Religious and other minorities are under serious threat in Afghanistan and urgent action is needed, says US panel – Baptist News Global
The United States and the Global Community must pressure the Taliban to stop persecuting Afghanistan’s religious and ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ communities and even Muslims, said a virtual panel of experts convened on Oct. 6 by the U.S. Commission on international religious freedom.
And the best way to motivate the fundamentalist Islamic group to rule with humanitarian values is to hit them in the wallet, panelist Palwasha Kakar said during USCIRF’s “Religious Communities at Risk in Afghanistan Update” .
“The Taliban are looking for international legitimacy and their economy is in dire straits. So those are two very important leverage points, ”said Kakar, acting director of religion and inclusive societies at the United States Institute of Peace.
The regime is also known to be desperate for increased international aid shipments, a vulnerability that could be exploited to advance human rights, said panelist Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
“Whether it is the protection of religious minorities, women and girls, it is extremely important that we refuse any assistance until we see this type of action. When the Taliban say they are newer and better, actions speak louder than words, ”she said. “The two most important levers we can pull right now are the power of the stock market and diplomacy.”
But these levers will need to be pulled swiftly and decisively, as reports from Afghanistan indicate that the Taliban government is relying heavily on its penchant for violence and harsh social controls since the vacuum created by the departure of states. United was finalized on August 31.
Afghanistan under Taliban control quickly has climbed to the top of international watch lists ranging from the US State Department’s “entity of particular concern” designation to the US Holocaust Museum’s early warning project, which lists the nation “second in the world for the risk of a new wave of massacres of civilians in 2020-2021”.
USCIRF President Nadine Maenza and Commissioner Frederick A. Davie reported on Taliban actions that alarmed the international community and sent tens of thousands of Afghans to flee to other countries.
The outlook for religious minorities and Muslims who disagree with Taliban theology have become dire since the fundamentalist sect took full control in mid-August, Maenza said.
The regime recently installed an all-male government, closed the Department of the Status of Women and re-established its Department of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known before the 2001 US invasion for enforcing draconian controls on movement and the rights of women and girls.
“They pose a serious threat to all Afghans,” Maenza said of the Taliban.
How seriousness becomes evident through proclamations and targeted violence against religious minorities and those deemed to promote secular values and practices, Davie said.
Afghan women have been warned to stay at home and girls were banned from secondary education and sports, he said. A pregnant policewoman was recently shot dead, images of women have been removed from billboards, and unmarried women and girls are being forced to marry Taliban fighters.
“Women are now said to be afraid to leave the house without a male chaperone, and barbers have been warned not to give men western haircuts or cut beards,” Davie said.
Known in the 1990s for banning music, the Taliban are once again destroying musical instruments, banning television entertainment programs, and targeting performers with violence, including the execution of a comedian and the murder of a folk singer, he said. Meanwhile, journalists, human rights activists and religious leaders who interpret the Koran and Islam differently have also been killed.
And the ISIS-K terrorist group has committed atrocities in parts of Afghanistan where it has targeted religious minorities, including the Hazara Shi’a sect, he said. “There are far-reaching consequences for all religious minorities and others who do not agree with a strict interpretation of Islam.
The Taliban have also used – or failed to prevent – kidnappings, assassinations and attacks on sacred sites against Hindu and Sikh minorities, Kakar said.
A litmus test for international recognition of the Taliban must include an end to targeted violence, return of confiscated land and homes, protection of cultural sites and freedom of worship for all religious minorities, she said.
But the United States must also focus on the needs of Afghans who fled the Taliban, Vignarajah added. “Those who lived in fear of persecution, including religious minorities, should face as little resistance as possible in their quest for safety on our shores. “
She urged Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide green cards and citizenship pathways for refugees who did not serve with US troops in Afghanistan.
“The United States has a moral obligation to provide avenues of protection” to Afghan refugees facing “fear and anxiety after leaving everything behind” and facing xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments in their country. new context, said Vignarajah.
“The United States has a moral obligation to provide pathways to protections.”
Americans are also needed to support as much as the 95,000 or more Afghan refugees who are expected to be resettled in the weeks and months to come. Landlords are needed to rent to arriving families, and money is needed to prepay rent.
Volunteers are also needed to meet refugees at airports and to help them negotiate life and culture in the United States, she said, noting that in the past six weeks, 48,000 Americans have signed up to help her agency do just that – but more is needed. “No matter where you are in the country, I guarantee you there will be a family moving somewhere near you.”
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