ISIS targets religious minorities in Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Islamic States (ISIS) affiliate in Afghanistan, has repeatedly attacked Hazaras and other religious minorities at their mosques, schools, and workplaces, Human Rights Watch said.

The Taliban authorities have done little to protect these communities from suicide bombings and other unlawful attacks or to provide necessary medical care and other assistance to victims and their families.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, the Islamic State affiliate has claimed responsibility for 13 attacks against Hazaras and has been linked to at least three more, killing and injuring at least 700 people.

The Taliban’s growing crackdown on the media, especially in the provinces means additional attacks are likely to have gone unreported. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that recent attacks by the group on Shia gatherings in Kabul killed and injured more than 120 people.

“Since the Taliban takeover, ISIS-linked fighters have committed numerous brutal attacks against members of the Hazara community as they go to school, to work, or to pray, without a serious response from the Taliban authorities,” said Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban have an obligation to protect at-risk communities and assist the victims of attacks and their families.”

The Hazara are a predominantly Shia Muslim ethnic group that have faced discrimination and abuse by successive Afghan governments for over a century. During the 1990s, Taliban forces targeted the Shia for mass killings and other serious abuses.

With the Taliban back in power, the Hazara have been increasingly concerned for their safety and whether the new authorities will protect them. “The Taliban never liked Hazaras,” said one Hazara community member in Bamyan province. “Last time they were in power, they killed many of us.”

The Taliban’s failure to provide security to at-risk populations and medical and other assistance to survivors and affected families, as well as Taliban policies that violate human rights, particularly those of women and girls, exacerbates the harm these attacks cause.

“Armed group leaders may one day face justice for their atrocities against Hazaras and other communities,” Abbasi said. “Taliban officials who fail to take action to protect religious minorities from attack may be complicit in these grave crimes.”

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