We are citizens of many nations, united in our horror at the unfolding disaster inflicted on the people of Afghanistan by the precipitous withdrawal of foreign forces and the collapse of the Afghan military.

We plead with you to act immediately to protect the lives of the most vulnerable–religious minorities who are despised by the Taliban because of their beliefs. 

Despite the Taliban’s public promises to treat Afghans well and permit them to leave Afghanistan, they have already reinstated systematic arrests, torture, enslavement, and public executions. Groups like the Hazara Shia, Sikhs, and Hindus, who faced widespread killings the last time the Taliban was in power, are in the crosshairs, along with thousands of Christian converts (particularly despised as “infidels”). Many are displaced, cowering in fear, or seeking ways to escape. Official “threat letters” have been sent by the Taliban to religious minorities warning of harsh actions to come.

Minorities seeking refuge at Kabul Airport have been murdered, whipped, had ID documents seized and cell phones destroyed. Others are being hunted down in door-to-door searches. Women are being raped (“married” in the eyes of Taliban thugs) or killed for being members of a disfavored group. Homes and businesses have been seized. In the past, the Taliban forced minorities to use special colors to identify themselves on clothes and homes, just like the Jews in Nazi Germany. They were publicly whipped, executed, and deprived of their legal rights. The Taliban’s views are inconsistent with international human rights and religious freedom standards, adopted by Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

Many NGOs have assembled funds and means to evacuate religious minorities from Afghanistan, but they need help from the US and its allies to make this happen. Naturally, foreign governments should evacuate their own citizens and Afghan employees. But also, they must allow NGOs to evacuate religious minorities facing imminent danger.

We therefore ask you to take the following urgent actions:

  1. Defend and control the Kabul airport and other exit points for as long as is necessary to evacuate all those who desire to leave Afghanistan. It is unconscionable to evacuate only foreign citizens and foreign government employees. This will abandon vulnerable religious groups to certain Taliban atrocities.
  2. Create refugee evacuation corridors and assembly points outside Kabul’s airport, including in other regions of the country, where religious and ethnic minorities can go to be protected, processed, and transported out of the country.
  3. Increase refugee admissions to provide safe havens for Afghan religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Christians and others with no safe harbors in nearby countries.
  4. Freeze all economic and other assistance to the Taliban until they show the world that they are complying with universal standards on religious freedom, human rights, and the rights of women and children. Taliban must observe obligations codified in numerous UN conventions and agreements Afghanistan already signed.

During the last 20 years our governments encouraged Afghans to embrace our values: religious freedom, human rights, women’s rights, education, and the rule of law. Those who followed our lead are now in the Taliban’s crosshairs. The international community owes them and our brave soldiers many of whom sacrificed their lives and futures there to insist that we #ExitWithHonor.

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