Rep. Speier: U.S. Should 'Create Refugee Status for Any Afghan Woman Who Wants to Leave the Country'

By Susan Jones | April 30, 2013 | 5:37am EDT

Afghan women cover themselves as required by Islamic law. (AP Photo)

( - A U.S. lawmaker, expressing concern about the lives of Afghan women when most U.S. troops leave the country in 2014, said those who want to do so should be allowed to come to the United States:

"I'm really concerned about these women," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told a House Armed Services subcommittee on April 25. "I think everyone on this panel is very concerned about these women...But I think there is something we can do. And that is to create a refugee status for any Afghan woman who wants to leave the country and is seeking asylum in our country.

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"And that we should put in place now a procedure whereby they can be informed of that opportunity and be granted that opportunity, so that we can at least save the lives of those who are not so embedded in the culture and want to find a way to free themselves of what I believe will become, without a question, more oppressive than what’s going on right now, under our noses with us there."

Earlier, Speier quoted U.N. data showing that 300 women were killed and 560 injured in Afghanistan in 2012 -- a 20 percent increase over 2011. "So we are there, and this is happening. What's going to happen when we're not there?" Spier asked.

"I think we are whistling in the wind if we think that once we recede from that country, that we are going to be able to have as much of an impact, or more of an impact, than we have right now."

David Sedney, a deputy assistant defense secretary for Afghanistan, said told the panel the Defense Department shares Speier's concerns.

He told Speier he'd raise the issue of asylum for Afghan women with his colleagues at the State Department.

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