WASHINGTON — Even as they cling to hope of being rescued by the American government, Afghan women who worked with the United States over the past 20 years are destroying any hint of that association — shredding documents written in English, deleting social media apps and then burying their cellphones.
Current and former U.S. officials and activists described the desperate steps Afghan women have taken since the Taliban’s takeover of their country this week as a grim reminder of the heightened threat they face because of their gender.
Any attempt to contact American or international refugee agencies is a risk that most Afghan women are not willing to take, the officials and activists said. Even going to the airport in Kabul, to try to secure a place on an American or international flight overflowing with anguished Afghans, has become a life-or-death decision.
The United States joined 20 countries and the European Union in demanding that the rights of Afghan women be protected, and pledging to send humanitarian aid and other support “to ensure that their voices can be heard.”
“The most dangerous place in Afghanistan right now is the Kabul airport,” Rina Amiri, a former official at the State Department and United Nations, said on Tuesday. She recounted stories of women and their families being caught between volleys of gunfire, or beaten by Taliban supporters, as they tried but failed to find a plane that would fly them out.