According to the Taliban, Hanafi jurisprudence is the basis for the country’s legal system. The Taliban largely impose their policies on citizens through guidelines or recommendations specifying acceptable behaviors they justify under their interpretation of sharia and prevalent cultural norms they consider acceptable. While the Taliban have not explicitly purported to abrogate specific laws, they have continued to emphasize their view that they govern in accordance with sharia and reject any law that contravenes it. Taliban members have stated they follow only portions of the 2004 and 1964 constitutions that do not contradict sharia. Some observers also state that neither of the two constitutions is fully in effect, so they have limited relevance to any legal framework in operation. According to these observers, any departure from the 2004 constitution would be significant, insofar as the constitution states that followers of religions other than Islam are “free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law,” a provision the Taliban reject.
Seven offenses make up hudood crimes. According to Sunni Hanafi jurisprudence, beheading is appropriate for male apostates, while life imprisonment is appropriate for female apostates, unless the individual repents. A judge may also impose a lesser penalty, such as short-term imprisonment or lashes, if doubt exists as to the individual’s status as an apostate. Under Hanafi jurisprudence, the government may also confiscate the property of apostates or prevent apostates from inheriting property. This guidance applies to individuals who are of sound mind and have reached the age of maturity. Civil law states that the age of maturity for citizens is 18, although it is 16 for women to marry. Islamic law defines age of maturity as the point at which one shows signs of puberty, and puberty is usually applied as the marriageable age, particularly for girls.
Conversion from Islam to another religion is apostasy, according to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. If the individual does not recant his or her conversion from Islam within three days, then he or she shall be subject to punishment for apostasy. Proselytizing to try to convert individuals from Islam to another religion is also illegal according to the Hanafi school, which is applied in the courts. Those accused of proselytizing are subject to the same punishment as those who convert from Islam.
Blasphemy, which may include anti-Islamic writings or speech, is a capital crime, according to the Hanafi school. Accused blasphemers, including apostates, have three days to recant or face death, although there is no clear process for recanting under sharia. Some hadiths (sayings or traditions from the Prophet Muhammad that serve as a source of Islamic law or guidance) suggest discussion and negotiation with an apostate to encourage the apostate to recant.
A 2007 ruling of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan states that the Baha’i Faith is distinct from Islam and is a form of blasphemy. Baha’is are labeled infidels, and all Muslims who convert to it are considered apostates.
The national curriculum includes materials designed separately for Sunni-majority schools and Shia-majority schools as well as textbooks that emphasize nonviolent Islamic terms and principles. The curriculum includes courses on Islam but not on other religions.
Under sharia, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but the woman must first convert if she is not an adherent of a faith that follows either the Quran, the Torah, the Bible, or the Zabur (book of David or Psalms). It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man.
Ministry of Interior-issued national identity cards indicate an individual’s religion as well as nationality, tribe, and ethnicity. Individuals are not required to declare belief in Islam to receive citizenship.
The Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MOHRA) is responsible for managing Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, revenue collection for religious activities, acquisition of property for religious purposes, issuance of fatwas, educational testing of imams, sermon preparation and distribution for government-supported mosques, and raising public awareness of religious issues.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Practices of the Taliban “Caretaker Government”
During the year, the Taliban continued to state that they administered the country in accordance with sharia, an assertion some Islamic scholars in the country and abroad challenged. “The Taliban’s recent ban on secondary education for girls is unacceptable and is clearly contrary to Islamic teachings. There is no mention in the Quran or prophetic sayings that justifies such action by the Taliban,” Haroon Imtiaz, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of North America, told Voice of America (VOA). During the year, the Taliban did not announce a clear and cohesive legal framework, judicial system, or enforcement mechanisms. In some provinces and districts, courts were in session, but it was unclear what system of law, procedures, and sentencing guidelines they used. Taliban leaders continued to issue decrees specifying acceptable behaviors under their interpretation of sharia and describing them as “guidelines” or “recommendations” that they unevenly enforced. According to the International Development Law Organization, the Taliban had initiated a process to assess criminal and civil laws to filter out those that are in contradiction with the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia. Observers said this departure from the 2004 constitution was significant because the constitution stated that followers of religions other than Islam are “free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law,” which was no longer the case under the Taliban. On November 13, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced that Taliban leader Akundzada had ordered judges to impose what the Taliban considered hudood punishments, including public executions, stoning, floggings, and the amputation of limbs and also ordered the implementation of qisas (retributive justice) in certain instances. The Taliban reportedly stated they intended to draft a new constitution but had not publicly announced one by year’s end.
Because religious and ethnic identities are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity. According to AI, on June 26, in Ghor Province, the Taliban conducted a night raid in in search of Mohamad Muradi, a Hazara and security official under the pre-August 2021 government. During the operation, they killed Muradi, six of his men, and two of his daughters. The Taliban accused Muradi of cooperating with Mawlawi Mahdi Mujahid, the Taliban’s only Hazara commander, who broke with the Taliban earlier in the year. According to an article by AI on September 15, the attack was “part of a wider pattern of unlawful targeted killings of people whom the Taliban perceives as adversaries.” AI Secretary General Agnes Callamard stated, “These violent deaths are further shocking proof that the Taliban continue to persecute, torture, and extrajudicially execute Hazara people.”
In April, the United Nations reported that the Taliban had tortured and killed a midwife in Mazar-e-Sharif, amputating her legs, stabbing her and shooting her 12 times, simply because she was a woman and a Hazara.
In June, Ahmadi international leadership reported that the Taliban had released the last of 28 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Kabul that it had detained in 2021. According to members of the community, the Taliban had falsely accused them of belonging to ISIS-K and demanded that they repent their “heretical beliefs.”
In June, the Taliban detained Afghan fashion model Ajmal Haqiqi and three of his colleagues, accusing them of disrespecting Islam and the Quran, according to press reports. In one widely circulated video, Haqiqi was seen laughing as his colleague Ghulam Sakhi, who has a speech impediment that he emphasizes for humor, recited verses of the Quran. After the detentions, the Taliban released a video of Haqiqi and his colleagues, who were seen standing in light brown jail uniforms and apologizing to the Taliban and religious scholars.
In June, Taliban fighters stormed the office of Ayatollah Mohaqiqi Kabuli, a prominent Shia cleric who died in 2019, tearing up a photograph and banners and destroying equipment. According to social media sources, the Taliban also detained two staff members. Following the incident, the Taliban inspected the office of Ayatollah Fayyaz, another Shia cleric. Residents of Ghazni Province described the Taliban’s move as an insult to religion.
According to media reports, on October 1, a wave of protests followed a deadly September 30 suicide attack on students, mostly girls and young women, who were preparing for examinations at the Kaaj Higher Education Center in a Hazara neighborhood of Kabul. Young women led many of the marches, chanting slogans that included, “Security is our right! Education is our right! Stop genocide!” amid a Twitter hashtag campaign, “Stop Hazara Genocide.” On October 2, Taliban gunmen suppressed similar protests in Herat and Bamyan, beating women and firing guns in the air to disperse crowds. On October 3, similar protests in Kabul and Mazar-a-Sharif were met with a swift, armed response by Taliban gunmen. Hazara activists described Taliban repression of Hazaras and their failure to protect the ethnic and religious minority from ISIS-K attacks as part of a trend toward marginalizing and erasing the ethnic minority from Afghan society.
According to international NGOs, Hindu and Sikh groups continued to express concern regarding their physical safety. In September, the NGO Human Rights Watch asserted that Taliban authorities had an obligation to protect at-risk communities from repeated ISIS-K attacks, but that those authorities did little to protect those communities from suicide bombings and other unlawful attacks or to provide necessary medical care and other assistance to victims. UNAMA emphasized that the Taliban dissolved independent oversight mechanisms and institutions, including the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, that had sought to protect the religious freedom and security of all.
According to numerous NGO leaders and members of minority religious groups, including Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadiyya Muslims, members of these communities continued to seek resettlement outside the country, fearing the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia would lead to further persecution and harm. With rare exceptions, Afghan Sikhs and Hindus sought emigration and resettlement in a friendly foreign country, according to those leaders. While in past years, Sikh leaders stated that the main cause of Sikh emigration was lack of employment opportunities due in part to illiteracy resulting from lack of access to education, following the Taliban takeover, many said they believed the Taliban’s violent persecution of them would be inevitable. According to a representative of the Sikh Coalition, there were approximately 150 Sikh and Hindu individuals left in the country at the end of 2021, compared with 400 at the beginning of that year. In February 2022, that number had shifted to 149 individuals in the country. As of August, there were approximately 96 Sikh and Hindu individuals remaining. Reportedly, any individuals who remained chose to do so, and most acted as custodians of the gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and their holy book in Kabul. They were reportedly attempting to gain Taliban permission to move their holy book outside the country. In late October, diaspora leaders estimated only 15 Sikhs remained in country. They also said the Taliban did not permit the Sikhs to transfer their holy book to India, contending the book is an historical asset and should remain in the country. By year’s end, a representative of the Sikh Coalition reported that an estimated nine Sikhs and Hindus remained in the country.
According to a former member of parliament, members of the Sikh and Hindu communities no longer felt safe remaining in the country. He said the Taliban had not consistently provided security for gurdwaras. Hindu and Sikh children no longer attended schools, and women did not participate in gatherings for worship due to security threats. He said Taliban harassment of members of the Sikh and Hindu communities made it difficult for them to do business and maintain livelihoods.
According to International Christian Concern and other external groups, the situation for Christians in the country grew more perilous during the year. In January, Open Doors, a nondenominational NGO supporting abused Christians worldwide, said Afghanistan was the “worst country for Christians.” They reported that the Taliban were going door to door, seeking out individuals who practiced religions other than Islam. Christian converts reported receiving threatening telephone calls. Members of the Afghan Christian diaspora said that, despite the desire of Christians within the country to congregate for group prayer, it remained too dangerous to do so, and the fear of Taliban discovery of texts or digital messages discussing Christianity caused deeply closeted Christians to refrain from communicating with one another. An Afghan House Church Network leader living in exile said Taliban police had killed some Christians who were in hiding. Release International, an international watchdog for monitoring Christians, reported the killing of a Shia man who had converted to Christianity.
According to press reports, Christian converts could be considered apostates and subject to execution under strict interpretations of sharia, as had occurred during the time of the Islamic Republic and under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, when apostates were sentenced to death. According to the NGO International Christian Concern, fear of such punishment had driven Christian converts into deeper hiding. At year’s end, there were no reports of Taliban representatives having directed sharia-related punishments at converts.
According to a former MOHRA official, prior to the Taliban takeover, there were 81,400 mosques in the country, of which approximately 10,000 were formally registered with MOHRA. Imams at most unregistered mosques did not receive government funding. No estimates of the numbers of registered and unregistered mosques since the Taliban takeover were available. The former MOHRA official said the Taliban had replaced some imams with Taliban madrassah (religious school) graduates but had made no other changes by year’s end.
On August 4, the Taliban announced the cancellation of Ashura, which fell on August 8, as an official public holiday. Residents reported the Taliban shut down the internet in parts of Kabul for the day and destroyed community tea stalls in what many Sikh leaders believed was a concerted attempt to suppress Shias from celebrating their most important religious holiday. According to open-source media, the Taliban cut down the black flags and banners that are traditionally raised as part of the Shia commemoration of the death of Imam Hussain ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
Prior to the Taliban takeover, mosques provided primary-level religious studies through affiliated madrassahs. Approximately 80 Ministry of Higher Education-registered public madrassahs offered two-year degree programs at the secondary level – with a focus on rote learning of the Quran in Arabic – open to boys and girls. An estimated 1,000 public madrassahs were registered with the ministry, each receiving financial support from the Taliban. There were no estimates of the number of unregistered madrassahs available. According to a BBC report in November, the “Ministry of Education” estimated there were approximately 1,200 religious schools and Islamic learning centers operating in the country, 85 of which were privately run. During the year, local media reported on Taliban efforts to establish new mosques and madrassahs throughout the country, in place of nonreligious schools, but no firm figures were released on the numbers of new mosques and madrassahs.
The Taliban continued to restrict educational access for girls. Although Taliban representatives had stated in 2021 that all girls would be allowed to attend school starting in March 2022, when most schools in the country would reopen after winter recess, on March 23, the Taliban announced that girls would not be allowed to attend secondary school. In December, the Taliban extended this restriction to universities. Girls, however, were allowed to attend madrassah programs. According to Agence France-Press, whose journalists visited three madrassahs in Kabul and in the city of Kandahar, scholars told them the number of female students studying at madrassahs had doubled during the year. The Taliban continued to maintain that rules of school attendance must accord with the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia, including requiring gender segregation, appropriate transportation, and dress and behavior codes. At year’s end, girls and women had not been permitted to return to secondary school or university. After the August 2021 takeover, Taliban representatives said they would retain the existing school curriculum for non-religious subjects but would change any part of it that contradicted their understanding of Islam and sharia. On September 24, the Taliban announced it planned to review and revise the curriculum in view of “Afghan culture.” A Taliban spokesperson representing the “Ministry of Higher Education” said a single academic curriculum would be established across the country. As of year’s end, no changes to the curriculum had been announced.
According to educators in the country, there was some variance between how religion was taught in public primary and secondary schools. For example, in some provinces with large Hazara populations, teachers used a Taliban-approved textbook that covered only Hanafi fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and they independently supplemented it with instruction on (Shia) Jaafari fiqh for the benefit of Hazara students. Private schools in Hazara communities used Jaafari fiqh textbooks, which were not approved by the Ministry of Education.
Women of all faiths, including Sunni and Shia Islam, reported that the Taliban continued to impose a slate of restrictions upon their dress and movement in society based upon the Taliban’s strict interpretation of sharia. A November 2021 Taliban “Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” decree mandated eight rules for media outlets, including bans on dramas and television shows featuring female actors. A December 2021 decree by the same “ministry” stated that women travelling more than 78 kilometers (47 miles) from their residence should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close [male] family member. Observers said, however, that enforcement of these restrictions was inconsistent during the year.
According to Hazara representatives, while the Taliban had not formally published discriminatory policies toward ethnic and religious minorities, they in effect had marginalized Hazaras, including by severely limiting their presence in the Taliban’s “caretaker government.”
Members of minority religious groups said fear of persecution and societal discrimination had prompted members of religious minorities to refrain from publicly expressing their faith. Christians, Ahmadis, Baha’is, Hindus, and Sikhs said they all had further withdrawn from participation in public activities, with most in hiding or opting to leave the country.
Minority religious groups reported discriminatory treatment by the Taliban, and they expressed fear that they risked being tried according to the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Hanafi jurisprudence if they took their grievances to court. Hazaras said they faced such treatment at university admissions, admission to mosques for prayers, and within the civil service. Many Hazaras who previously held high-ranking positions of responsibility in the civil service said the Taliban relegated them to performing only clerical work. Because religious and ethnic identities are closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many instances of discrimination or unequal treatment as solely based on religious identity.
According to a former parliamentarian who represented the Sikh and Hindu communities, Sikh and Hindus in the country had lost hope for a future in the country. He said the Taliban were aware of security threats against the Sikh minority for a long time but chose not to pay attention to them. For example, the former parliamentarian said the Taliban’s “Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs” met with him but did not respond to concerns that the gurdwara in Kabul had not had electricity for many months. The former parliamentarian said the Sikh and Hindu communities had long faced harassment and discrimination, including the closure and illegal occupation of many gurdwaras and mandirs (Hindu places of worship).
The Indian government, in coordination with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Indian World Forum, evacuated 11 Sikhs to New Delhi on a special flight on June 2, following a deadly attack on the Karte Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul on June 1. The evacuees brought with them the ashes of Savinder Singh, a priest of the gurdwara, who was killed in the attack. Twenty-one additional Sikhs left Kabul for India in a chartered flight in July, according to Afghanistan International News.
In May, VOA quoted Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani as stating, “There are no Christians in Afghanistan. [A] Christian minority has never been known or registered here.” He added, “There are only Sikh and Hindu religious minority [sic] in Afghanistan that are completely free and safe to practice their religion.”
On June 5, Taliban spokesperson Mujahid tweeted, “All rights of the religious minorities are protected. All Sunni, Shia, Sikhs, and Hindus are freely practicing their religious affairs.”