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Last update: November 2021

This profile refers to religious leaders, such as members of Ulemas, teachers in madrassas, imams and theologists of Islam. It focuses specifically on the targeting of Sunni religious leaders by the Taliban.

For guidance with regard to the targeting of religious minorities, see 2.15.2 Shia, including Ismaili, 2.15.3 Hindus and Sikhs, and 2.15.4 Baha’i.

COI summary

[Anti-government elements,; Conflict targeting, 1.2.5, 1.5.1; State structure, 2.1.4; Security 2020, 2.16.3]

A high number of religious figures have been killed in recent years. Reportedly, targeting mostly happened in contested areas, but also in cities.

In the context of the conflict, the reasons for targeting religious leaders were diverse but must be seen in the context of Ulemas being considered capable to delegitimise the insurgents’ religious ideology. Non-exhaustive examples of targeting include:

religious figures who publicly expressed support for government views, including preaching in support of ANSF or conducting funeral ceremonies for killed members of the security forces;
►  religious figures who publicly condemned civilian casualties caused by insurgents or expressed criticism of certain insurgent tactics on religious grounds;
►  religious figures who publicly rejected the insurgents’ ideology because they were following a more moderate or another form of Islam.

Attacks targeting religious leaders, including by non-suicide IEDs, were reported in the first half of 2021 [Security September 2021, 1.4.2]. Since the start of the May offensive of the Taliban, assassinations of religious scholars were reported in several provinces, including Herat, Jawzjan, Kapisa, Kabul, Logar, and Parwan [Security September 2021, 2.1, 2.13, 2.14, 2.15, 2.17, 2.22, 2.29].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. killing).

Despite limited information concerning the period after the Taliban takeover, taking into account past persecution and the Taliban’s continued determination to establish an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in accordance with their interpretation of the Sharia, religious scholars perceived as delegitimising the Taliban ideology are considered likely to have a well-founded fear of persecution. Additional risk-impacting circumstances would be needed to substantiate a well-founded fear of persecution for other individuals under this profile.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that the persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion and/or religion.