Inside Afghanistan

Starvation of Freedom

Starvation of freedom

In 2022 Afghanistan was identified as the second most oppressive country to live as a Christian, just below North Korea. With the return of public floggings and executions, the country has regressed to medieval standards of justice. The harsh restrictions on Christianity and severe punishments for denying Islam, including death, underline the stark contrast between the calm of silence and the calm of peace. In this national storm, there is a severe starvation affecting millions of Afghans, but what is even worse is the starvation of freedom to think, believe and speak.  

The death and starvation caused by new regime has left people on the brink of existence across the country, desperate for relief. The regime has brought the most extreme application of Islam’s framework of religious principles (Sharia Law), which has overseen the banning of everything from music and television to learning and professional work, for millions of people. And therefore, while the streets are full of noise, and familiar smells of Afghan food still waft through old bustling markets, where parrots and songbirds are traded, the hopeful voices of Afghans speaking up have been tragically silenced.

Oppressing Conscience

When the Taliban seized control, they immediately sought to wipe out any vestige of Christianity, church gathering or association with foreign powers. Death squads roamed the streets, going door to door, threatening, torturing and killing Christians wherever they found them. The terror overhanging Afghanistan was particularly felt in the underground church members, who received threatening calls and texts like this one:  

“The guidance of the central officials of the Islamic Emirate about you apostates has come to us Mujahideen.  Now, praise be to God, with the overthrow of the infidel government, you cannot hide from the magnifying glass of the Mojahedin anywhere and to anyone, and you will be arrested as soon as possible by the intelligence officials of the Islamic Emirate”

In this merciless regime, nobody was spared harsh rule; anybody who does not align with the regime, found themselves at the sharp end. This was most clearly seen in the oppression of Afghan women, who were almost entirely removed the workforce. Not only were 250 female judges (representing 10% of the bench) removed, but also girls from education beyond 6th grade, and teacher positions have been given to men, regardless of their ability1

The Escape from Afghanistan

This collapse of society forced thousands to Afghans to flee as their futures, freedoms and livelihoods were torn to pieces before their eyes. Many fled to surrounding countries in search of safety, and thousands went across the globe, even to Brazil 8,450 miles away. Among the exodus from Afghanistan, almost 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan are living in limbo, including Christians, Muslims, women and Hazaras. Many of these undocumented refugees are now facing the terrible prospect of deportation due to the Pakistani crackdown on refugees.  

Many of the vulnerable Shai Fund helped relocate to safety from Afghanistan were Christians who changed their identification documents to reflect their faith. This direct declaration of faith to the state, immediately places them in a category outside state protection.  Hadi Farhad Zaman and his family were part of the underground church, and as members of the ethnic minority Hazara community, they faced double persecution. With their Christianity already well known publicly, under the Taliban their identification cards became a death sentence. Thankfully, Shai Fund was able to intervene in time, and now Hadi Farhad Zaman family lives free from the fear of someone hunting them down because of their faith and ethnicity.  

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