Risk of persecution according to state law in Afghanistan for those who are atheists

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
15 April 2019

Afghanistan is a declared Islamic state and has severe consequences for apostates from Islam. On the basis of the constitution and criminal law the limited degree of freedom of religion which the legal framework offers does not pertain to apostates from Islam. Freely chosen renouncement of Islam is one of the crimes that gives rise to the death penalty. It is considered the greatest sin a Muslim can commit against God and the Muslim community. Apostasy can not only be established by acts of conversion, but also by openly renouncing Islam. The latter does not require an open rejection of Islam as such, but can even be established if a Muslim does not observe the commands of Islam such as praying or fasting during Ramadan. The application of the death penalty in cases of apostasy is a violation of Afghanistan’s international obligations to protect the freedom of religion. The duty to abide by international obligations as well as universal declaration of Human Rights is stipulated in the Afghan constitution. However, this constitutional obligation can conflict with constitution which states that in Afghanistan no law can be contrary to the belief and the provision of the sacred religion of Islam.
The case of a woman by the name of Farkhunda illustrates a degree of danger of any alleged offence may pose. She was falsely accused of having burnt a copy of the Quran and was subsequently beaten unconscious, run over with a car, stoned, set on fire and thrown into the Kabul River in broad day light in a central part of Kabul in March 2015. Her case shows how politically charged and dangerous any of such accusations are.