USCIRF Calls on U.S. Government to Include Religious Minority Communities in Afghanistan in Evacuations

Aug 20, 2021

USCIRF Calls on U.S. Government to Include Religious Minority Communities in Afghanistan in Evacuations

Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the United States government to include religious minority communities facing severe risk in evacuations to escape persecution from the Taliban. The imposition of the Taliban’s harsh and strict interpretation of Islam in the areas that they have taken over violates the freedom of religion or belief of Afghans who do not share these beliefs.

The reports of the Taliban searching for religious minorities in Afghanistan are deeply troubling,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza stated. “USCIRF urges the United States government to support religious minority communities to help them leave and provide expedited processing to a safe location.”

The vast majority of non-Muslims fled Afghanistan after the Taliban consolidated control of the government in 1996, while small populations of religious minorities remained. Many religious minority community members who remained practiced their faith in hiding due to fear of targeting or reprisal as conversion from Islam to another religion was considered apostasy and could be punishable by death according to the Taliban’s interpretation of Shari’a.

In June, USCIRF hosted a virtual event highlighting the religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan.

While the United States government is working around the clock to evacuate American citizens and Afghans with U.S. affiliations, Afghan religious minorities face extreme risk from the Taliban and must be part of this urgent effort,” said USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie.

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department re-designate the Taliban as an Entity of Particular Concern “for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov.