Afghan Christians left behind will be ‘targeted with deadly violence’: Human rights group warns

Afghan refugee Faridah visits a course preparing her to convert into christian confession by baptism in Berlin, on October 23, 2016.
Afghan refugee Faridah visits a course preparing her to convert into christian confession by baptism in Berlin, on October 23, 2016. | CLEMENS BILAN/AFP via Getty Images

Human rights group ADF International has urged the international community to address the “dire plight” of religious minority communities in Afghanistan, including 10,000 Christians who are now “at extreme risk of being targeted with deadly violence.” They, too, need to be evacuated, the group says.

Among the communities at risk are “an estimated ten thousand Christians, many of whom are 'guilty' of converting from Islam — a crime punishable by death under Sharia law,” Giorgio Mazzoli, a legal officer representing ADF International at the United Nations, said in a statement.

The Vienna-based group said it made an oral statement at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the serious human rights concerns and situation in Afghanistan last week.

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“As disturbing accounts of killings, harassment and intimidation against them are rapidly emerging, we urge States and the international community to give utmost attention to these persecuted minorities and guarantee the conditions for their prompt and safe exit from the country, irrespective of whether they have valid travel documents.”

Following the drawing down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country, eventually taking the capital Kabul earlier this month and forcing the government to flee. In response to the unexpected speed at which they retook the nation, tens of thousands of Americans, Afghan allies, and others have desperately tried to leave the country.

Last Thursday, a suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul killed 10 U.S. Marines, two Army soldiers and one Navy Corpsman, along with as many as 170 civilians, most of whom were awaiting their evacuation.

In response, the U.S. military killed two high profile terrorists from ISIS-K — one “planner” and one “facilitator,” in a drone strike in Afghanistan.

As of Saturday, 117,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan, the majority of whom are Afghans, Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said, adding that the number includes 5,400 U.S. citizens, over 300 of whom have been evacuated since the Kabul attack.

As the number of evacuees increases, the U.S. will increase its efforts to provide temporary shelter for Afghans until they're resettled at various locations across the U.S.

ADF International said it applauds efforts to evacuate and resettle vulnerable persons and it urges all parties to secure their safe passage out of the country. But there’s a need to rescue, evacuate and resettle even those who are now at a higher risk of severe persecution in Afghanistan, it said.

“We join the call on governments to temporarily halt deportations to Afghanistan and reconsider the applications of rejected Afghan asylum seekers fearing persecution because of their faith or beliefs,” Mazzoli said.

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