Religious freedom in a “disastrous downward spiral” in Afghanistan

“Reports indicate that the Taliban continue to persecute religious minorities and punish people in areas under their control in accordance with their extreme interpretation of Islamic law. »

Speaking at a press conference on the occasion of the last annual report of the American Commission on International Religious Freedom, the president of the organization, Nadine Maenza, lamented the “immediate and disastrous downward spiral” into which the conditions of religious freedom in Afghanistan have fallen since the withdrawal of American troops.

“Religious conditions there entered an immediate and disastrous downward spiral following the US withdrawal in August 2021 and the immediate Taliban takeover. While we have long been concerned about conditions in Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban to power has had a chilling effect on religious freedom and the broader human rights environment. »

It is "in view of this precipitous decline in 2021" that the USCIRF recommends placing Afghanistan under the Taliban regime on the list of countries of particular concern. Last November, the Taliban had already been recognized as a particularly worrying entity.

According to rapport, "Afghans who do not adhere to the Taliban's harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and followers of other religions or beliefs are in grave danger", despite announcements of reform by "certain elements" of Taliban ideology.

“Reports indicate that the Taliban continue to persecute religious minorities and punish people in areas under their control in accordance with their extreme interpretation of Islamic law. USCIRF has received credible reports that religious minorities, including non-believers and Muslims with beliefs different from the Taliban, have been harassed and their places of worship desecrated. By the end of the year, the only known Jew and most Hindus and Sikhs had fled the country. Converted Christians, Baha'is and Ahmadiyya Muslims practiced their faith underground for fear of reprisals and threats from the Taliban and separately from the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). »

Among the consequences for religious minorities, including Christians, USCIRF cites death threats for apostasy, ostracism and the threat of honor killings.

“Afghans who have converted to Christianity from Islam in the past 20 years are considered 'apostates', a crime punishable by death under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam. Converts, who have already faced ostracism and the threat of honor killings by family and village members, are at heightened risk following the Taliban takeover. USCIRF has received reports that the Taliban have been going door to door looking for Christian converts. Christians received threatening phone calls and a house church network leader received a threatening letter in August from Taliban militants. Some Christians turned off their phones and moved to undisclosed locations. »

The USCIRF also specifies that while 120 Afghans were able to flee their country when the Taliban took power, some were sent to countries where they are still at risk, such as Turkey, Pakistan or Iran.

MC

Image credit: Shutterstock.com/AM Syed

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