August 21, 2021
The Honorable Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Emergency Protection and Evacuation of Afghan Religious Minorities/Sanctioning Taliban for Religious Freedom Abuses

Dear President Biden:

We are an informal participant-led, multi-religious group that advocates for international religious freedom. Despite our extremely broad diversity of theological views and political positions, we are united in our horror at the unfolding events in Afghanistan following the abrupt US troop withdrawal and the swift Taliban takeover. It is clear that most Afghans do not want a Taliban-dominated government and are experiencing deep fear and anxiety at what the future holds. Videos of women handing babies and small children to soldiers over barbed wire vividly illustrate the panic sweeping the nation.

We request specific steps to assist non-governmental organizations in the evacuation and safeguarding of vulnerable religious minorities: Shia Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Hindus, Bahais, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and others. Immediate action is imperative to fulfill the pledge made in your recent speeches that: “human rights will be the center of our foreign policy,”1 and the many pledges of your Administration, including Secretary of State Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power at last month’s 2021 IRF Summit, confirming its commitment to international religious freedom.

We also believe that current Taliban actions warrant reimposition of US sanctions and freezing of funds and future assistance to a Taliban-run Afghan government until they cease violating the rights of religious minorities. We collectively have assembled numerous reports of horrific mistreatment of religious minorities by Taliban militants now roaming freely throughout Afghanistan. Christians and others seeking refuge at Kabul Airport have been murdered, whipped, had their ID documents seized, and their cell phones destroyed. They are being identified via government records and hunted down in door-to-door searches.2 They are receiving officially stamped “threat letters” warning that they have been identified for arrest or worse. Property is being stolen. Women are being seized, raped (“married” in the eyes of Taliban thugs), or killed, and men are being summarily executed or tortured.3 Shia celebrating Ashura have seen their banners torn down, a harbinger of worse to come.4

The Taliban seeks to impose a hegemonic and absolutistic interpretation of Islam in which religious minorities and non-compliant majority group member must be subjugated or eliminated. The Organization for Islamic Cooperation has called on the Taliban to adhere to “international governing norms enshrined in the UN Charter and resolutions” and to follow “tolerant Islamic principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),” which includes the right to freedom of religion and belief.5 In contrast, we realistically expect a swift reversion to Taliban policies of the 1990’s when religious minorities and dissenters were jailed, forced to convert, publicly whipped or executed, forced to pay tribute and use distinctive colors on their clothes and homes.

We also believe that the victory of the Taliban creates a worldwide threat to all religious groups that do not share its radical views—as well as a substantial threat to the national security of the United States and our allies. Taliban rule in Afghanistan will likely have swift negative consequences for our efforts to bring religious freedom, peace and stability to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Africa, and other flashpoints. Taliban promises not to harbor or support external terror organizations in its February 29, 2020 agreement with the United States are laughable in light of its own actions (and multi-national forces) and the many credible reports that Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terror groups are already training and staging attacks from inside Taliban held areas.6

US-based NGOs and others are amassing funds and capabilities to evacuate religious minorities and women to safe havens even as your Administration and our allies are working to repatriate our citizens and those who worked directly for us. Various countries are committed to taking some of these evacuees and the US should do so as well. Yet we are seeing those we seek to save lose their lives trying to get to the airport in Kabul, being too afraid or unable to get there, and facing huge risks in traveling overland to sanctuary nations. Even US and other foreign citizens were unable to safely access Kabul Airport.

We ask that your Administration take immediate action to:

  1. Create evacuation corridors and refugee assembly points outside Kabul’s airport (including in other regions) and continue evacuations for as long as necessary to get these people out. We envision refuges where religious minorities can go, be protected, be processed, and be transported by air or other exit means in an orderly fashion. This can happen unilaterally or through agreement with the Taliban, which publicly promised to let all those who wish to leave the country go.
  2. Establish special visa quotas and priorities for Afghan religious minorities and work with existing refugee assistance organizations that are standing by ready to provide assistance as they arrive in the US and other countries.
  3. Create a special emergency coordination office for NGO Afghanistan evacuations inside the Pentagon or the State Department tasked with interacting with NGOs seeking to evacuate religious minorities. It should facilitate their communications with countries accepting religious minority Afghan refugees. It should help coordinate flights, documentation, resettlement, and secure escape routes.
  4. Work with IRF focused groups to coordinate monitoring and actions by the US, our allies, and international organizations on religious minority rights in Afghanistan, including our IRF Roundtable, our partner Roundtables worldwide,7 the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB),8 and the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance.9 We want to see strong public statements demanding an end to Taliban oppression of religious minorities and warnings that we will hold them to account, using targeted sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, existing Afghanistan sanctions regimes and war crimes prosecutions.
  5. Freeze all economic and other assistance to the Taliban and recognition of it as controlling the Afghan government, until it demonstrates through actions, not words, that it is complying with universal standards on religious freedom, human rights, and the rights of women and children, as codified in the UN Convention on Human Rights10 and in numerous UN conventions and agreements that the government of Afghanistan has signed. We do not suggest that direct humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan be curtailed, but that the Taliban not be enabled.

We thank you in advance for your attention to our requests and stand ready to meet with
Administration officials to facilitate this effort. #ExitWithHonor

Respectfully,

Organization Signatures:

Alevi Philosophy Center Association (ADO)
Nezih Dogan Bermek, President

Anglican Persecuted Church Network
Patricia Streeter, Co-Leader

Bethany Christian Services
Nathan Bult, Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs

Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
Nguyen Dinh Thang, PhD, CEO & Presdient

Bruderhof
Johann Huleatt, Outreach Director

Capitol Intercessors
Bessie Rocci, Founder

Christian Freedom International
Wendy Wright, President

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Susan Taylor

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
Thierry Valle, President

Faith & Liberty
Peggy Nienaber, Vice President

Free Yezidi Foundation
Pari, Ibrahim

Genocide Watch, Inc.
Gregory Stanton, Founding President

Healing For The Nations
Brian Wills, President

Hindus for Human Rights
Nikhil Mandalaparthy, Director of Advocacy

Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM)
Preo Biswas, Executive Director

Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)
Baroness Cox, Founder and President

In Defense of Christians
Toufic Baaklini, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors

Institut de recherche et d’études stratégiques de Khyber, France
Fazal-ur REHMAN AFRIDI, President

Institute for Global Engagement
John Boyd, President and CEO

International Christian Concern
Matias Perttula, Director of Advocacy

International Freedom Center
Isa Azzouz, Chairman

International Organization to Preserve Human Rights
Hamid Gharagozloo, U.S. Representative

Iraqi Christian Relief Council
Juliana Taimoorazy, Founder and President

Jubilee Campaign
Ann Buwalda, Executive Director

Katartismos Global (KGI Global)
Faith Joy Hooper McDonnell, Director of Advocacy

Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice
Katrina Lantos Swett, President

Law and Liberty Trust
Lauren B. Homer, President

Leah Foundation
Gloria Puldu, President

Middle East Women's Leadership Network/ Empower Women Media
Shirin Taber, Executive Director

Muslim Women Speakers
Soraya M. Deen, Founder/President

New Wineskins Missionary Network
Jennifer Noyes, Executive Director

Prayer Pioneers
Lareina Kiser, Communications Director

Prophestolic Ministries
Anita Hensley, Co Director

REDEEM
Rev. William Devlin, President and CEO

Religious Freedom Institute
Thomas Farr, President

Revealing Light Ministries
George Parker, Exec. Director

Rumi Forum
Ibrahim Anli, Executive Director

Saint Nicholas Freedom Group
Father John Anderson, President

Save the Persecuted Christians
Dede Laugesen, Executive Director

Set My People Free
Hulda Fahmi, International Director

Shai Fund
Charmaine Hedding, President

Sikh Coalition

Solidarity House Network
Christine Broesamle, Executive Director

South Asian Minorities Alliance Foundation
Puneet Ahluwalia, Executive Director

Syriac National Council
Bassam Said Ishak, President

Syrian Christians for Peace
Ayman Abdel Nour, President

The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
Archbishop Andrew, Archbishop

The Vulnerable People Project
Jason Jones, President

United Macedonian Diaspora
Meto Koloski, President

United Sikhs
Eva Landeo, Media and Development Coordinator

Vision Cataylst
Debbie Farah, Founder

Voice of Iranian Nation (VIN)
Bahram Bahramian, Chairman

Wings for Change Africa
Kathy Funk Gomer, President

World Evangelical Alliance
Thomas Schirrmacher, Secretary General, Most Reverend Archbishop Dr. Dr.

 

 

Individuals with Organization Provided for Identification Purposes Only:

Suzanne Scholte
President
Defense Forum Foundation

David Alton
Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Lords, UK

André Simão
Senior Fellow
21 Wilberforce Global Freedom Center

Doug Johnston
President Emeritus
International Center for Religion & Diplomacy

Paul Marshall
Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom
Baylor University

Tugba Tanyeri-Erdemir
Coordinator, Task Force on Minorities
Anti-Defamation League

Greg Mitchell
Chair
IRF Roundtable, IRF Secretariat

MaryAnn Edman
Capitol Hill Prayer Partners

Gail Russ
Capitol Hill Prayer Partners

Regina Minor
The Prayer Council

Lela Gilbert
Fellow
Hudson Institut Center for Religious Freedom

Gary Moorehead
Director, Kataluma Refugee Services
Kataluma

Connie Lindsley
Co Founder
Oasis International

The Rt. Reverend David Bena
Assistant Bishop, Retired
Anglican Diocese of the Living Word

Mark Marshall
Lay Reader
Reformed Episcopal Church

Quang Pham
Representative
Association for Advancement of FoRB-VN

David Mikho
Ambassador for Peace
Global Peace Foundation Kurdistan

Farahnaz Ispahani
Former Pakistani parliamentarian
Religious Freedom Instotute

Bishop Dan Herzog
Assistant Bishop, Retired
Anglican Diocese of the Living Word

Rev. Susan Taylor
National Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

Sydney Kochan
Special Projects Coordinator
Jubilee Campaign

Bassam Ishak
President
Syriac National Council of Syria

Dogan Bermek
President
Alevi Philosophy Center

Dede Laugesen
Executive Director
Save the Persecuted Christians

Patricia Streeter
Co-Leader
Anglican Persecuted Church Network

Faith Joy Hooper McDonnell
Director of Advocacy
Katartismos Global (KGI Global)

Jennifer Noyes
Executive Director
New Wineskins Missionary Network

Dean Householder
Chief Technology Officer
First Freedom Foundation

Patrice Pederson
President
First Freedom Foundation

 

 

References:

  1. August 16, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/16/us/politics/biden-taliban-afghanistan-speech.html;
    August 31, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/31/us/politics/transcript-biden-speechafghanistan.html
  2. https://www.christianpost.com/news/taliban-hunting-for-christians-inspecting-phones-for-bible-apps.html; https://religionunplugged.com/news/2021/8/20/afghani-christians-are-facing-a-taliban-reign-of-terrornbsp
  3. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/images-bloodied-afghans-contradict-taliban-s-claims-moderation-n1277042
  4. https://thehill.com/opinion/international/568192-the-imminent-danger-for-afghanistans-women-and-minorities
  5. Final Communique of The Extraordinary Open-Ended Meeting of The OIC Executive Committee At The Level of
    Permanent Representatives On The Situation In Afghanistan, August 8, 2021. https://www.oicoci.org/topic/?t_id=29375&t_ref=18482&lan=en
  6. https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/return-islamic-emirate-afghanistan-jihadist-state-play; Congressional Research Service Report, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10604.pdf; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/world/asia/taliban-afghanistan-al-qaeda.html
  7. https://www.irfroundtable.org/copy-of-global-network-1
  8. https://www.ippforb.com/
  9. https://www.state.gov/international-religious-freedom-or-belief-alliance/
  10. https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights