Kabul, Afghanistan

Humanists at Risk: Spotlight on Afghanistan

Two years since the Taliban takeover, the situation for the non-religious in Afghanistan remains dire.

  • blog Type / Fundraising blog
  • Date / 17 August 2023
  • By / Contributor

This August marks two years since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Sadly, the situation there remains dire, with the expression of humanist values still brutally suppressed and “blasphemy”, “apostasy” and criticism of religion outlawed and punishable by death.

To make matters worse, due to the complexity of providing support in such contexts, the help we have been able to offer has been severely limited. However one person we were able to support agreed to share their experiences with us, to offer an insight into the challenges faced by the non-religious in the country.

Please note, the author of the following testimonial has requested to remain anonymous for the safety of his family and some readers may find the following content upsetting.

Anonymous man I have been living like a fugitive since the day I spoke about leaving Islam and my beliefs.

All my relatives and friends rejected me. Some relatives called my marriage and my son illegitimate and some even wanted to kill me. I lost my freedom and my job, and I also lost a child in my wife’s womb that was not yet born. I feared I would lose my life, my wife and my child as well.

We were forced to flee from our home and have now been living in hiding for almost four years, fearful of being killed. My family and I live in the most isolated state and have to change our place of residence from time to time for safety.

I am a bachelor of political science however I am deprived of the right to freedom and work, and my son is deprived of the right to education. We live in the most miserable way possible, experiencing unimaginable deprivations.

Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, the absolute majority of followers of Islam are radical, and even those who do not have religious beliefs do not speak against religion for fear of their lives. If someone is accused of abandoning religion or insulting holy things, whether true or false, they face the harshest possible punishment. I have not met anyone who shares the same beliefs as me.

After the Taliban came to power, many governments promised to help Afghans in danger, which made me optimistic about the future, but unfortunately, after two years, none of their promises have been fulfilled. I tried several times to escape with my family, but because I have no job and no income, I could not raise the necessary money.

I discovered Humanist International through the Internet and first reached out to the organization in 2019. Later, in August 2021, after the fall of the government and the rise of the Taliban, I got in touch again and informed Emma about the escalating problems. I encountered a very warm and hopeful attitude from her; she did not hesitate to help me and my family as much as she could and she always responded to my messages.

Every time we lost hope in life, Emma has been my best supporter and companion. She has written emails several times to support me with applications to governments and organizations that evacuate Afghans at risk. Her work has given us hope that one day we will be able to live freely and safely in a secular country outside of Afghanistan.

Further information from the Freedom of Thought Report

Herat Afghanistan Afghanistan has suffered from chronic instability and conflict in its modern history. Most recently, the country was the stage of the Afghan War, fought between a coalition of US, NATO and Afghan troops against the Taliban. In August 2021, all troops were formally withdrawn following a peace deal brokered between the US and the Taliban, however, the withdrawal saw the Taliban violate the peace agreement, swiftly moving in to take control of the country.

Since the takeover, the Taliban have reportedly executed local government officials and state security personnel, as well as raided the homes of government officials, journalists and human rights defenders. In addition, women’s rights have been significantly restricted.

Historically, Afghanistan was religiously diverse however current estimates suggest that 99.7% of the country are Muslims. A small proportion, estimated to be less than 1%, are followers of other religions. There are no estimates available for the number of non-religious or humanist individuals; those living in the country live in secrecy for fear of persecution.

What can we do to help humanists in Afghanistan?

Although Humanists International has a network of more than 125 Members and Associates across the globe, our reach is still understandably limited in regions that are hostile to the humanist worldview, and this can restrict how much help we are able to provide on the ground.

Additionally, as a UK-based organization, Humanists International is compliant with financial regulations and restrictions that can affect our ability to get financial aid to individuals, for example in countries where financial transfers are banned.

In Afghanistan, with no realistic opportunity to provide support on the ground, an inability to send funds and requests far outstripping our capacity to support, we have been forced to focus our attention on cases where we feel we have a chance of offering meaningful help, for example to those who have reached neighboring countries.

That said, we continue to actively respond and direct anyone who contacts us to all relevant resources and programs we are aware of, that may be able to provide assistance. Although this may not seem like much, we know from the feedback we receive that this contact still means a lot to many people.

And where people have reached a neighboring country, Humanists International works hard to provide a range of support to as many people as possible, including direct referrals to relocation programmes, letters of support for asylum claims, financial aid, plus advice and emotional support.

We have also been working with our Members and Associates to ensure the implications of the Taliban takeover for non-religious people are fully understood by the international community, and the non-religious are included among those whose relocation is prioritized by States due to their particular vulnerability.

Humanists International employs a dedicated casework and campaigns manager to coordinate this vital work, however as a registered charity, this would not be possible without the donations we receive from the global humanist community.

To show your support and solidarity to humanists who are persecuted for their beliefs, please consider making a donation to our annual fundraiser today.

Protect Humanists at Risk

If you believe every humanist should have the right to a life free from persecution, please show your solidarity and support with a donation today. With your support, we can continue to help as many people as possible in the weeks and months ahead.


Good to know

Humanists International is an international NGO founded in 1952 with a track record of success when it comes to supporting people at risk of religious persecution. The money raised by this appeal will be used to support humanists at risk, including the associated campaigning, support and legal costs. Humanists International 2020 is a Scottish (UK) charity no. SC050629. If you would prefer to give by bank transfer or another way, please email [email protected]

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