leaving their dwellings. Defiance of these rules, in some instances, could even result in punishments as severe as permanent disfigurement or death.

These ideals were deeply ingrained in Afghan culture until 20 years ago, when American troops and NGO’s (non-government personnel) bravely intervened. In areas where the Taliban was defeated, Sharia declined greatly. Because of our brave men and women, a generation of young girls grew up not knowing the harsh reality of Sharia.

During my time as a Congresswoman, I had the opportunity to visit the Middle East, including Afghanistan. My first visit was in 2005, and my fondest memory is seeing mothers with exposed faces escorting their daughters wearing backpacks to school. Education is an incredibly powerful tool that we were able to provide to Afghan women and children, and seeing first-hand empowered women and girls gave me hope this region could one day adapt a more tolerant attitude towards gender equality. 

On my second visit, I witnessed women entrepreneurs. There were women making hand bags out of gum wrappers, jewelry, clothing, blankets and rugs. Economic prosperity was becoming a tangible reality for many.

My last visit was in 2012, on Mother’s Day. We were there to celebrate all women, especially Afghan women. We met with women who held government positions, both elected and appointed, who were advocating for a stronger female presence and voice in government. They did this without fear and retribution; they were prepared to lead their country.

Unfortunately, today my heart is saddened by the images flooding the news. In just eleven days, Afghanistan fell into the hands of one of the most brutal terrorist groups – the Taliban, and millions once again face an uncertain future under Sharia. 

My heart breaks for the people of Afghanistan, and especially for women and their daughters, who will face a regression in gender equality. After 20 years of hope, the life they once feared has begun again. I am devastated for the Afghan women who finally had the opportunity to believe in themselves, who will now face a nearly impossible battle for equality.

We must not forget our own military and the thousands of American lives lost in Afghanistan. These brave men and women who have fought to protect the freedom of both Americans and Afghans, are watching their sacrifices unravel before their eyes.  

America’s involvement in Afghanistan may be open for debate, but being so grossly unprepared for the chaos and carnage is certainly not. While I am eager to see our troops and citizens return home safely, the evacuation of Americans has been difficult and dangerous. 

We cannot leave Afghanistan behind. We have an obligation to evacuate Afghan citizens that have helped Americans before they face death by their captors. I pray that God will protect our troops and the innocent lives at stake who will inevitably return to a life void of freedom and liberty. I pray that we have the chance to save women from their enslavement to men, and children who will grow up not knowing a life of freedom outside of Sharia. 

I will soon be introducing a House Resolution condemning the Biden administration for a failed exit strategy and urging Congress to investigate this failure. We need to get everyone out as soon as possible, and I look forward to pushing this legislation through the House.