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.
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 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 armed groups.
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), were open to Western views, whereas other segments, mostly in rural or conservative environments, were opposed.
Afghans identifying with Western values may also be targeted by armed groups, since they can be perceived as un-Islamic, or supporting the former government, or can be considered spies.
There is limited information concerning the situation of persons perceived as ‘Westernised’ following the Taliban takeover. However, the Taliban have made clear statements regarding the required adherence to the Sharia. Since the takeover, for example, state television was interrupted and airs Quranic recitations, Islamic shows, and Taliban announcements. Private channels have reportedly reduced content that pose a risk of provoking the Taliban, such as pop music shows or foreign soap operas, while increasingly airing appearances of the Taliban and praise for them [Security September 2021, 1.1.4]. It was also reported that in the first days after the Taliban entered Kabul prices on traditional Islamic clothing such as hijabs had increased due to a sudden demand. [Security September 2021, 1.1.3]
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 armed groups).
The situation of individuals perceived as ‘Westernised’ has to be assessed in light of the recent takeover by the Taliban. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should further take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: gender (the risk is higher for women), 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 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.