The Biden administration is considering offering an expedited visa path for vulnerable Afghans including women politicians, journalists, and activists who may become targets of the Taliban, U.S. officials say.
Rights groups have been asking the State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas specifically for vulnerable women and women’s advocates to a developing policy plan to evacuate thousands Afghans after the U.S. military pullout this month. The current plan includes translators who worked with foreign forces, Reuters reported.
One of the officials said the administration is looking not only at women who are under threat, but also men and minorities in high-risk professions.
Women who made gains during the two-decade U.S. occupation, and their supporters and advocates, should be part of any expedited list, rights groups have argued to the White House and State Department.
“Lives are 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. They receive threats against their lives and safety every day.”
The group and others are recommending these visas be added to an expedited activation process for Afghan people most at risk, by creating a fast track program in State Department, and that U.S. officials actively pursue diplomacy to other countries as well to secure them, Reuters reported.
The White House declined to comment on the push to secure more visas for Afghan women’s rights advocates. President Joe Biden will speak Thursday afternoon about the U.S. military’s withdrawal, and is expected to mention women’s rights.
Women police officers, media workers, judges and medical workers have been assassinated in Afghanistan as foreign military left the country.
Women who appear on television and radio faced particular threats, Human Rights Watch wrote in April. “Female reporters may be targeted not only for issues they cover but also for challenging perceived social norms prohibiting women from being in a public role and working outside the home.”
Under the Taliban, women were barred from education or work, required to fully cover their bodies, and could not leave home without a male relative. “Moral offenses” were punished by flogging and stoning.
Kazakhs told to leave streets to avoid ‘anti-terrorist actions’
A statement broadcast on Kazakh TV on Friday told Almaty residents to stay inside during the security operation in the city.
Video obtained by Reuters showed the broadcast statement, which said: “Respectable Inhabitants of Almaty! A counter-terrorist operation to destroy bandit groups is going on in Almaty. The main goal is to stop terrorists and safeguard the security of the city. If anti-terrorist activity takes place where you live, it is recommended you do not go near by windows or get out in the street. Hide in a safe place, do not leave children or the elderly without supervision.”
Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, has seen days of violence, with demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike swelling into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state.
Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.
A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard, Reuters reported.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said foreign-trained terrorists were responsible for the unrest, and the interior ministry said 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated”, while 18 police and members of the national guard had been killed, figures that appeared not to have been updated since Thursday. State television reported more than 3,700 arrests.
Japan pledges $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighbors to ‘address crisis’
The Japanese government has pledged to donate a total of approximately $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries “to address the humanitarian crisis” in the country.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
“The Government of Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in areas such as healthcare, food, and nutrition, protection, water, and sanitation, as well as livelihood improvement to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” the statement read.
According to the statement the assistance would be provided through 16 international organizations to improve the humanitarian crisis.
“The Government of Japan will continue to provide support and stand with the people of Afghanistan, and play an active role to realize stability in the region,” the statement added.
According to the statement, $100 million will be allocated for Afghanistan; $4.01 million to Iran; $3.72 million to Pakistan; $0.99 million to Tajikistan; and $0.43 million to Uzbekistan.
Unvaccinated COVID patients flood French ICUs as cases surge
Pressure on French hospitals has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks as France battles a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has been filling up ICUs with unvaccinated patients.
Of the 20 COVID patients of the Mulhouse hospital ICU, only three are vaccinated while the youngest is aged 19 years old, head of the Emile Muller hospital ICU, doctor Khaldoun Kuteifan, told Reuters on Thursday.
“The Mulhouse hospital ICU is currently at full capacity as patients have been coming in for the past 20 days. Seventy percent of the ICU patients are positive COVID cases.”
France had recorded 60,866 new cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday night, while 78.1% of French people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the French Health Ministry website.
“The waves keep coming and hitting us, and the more it goes on, the more tired we get,” nurse Aurelie Multhaupt told Reuters.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government expects to see around 4,000 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 by the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported.
Attal said new decisions on the reinforcement of border rules, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and travel recommendations for the holidays could be announced in the coming days.
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