By Advocacy Department
August 15, 2022, marks the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Kabul, an event following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces. Since that time, the Taliban has institutionalized a strict system of Islamic rule, contributing to an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty about Afghanistan’s future—particularly for religious and ethnic minorities.
ICC’s humanitarian response focuses on Christian minorities, most of whom are Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). The Taliban prohibits conversion away from Islam. Even the allegation of a conversion could result in the death penalty for someone then labeled as an apostate. In addition to being converts, many MBBs are women and belong to the ethnic minority known as the Hazara. While their Christian identity is not physically apparent and thus easier to hide, their ethnic or gender identities are more publicly visible, increasing their vulnerability to persecution. It’s a no-win situation for many Afghans.
ICC has observed the following trends based on its work with Afghan Christians regarding their humanitarian status, needs, and levels of risk:
- The Taliban’s policy of concealment regarding the presence of Afghan Christians forces the Christian community into hiding. The policy ostracizes Christians in all social sectors, worsening their humanitarian situation. By stripping away all open Christian identity, the Taliban ensures Christians have no place in Afghanistan society.
- The Taliban’s dismantled agency of Afghan Christians creates a hostile atmosphere, including invasion of privacy, exploitation of lives and property, and compulsion to commit humiliating and degrading activities.
- Most Christians see no future inside Afghanistan. Emigration is a highly restricted privilege enjoyed only by a select few. Widows, unmarried women, and the elderly are among those with the least opportunity to leave, creating an untenable environment where they must choose between staying at risk of their lives or fleeing illegally.
- Pakistan remains the natural exit for many Afghans. But in Pakistan, they are blocked from humanitarian assistance by Pakistani authorities, and reports of severe abuse by the Pakistani community towards Afghans are rampant. Christians are particularly isolated, and some have consequently returned home to Afghanistan.
- Turkey is the safest destination for exiting Afghans as Turkey allows the UNHCR to register Afghan refugees and provide financial assistance. But Turkey’s positive relationship with the Taliban makes Afghan Christians suspicious of sharing their full needs as refugees.
- Afghan refugees attempt to avoid Iran as a refuge or transit country because they are often subject to sex trafficking and other severe abuses by bad Iranian actors. Additionally, heavy international sanctions limit the available humanitarian assistance for the refugees.