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Casey Spoke At Forum on the Rights of Afghan Women in Oslo; Discussed How Protecting Rights of Women Bolsters U.S. National Security, Promotes Stability / To Advance U.S. National Security Interests, Casey Has Worked to Include Language in National Defense Bills that Would Ensure the Protection of the Rights of Afghan Women and Girls is a U.S. Priority / Senator Has Held Hearing on Rights of Women in the Middle East, Worked to Increase Number of Domestic Violence Shelters in Afghanistan

Oslo, Norway- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, spoke at the Oslo Symposium on Advancing Women’s Rights and Empowerment in Afghanistan this weekend calling the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan non-negotiable. Casey discussed how protecting the rights of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world advances U.S. national security interests and promotes stability. For years Casey has worked to include language in annual defense bills that would ensure the protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan remains a U.S. priority. Casey also held a hearing on the status of the rights of women in the Middle East following the ‘Arab Spring’ and pushed to increase the number of domestic violence shelters in Afghanistan. This weekend Casey met with Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, and other Afghan leaders.

The full text of Casey’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be seen below.

Doubling Down on Support for Afghan Women and Girls

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

November 23, 2014 in Oslo, Norway

As prepared for delivery

Prime Minister Solberg and First Lady Ghani, we are honored by your presence today. I am grateful to be part of a distinguished U.S. delegation – led by Ambassador Cathy Russell – and want to thank the sponsors of this important Symposium, especially Ambassador Melanne Verveer of the Georgetown Institute, for the opportunity to join this panel.  I come before you today as a Senator, a husband, and a father of four daughters to express gratitude and solidarity. 

During my eight years in the Senate, including four as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee that covers Afghanistan and its region, I have had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan three times.  These trips, especially my meetings with Afghan counterparts, have informed and inspired me to continue my work in the Senate to send a clear, unified message: we must not tolerate erosion of the progress that has been made to expand and protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Over the past thirteen years, Afghan women have made substantial gains in education, government, business, and national security.  Solidifying and sustaining these gains is consistent with both American values and national security interests. 

I have been inspired by the remarkable stories of women who have ignored security threats, overcome family objections, and broken through legal barriers to become drivers of change:

-        the Army recruit whose fiancée threatened to kill her if she would not resign her position

-        the politician who defied Taliban threats to run for and win elected office

-        the female poll workers and searchers who helped administer the Presidential elections in April despite the security risks, and

-        the girls who have survived acid attacks and returned to school. 

I know that many remarkable Afghan leaders – some with stories not unlike these ones - have joined us today, and I look forward to connecting with all of you.

Many of you know that the United States Congress can be a place of rancor and division.  Yet, supporting the rights of Afghan women and girls is a priority that transcends politics.  For three years, I have led legislation designed to improve the recruitment and retention of women in the Afghan National Security Forces.  With my Republican colleague Senator Kelly Ayotte, I have pressed the U.S. Departments of State and Defense to make Afghan women a top priority as they chart the course for the new U.S. – Afghan relationship.

Many members of the U.S. Congress – Democrat, Republican, and Independent - stand with you and will remain steadfast to ensure the recent gains for Afghan women and girls are a foundation on which we can build.  To allow these gains to be reversed would dishonor the sacrifice of the American and coalition forces who have served in Afghanistan and would betray the Afghan people, many of whom have given their lives to fight back against extremism. We must remain committed to the work of the diplomats, civilian aid workers, and civil society groups who have labored alongside their Afghan partners to help the country recover from decades of brutal Taliban rule.

The past thirteen years have been transformative for Afghanistan, and already the new Administration has taken important steps – for example, the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement, a resumption of the Kabul Bank inquiry, and, of course, First Lady Ghani’s vocal activism on behalf of women, girls, and the vulnerable.  This time of transition affords all of us here today the opportunity renew our commitments. We all know that the stakes remain high for women and girls.  We must make clear to Afghan leaders that women’s rights are non-negotiable. During this Symposium, and in the lead-up to the London Conference, we must work together to ensure that women will be full partners in planning for and building Afghanistan’s future.

As former U.S. President Bill Clinton stated, “no society can truly flourish if it stifles the dreams and productivity of half its population.” This struggle for freedom and equality is part of both our shared history and our shared ideals.  I am also mindful of a passage from the Scriptures, which is important in my faith. It reads: “Blest are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.” I commend your enduring work to give the people of Afghanistan a more just society.   I look forward to hearing directly from you and to working together to build a better tomorrow for women and girls in Afghanistan. 

Thank you.


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