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- Associated Press
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said Monday that Afghanistan is now on the list of the world’s worst religious freedom violators.
The commission makes the recommendations in its annual report released Monday. The report says religious minorities have suffered since the Taliban took power in mid-August. The Commission itself can only make recommendations.
In its latest report, the commission recommended 15 countries as “countries of special concern” for violations of religious freedom that occurred on their territory. In its summary report the commission defined these countries as “the worst of the worst” by tolerating or engaging in “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
The fifteen countries named in the report are China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam. The commission also criticized the Biden government for last year removing Nigeria from the list it released.
Minority Groups Target Violence
In its annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said that since the Taliban reinstated a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam in Afghanistan, other religious minorities have “experienced harassment, detention, and even death because of their faith or religion.”
Many of the minority Jewish, Hindu and Sikh groups have fled the country since the Taliban returned to power. Meanwhile, those who remain, such as the Ahmadiyya, Baha’i and Christians, practice their worship in secret for fear of being persecuted.
The commission also cited a Human Rights Watch report on how the Taliban attacked and confiscated property of the Hazara and Shia ethnic minority groups. There is also a section of Amnesty International’s report cited on the massacre of Hazara men by the Taliban in 2021.
A number of massacres of ethnic Hazaras have been carried out by the Islamic State group in Khorasan province otherwise known as ISIS-K, which is hostile to the Taliban and has proven to be a difficult security challenge for the Afghan ruler. The front cover of the commission’s latest report includes a photo of the bloody attack carried out by ISIS-K on a Shia mosque in Kunduz province last year.
The report again echoes CIA World Factbook data from 2009, which said Afghan non-Muslim groups make up a small fraction of the population. It emphasized that 99.7 percent of Afghans are Muslim, with most of them being Sunni-Muslim, while around 10-15 percent are Shia-Muslim.
Although based on 2021 developments, the report also shows concern about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, and other Muslim minority groups, such as the Tatars in Crimea.
Indonesia Recommended On “Special Monitoring List”
The Commission also recommends placing 12 countries on a “special monitoring list” for concerns over religious freedom in the country. The twelve countries are Algeria, Cuba, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The commission, created in 1998 under the International Religious Freedom Act, makes non-binding recommendations to the US government and Congress. In the past the US State Department would adopt some – but not all – of the recommendations. [em/rs]