US commission: Cite Afghanistan for religious persecution

A U.S. advisory group is recommending that Afghanistan join the list of "worst" violators religious freedom following the Taliban's return to power.

27 April 2022 Wednesday 09:19
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US commission: Cite Afghanistan for religious persecution

In its annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom stated Monday that religious minorities had been subject to harassment, detention, and even death since the Taliban put a harsh interpretation of Sunni Islamon Afghanistan. The report also mentioned attacks on religious minorities made by an Islamic State affiliate, which is an enemy to the Taliban.

Afghanistan is one of 15 countries that the commission believes should be included on the State Department's "Countries of Particular Concern".

This commission was established under the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. It makes recommendations that are non-binding to Congress and the administration. Some of the recommendations have been adopted by the State Department, but not all.

The new report recommends that 10 countries be kept on the State Department List, including China Eritrea Iran, Myanmar, North Korea Pakistan, Russia Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, North Korea, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The commission also recommended adding four additional countries to the list, including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam. The Biden administration was criticized by the commission for removing Nigeria last year from the list.

According to the report, Afghans have seen a large number of Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh refugees fleeing the country since the Taliban seized power. According to the report, many religious minorities such as Ahmadiyya Muslims and Baha'is are hiding their worship in fear of persecution.

Many religious minorities fled Afghanistan because they were afraid of what might happen under the Taliban. This was not in response to specific actions or decrees by the Taliban. Sikhs are still allowed to worship and live in Kabul. The report also notes that Taliban representatives visited a Sikh Gurdwara, or house of worship, to ensure their safety. The report stated that many Hindus and Sikhs fled India due to lack of security and safety.

The commission also cited a Human Rights Watch Report of Taliban attacks on ethnic Hazaras belonging the Shiite Muslims minority and an Amnesty International Report of a Taliban massacre Hazara men in 2021.

Many of the deadly attacks on Hazaras were attributed to Islamic State, Khorasan Province (IS-K), which is hostile towards the Taliban and has been a difficult security problem. A photo of an IS-K attack on a Shiite mosque in Kunduz last year is included as the cover of the report.

This report is based on CIA World Factbook data, which shows that only a small percentage of Afghans are non-Muslim. According to the report, 99.7% of Afghans were Muslims, mostly Sunni Muslims with 10% to 15% Shiite Muslims.

In an interview, Nadine Maenza, chair of the commission, stated that "The Taliban, although they promised they would create an inclusive government, promising them they would be different from other governments, their actions have proved otherwise." She stated that even Sunni members who don't agree with the Taliban interpretation of Islamic Law are required to adhere to strict dress codes, and other measures.

While the annual report was based on 2021 developments, it foreshadowed concerns about a Russian invasion in Ukraine. This was cited as a result of Russian religious persecution in Russia of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and religious minorities like the Muslim Tatars of Crimea, which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014. Russia was first identified by the State Department as a country of concern in 2014.

Khizr Khan, a member of the commission, said Monday at an online news conference that "we fear that violence will increase because Russia's blatant violation religious freedom in Russia"

The report stated that this year's report is the first time since 2001 when the Taliban ruled in Kabul that the commission has recommended Afghanistan be designated a country of special concern. Based on the actions of the Taliban before it returned to power in August, the State Department had already placed them on a similar list.

The commission recommended that individual Taliban officials be sanctioned for serious violations of religious freedom. It also recommended that refugees resettlement should be given priority to those who are under persecution.

The commission's report cited Myanmar's military as the source of "atrocities against religion communities", China for holding Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims "arbitrarily" in concentration camps, prisons, and forced labor, Pakistan for enforcing anti-blasphemy laws which endanger minorities, and India for deteriorating conditions for religious minorities under its Hindu nationalist government.

12 countries were also recommended by the commission to be added to a "special watchlist" because of religious freedom concerns. These include three of the State Department's listed countries -- Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua -- as well as Azerbaijan and the Central African Republic and Egypt.




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