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"Near helpless" response of international community will embolden those responsible for atrocities in Afghanistan, UN warned

  • International institutions face backlash for “inadequate response” in face of rights violations; civil society calls for tangible action

  • Human rights experts warn of Christians fleeing “certain death”, with particular dangers facing those unjustly found “guilty” of apostasy from Islam

GENEVA (27 September 2021) – More than six weeks after the rapid takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan, civil society groups are still calling on states to take resolute action to protect vulnerable religious minorities who face serious threats to their lives, simply because of their faith. In a statement addressed to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, ADF International called attention to the international community’s “inadequate response”:

“Women and girls have been immediately deprived of their most basic rights and pushed to the margins of society, while members of religious minorities have been forced to flee a certain death or, at worst, go into hiding in remote areas of the country, stranded and with no hope of rescue. Against this background, the near helplessness of the international community will only embolden those responsible for such harrowing human rights abuses to continue to act with impunity,” said Giorgio Mazzoli, representing ADF International at the United Nations in Geneva.

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This week at the UN Human Rights Council, faith-based organizations, including ADF International, the World Evangelical Alliance, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the World Baptist Alliance, CAP Freedom of Conscience and the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission among others, are calling for tangible steps to be taken to address the ongoing atrocities.

UN Human Rights Council called to establish a dedicated monitoring mechanism

In Afghanistan, Christians on the ground have expressed that they expect to face certain death. Reports detail the execution of persons found on public transportation with Bible software found on their smartphones. Furthermore, the Taliban are already publicizing plans to “eradicate the ignorance of irreligion” by taking non-Muslim women and girls as sex slaves and forcing boys to serve as soldiers.

The UN Human Rights Council already faced criticism from a range of civil society actors last month for adopting a resolution deemed to be “subdued”, failing to hold the Taliban to account, and therefore representing “more of an insult to the Afghan people than a response to the crisis”.

Human rights groups have called on the Council to take action, including through the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to document rights violations taking place, particularly against vulnerable persons including religious minorities. Documentation is a critical tool in establishing a process of accountability.

“It is imperative for the international community to employ every diplomatic, political, or other appropriate means to ensure that those exercising effective control are held fully accountable for their failure to respect the human rights and aspiration of the Afghan people,” explained Mazzoli.

“ADF International reiterates the need for the Human Rights Council to formally condemn violence against persons based on their religious or ethnic affiliation; to affirm that respect for freedom of religion or belief must be among the preconditions for the international community’s engagement with the current and future leadership of Afghanistan; and to establish, without delay, a dedicated mechanism tasked with monitoring the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, focusing particularly on the human rights of vulnerable persons, including those belonging to religious minorities,” he added.

EU under pressure to act against religious persecution

Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the violence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and calling for support to be given to the most vulnerable groups. The resolution details the “unfolding humanitarian catastrophe”, highlighting the Taliban’s “persecution” of women and girls and “heavy discrimination” against ethnic and religious minorities, with a particular mention of Shia Hazaras.

Carlo Fidanza MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Belief, criticized the Parliament’s failure to acknowledge the particular danger faced by Afghan Christians:

“This resolution demonstrates once again the guilty lack of attention by Europe, not only to Afghan Christians – who are completely ignored by the text – but to Christians in general. As I have already said on the rejection of the establishment of a European Day for Religious Freedom, it is worrying that it is now considered normal that a silence falls upon the tragedy faced by persecuted Christians,” said the Co-Chair.

Fidanza also raised concerns that a failure to focus on faith in such situations can “lead politics to be timid towards regimes that violate religious freedom on a daily basis.”

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