US commission says religious minorities in Afghanistan face persecution

The US Commission on Religious Freedom in a new report says that religious minorities in Afghanistan are facing threats from terrorist groups including ISIS and persecution from the Taliban.

The commission’s report specifically mentions Shiites, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians as victims of religious freedom violations.

According to the annual report of the US Commission on Religious Freedom, the condition of religious freedom in Afghanistan has significantly worsened under Taliban rule.

The commission notes that the Taliban continues to implement a strict interpretation of Sharia law, thereby violating the freedom of religion or belief for all Afghans, especially those holding different interpretations of Islam and members of religious minority groups.

Key findings

In 2023, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate. The authorities enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia, leading to violations of freedom of religion, the report says.

According to the report, Taliban has imposed numerous edicts restricting movement, dress, employment, and education, significantly affecting religious minorities as well as women and girls.

The Taliban’s Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice harshly enforced these laws. Throughout the year, Taliban officials conducted hundreds of public floggings and detentions across the country, often without due process. Notably, journalists, women’s rights activists, and religious minorities were detained, the report says.

In a high-profile case, French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi was released in October 2023 after 284 days in jail on espionage charges. Matiullah Wesa, a prominent advocate for girls’ education, was also released in October after seven months of detention. In December, the Taliban announced that girls of all ages could attend Islamic schools, although these schools are under strict government control, the report says.

The Taliban also enforced severe restrictions on NGOs and prohibited the employment of Afghan women. In September, 18 NGO workers were detained, accused of promoting Christianity.

Religious minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, face harsh restrictions under Taliban rule. In March, the Taliban directed imams to discourage the celebration of Nowruz, claiming it is contrary to Sharia.

Shi’a Muslims have also faced increased harassment and interference with their right to worship. In one decree, the Taliban banned marriages between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims and prohibited the teaching of the Shi’a Jafari jurisprudence.

According to the report, terrorist attacks targeting religious minorities have also escalated. In October, an attack on the largest Shi’a mosque in Baghlan killed 17 worshippers. Another attack in a Shi’a Hazara neighborhood near Kabul killed seven people in November, with ISIS claiming responsibility.


The report urges the US government to designate Afghanistan under Taliban rule as a “country of particular concern” for severe violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). It also calls for integrating protections for religious freedom into all dialogue with the Taliban, condemning atrocities committed by both the Taliban and ISIS-K, and emphasizing the link between religious freedom and security.

Furthermore, the commission recommends imposing targeted sanctions on Taliban officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, including asset freezes and visa bans, and coordinating with allies to impose similar sanctions.

The report urges the US Congress to create a P-2 designation for members of religious groups at extreme risk of persecution by the Taliban.