For the first time in two decades, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is recommending that Afghanistan be designated as a major violator of religious freedom due to what it calls a significant deterioration of freedom in that country.
USCIRF, in its annual report released this week, recommended that the Biden Administration designate Afghanistan as a “country of particular concern” (CPC), a category reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. Others on the list include Iran and North Korea.
It is the first time USCIRF has recommended CPC status for Afghanistan since 2001. The Taliban took control of the country in 2021 following the U.S. military’s withdrawal.
USCIRF is a bipartisan and independent federal government entity established by Congress to monitor religious liberty violations worldwide and make recommendations to the president, the State Department and Congress. It was created in 1998.
“With the Taliban’s return to power, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan, and the overall human rights situation, significantly deteriorated in 2021,” the report says.
Christians and other religious minorities “faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs,” the report says.
“The one known Jew and most Hindus and Sikhs fled the country. Christian converts, Baha’is, and Ahmadiyya Muslims practiced their faith in hiding due to fear of reprisal and threats from the Taliban,” the report says. “Years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls disappeared.”
Afghanistan is one of 15 countries recommended for CPC status. Ten of those were designated by the State Department as CPCs in November: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. USCIRF recommends that five others be placed on the list: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.
“We are disheartened by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries – especially Afghanistan under the Taliban’s de facto government since August,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza.
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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christophe Cerisier
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.