The Religious Freedom Report of 2019 was published by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. It was expressed that while the government has provided assurances to religious minority communities and made limited attempts to include them in the policy-making process, socioeconomic
discrimination and lack of security continued to challenge the survival of these groups, which include other vulnerable pop- ulations, such as women and girls.
“This trend could worsen if religious freedom is not made a focal point for talks between the U.S. government, the Afghan government, and the Taliban”, writes the report.
USCIRF also found out that the Taliban continued to commit particularly severe religious freedom violations in 2018 while controlling parts of Afghanistan’s territory, and therefore again recommends in 2019 that the group be designated as an “entity of particular concern,” or EPC, under December 2016 amendments to IRFA
The report pointed out that in 2018, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan trended negatively and Afghanistan’s leadership struggled to maintain security in the country, especially for religious minority groups.
It has been highlighted in the report that the ongoing operation of terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), threaten the country’s overall security but particularly endanger the nation’s Shi’a Muslim population who have faced increased attacks in recent years.
“In fact, 2018 was one of the most fatal in Afghanistan for all civilians—and particularly religious minorities—due to terrorist activity, and the government often was unable to protect civil- ians from attacks.”
During the reporting period, non-Muslim groups like Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs remained endangered minorities—many fled the country and many of their commu- nity leaders who remained were killed in a largescale July 2018 terrorist attack.
In general, religious minorities in Afghanistan have endured severe human rights violations since the 1990s under the Taliban’s rule and subsequently have suffered ongo- ing attacks by extremist groups as per the report.
“Sikhs and Hindus have been driven underground without the ability to publicly practice their religious traditions for fear of reprisal by terrorist groups or society at large”, the report pointed out.
Based on these concerns, USCIRF placed Afghanistan on its Tier 2 in 2019, as it has since 2006, for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
USCIRF expressed concerned about the degree to which the Afghan government has control, both in general and with respect to religious free- dom violations. As such, USCIRF expressed that it will monitor religious freedom conditions to determine whether developments worsen and warrant a change in Afghanistan’s status during the year ahead.
The U.S. Department of State designated the Taliban in Afghanistan as an EPC, most recently in November 2018.