Last update: April 2022
This profile refers to persons who are perceived as ‘Westernised’ due, for example, to their professions, activities, behaviour, appearance and expressed opinions, which are seen as non-Afghan, non-Muslim. It may include those who return to Afghanistan after having spent time in countries.
In relation to being perceived as ‘Westernised’, a distinction should be made in terms of attitudes towards men and women.
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, those 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’.
There had been also reports that 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.
Furthermore, Afghans identifying with Western values had also been targeted by armed groups, since they could be perceived as un-Islamic, or supporting the former government, or could be considered spies.
There are two narratives by the Taliban on persons leaving Afghanistan to live in Western countries. In one narrative the Taliban said that people flee due to poverty and that it has nothing to do with any fear of the Taliban, but life is better economically in the West. The other narrative was about the elites that left; they were not seen as ‘Afghans’ or ‘good Muslims’ [Country Focus 2022, 2.11. See also 'Taliban’s perception on people leaving Afghanistan' under General remarks].
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 [Security September 2021, 1.1.3].
See also profiles 2.12.3 Women in public roles, and 2.10 Individuals considered to have committed blasphemy and/or apostasy.
The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. violence by family members, conservative elements in society, Taliban and armed groups). When the acts in question are (solely) discriminatory measures, including restrictions on the exercise of certain rights etc., the individual assessment of whether discrimination could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.
Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: the behaviour adopted by the applicant, area of origin (e.g. particularly affecting rural areas, local divergence in applying Taliban norms), gender (the risk is higher for women), conservative environment, perception of traditional gender roles by the family, age (it may be difficult for children of certain age to (re-)adjust to Afghanistan’s social restrictions), duration of stay in a western country, visibility of the applicant, etc.
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.
A thorough individual assessment should take place to whether the particular characteristic or belief is fundamental to the identity or conscience of the applicant.
See other topics concerning individuals perceived to have transgressed moral and/or societal norms: