Ocasio-Cortez, alongside Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and 10 other Democratic House colleagues, made the appeal to the president in a letter on Monday. The group congratulated the Biden administration on “evacuating nearly 125,000 people from Afghanistan despite facing immense challenges,” before noting that the Afghan UN employees remain particularly “at risk” of being targeted by the Taliban because they have “worked for years to promote peace, democracy, and human rights.”
“We write to urge you to ensure that Afghan national United Nations (UN) employees who fear for their safety receive visas and authorization to leave the country with their families,” the lawmakers wrote. “While we support the United Nations maintaining a presence in Afghanistan to the extent possible, as well as delivering humanitarian assistance, this should not come at the expense of Afghan nationals who signed up to work under vastly different circumstances and now face grave threats to their security because of their previous work and other factors.”
“These people have selflessly served as the backbone of the international community’s efforts to help the Afghan people,” they continued. “Many are outspoken professional women, symbols to their communities whose very existence is intolerable to the Taliban. It is simply unthinkable to leave them at the mercy of the Taliban.”
The House Democrats implored the Biden administration to “lead by example and issue visas to some members of the UN’s Afghan staff.”
Biden withdrew all U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, following through on peace deal that the administration of former President Donald Trump had brokered with the Taliban last year.
The U.S.-supported Afghan government and military quickly crumbled after the bulk of American forces left the country, with the Taliban soon regaining control of the country for the first time since their defeat months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Since taking control of the country, international observers have accused the Taliban of quickly rolling back human rights. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution demanding that the new Afghan government support human rights and include “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”
A coalition consisting of Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture issued a briefing on Monday that detailed a multitude of abuses including the killing of surrendered soldiers and civilians and the targeting of women, human rights activists and journalists.
“In just over five weeks since assuming control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have clearly demonstrated that they are not serious about protecting or respecting human rights,” Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South Asia, said in a statement. “We have already seen a wave of violations, from reprisal attacks and restrictions on women, to crackdowns on protests, the media and civil society.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.