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Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one. The latest versions of country guidance documents are available at /country-guidance.

Last updated: December 2020

This profile refers to persons who are perceived as ‘Westernised’ due, for example, to their behaviour, appearance and expressed opinions, which are seen as non-Afghan. It may include those who return to Afghanistan after having spent time in western countries.

COI summary

[COI query on westernisation; Society-based targeting, 8.2, 8.10]

In relation to being perceived as ‘Westernised’, a distinction should be made in terms of attitudes towards men, on the one hand, and women, on the other.

Afghan women and children who have become accustomed to the freedoms and independence in the West may have difficulties adjusting to Afghanistan’s social restrictions. Women can also be seen as ‘Westernised’ when they work outside the home, take part in public life, or have higher education. Women perceived as ‘Westernised’ may be perceived as contravening cultural, social, and religious norms, and may be subjected to violence from their family, conservative elements in society and insurgents.

With regard to men, societal attitudes towards ‘Westernised’ individuals are mixed. Men with ‘Western’ values or who return from western countries can be regarded with suspicion and may face stigmatisation or rejection.

In a 2019 study on the whereabouts and experiences of deported Afghans, a source noted that, to be seen as ‘Westernised’ can result in threats to the returnees by their family members and neighbours. The same source also reported cases in which returnees were attacked in public because they were seen as ’traitors’ or ’unbelievers’.

Segments of society, mostly in cities (e.g. Kabul city), are open to Western views, whereas other segments, mostly in rural or conservative environments, are opposed.

Afghans identifying with Western values may also be targeted by insurgent groups, since they can be perceived as un-Islamic, or pro-government, or can be considered spies.

See also profiles 2.11.3 Women in public roles, 2.12 Individuals perceived to have transgressed moral codes, and 2.16 Individuals considered to have committed blasphemy and/or apostasy.

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed could amount to persecution (e.g. violence by family members, conservative elements in society and insurgents).

Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: gender (the risk is higher for women and lower for men), the behaviours adopted by the applicant, area of origin (particularly affecting rural areas), conservative environment, perception of traditional gender roles by the family, age (it may be difficult for children to (re-)adjust to Afghanistan’s social restrictions), visibility of the applicant, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that in the case of Individuals perceived as ‘Westernised’, the individual circumstances of the applicant need to be taken into account to determine whether or not a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated.

In some cases, persecution may be for reasons of religion and/or (imputed) political opinion or membership of a particular social group. For example, individuals under this profile may have a well-founded fear of persecution based on a shared characteristic or belief that is so fundamental to identity or conscience that they should not be forced to renounce it (opposition to cultural, social or religious norms and the unwillingness to comply with them). ‘Westernised’ persons, in particular women, could also be considered to have a distinct identity in the context of Afghanistan, because they can be perceived as being different and may face stigmatisation by the surrounding society.

P1494#yIS1A thorough individual assessment should take place to establish whether the particular characteristic or belief is fundamental to the identity or conscience of the applicant.