Exiled leaders condemn Taliban’s restrictions on the Shia community

Taliban’s recent restrictions on Muharram have spurred condemnation and outrage, primarily among the Shia communities.

The Taliban has ordered the Shia communities to refrain from erecting decorative flags and symbols in public spaces. The group has also imposed the number of places processions can be held. 

On Saturday, the Council of Shia Ulema of Afghanistan condemned the ban, calling on the Taliban to lift all restrictions and allow the Shias to observe Muharram without fear.

Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice president, in a series of tweets, called the Taliban’s “widespread restrictions” on Muharram an act against the Shia community.

“The Taliban are an anti-Shia and anti-multicultural group as it used to be,” the tweet said. “Unlike what Khalilzad claims, the Taliban have not changed and continue to remain an isolated, medieval, and biased group.”

Atta Mohammad Noor, former governor of Balkh, argued that the Taliban’s curtailment of the Muharram procession “will fuel religious and ethnic tensions” in the country.

He tweeted: “Afghanistan manifests in its diverse social and religious fabric, where people have coexisted for a long time. The restriction on religious ceremonies is rooted in the ideology of monopoly, exclusion, and repression.”

Dr. Mohammad Amin Ahmadi, a former member of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations Team, alluded in a Facebook post that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and people should be free to organize religious rituals and gatherings.

He added: “Governments are responsible to defend diversity and freedom of religion. If authorities in power cannot claim partiality, it means that it cannot represent the will of all people.”

Afghanistan Freedom Front, an anti-Taliban armed group, denounced the Taliban’s restrictions on Muharram, calling it part of the group’s “extremist” and “intolerant” ideology to undermine the country’s diversity and multi-religious freedoms.

“The Muharram, which is a source of coexistence and harmony, has been commemorated by all Muslims across the country. By restricting this procession, the Taliban want to diverge the country toward a radical and theocratic state based on their own harsh interpretation of Islam.” the Front said in a tweet.