Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Shiites have encountered restrictions and numerous threats during the observance of the tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura. In the past, suicide attacks targeted Muharram mourning gatherings on several occasions. This year, the Taliban imposed limitations on these religious ceremonies, forbidding Shiites from holding street gatherings, performing Tatbir, raising flags, and setting up water stations. On the tenth day of Muharram, the Taliban disrupted communication networks in Kabul, Balkh, and Ghazni provinces, and they hindered Tatbir and street processions. Despite the restrictions, some mourners defied the orders and took to the streets in Kabul and Ghazni provinces. Social media footage shows Taliban forces firing shots to disperse Shiite mourners. Several people were reported injured in the incident, but an exact number has not been disclosed. Religious scholars assert that all religious groups have the right to conduct their ceremonies without fear or restrictions, emphasizing the importance of religious tolerance and respect.
Shiites in Afghanistan have consistently faced challenges on the tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura. In recent years, this observance has been the target of horrifying attacks, causing numerous casualties. However, this year, the Taliban imposed restrictions on Shiite mourners. Earlier, Shiite scholars had requested the Taliban to lift restrictions on ceremonies held in mosques and Shiite centers. Nonetheless, the Taliban cited security concerns, permitting religious gatherings only in specific designated centers, and discouraging the raising of black flags and performing Tatbir on the streets.
Residents in the provinces of Kabul, Balkh, and some parts of Ghazni reported that the Taliban cut off all telecommunication networks, claiming it was for security reasons. This action caused difficulties for the people in those areas. Although the Taliban have not issued an official statement, they had previously announced their intention to cut telecommunication networks for the secure observance of Ashura ceremonies. However, video footage on social media shows Taliban militants firing shots in the Dasht-e Barchi area of Kabul on the day of Ashura to disperse Shiite mourners. According to sources, several people were injured in the gunfire, and the Taliban militants also resorted to beating some of the participants.
The Taliban have consistently declared that they do not oppose Shiites’ mourning in Afghanistan. However, they justified the imposed restrictions by citing the need to ensure the security of the Shiite community. Two weeks ago, Taliban officials advised Shiites to reduce the number of centers for Muharram mourning ceremonies in Kabul, which prompted a response from the Shiite scholars’ council. Over the past ten days, the Taliban closed certain Shiite shops displaying Muharram flags, removed mourning flags from homes and mosques, and obstructed mourning processions, leading to instances of physical violence against individuals.
However, an eyewitness from Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi area discloses that despite the Taliban’s internet cutoff and restrictions on Shiite mourners, they failed to prevent a significant presence of people at the religious ceremonies. The witness, choosing to remain anonymous, reveals that Taliban militants were perturbed by the large crowds in the streets and Shiite centers, displaying signs of agitation and subsequently engaging physically with the people. According to the witness, the mourners exhibited grief and distress, using the ceremonies as an opportunity to voice their suppressed feelings and hardships. The eyewitness further explains, “Both men’s and women’s presence in the streets appeared more as a protest rather than simply mourning.”
Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for the Taliban’s security command in Kabul, confirms that the group prevented the processions of Muharram mourners in the city. He states, “Some individuals acted disorderly and contrary to the instructions of elders in the areas and public roads, resulting in disorder.” He further explains that the Taliban’s militants hindered the presence of mourners on the streets to ensure their security.
Meanwhile, sources in Ghazni province report that several people have been injured as a result of Taliban militants firing on Shiite mourners in the Nawabad area of the 6th district of Ghazni City. Furthermore, social media users share an image of a young man covered in blood, claiming that he lost his life due to Taliban gunfire.
Before the Taliban’s control in Afghanistan, Shiite mourners used to conduct Tatbir on public streets every year, set up water stations, and gateways, and raise flags. On the day of Ashura, they would carry out processions with caravans, which occasionally became targets of suicide attacks. The previous government consistently held the Taliban responsible for suicide attacks on Shiite mourners in the country.
However, some former security officials, who prefer to remain anonymous, assert that the Taliban bears responsibility for the majority of past suicide attacks during Ashura. They believe that the group, despite its “hatred against Hazaras and Shiites,” is now seeking recognition from the international community and suppressing its anger over this issue. According to these officials, the beatings of Shiite mourners by Taliban militants stem from the group’s “religious hatred” against them.
As Ashura observances in Afghanistan conclude with imposed restrictions, some religious researchers argue that all citizens of the country have the right to conduct their religious ceremonies without limitations for inclusivity and religious tolerance. They emphasize that religious ceremonies should be viewed from a human rights perspective. Amin Ahmadi, a religious researcher, highlights in a Facebook post that understanding the religious behavior of one group is essential for others, including non-believers, to comprehend each other, leading to mutual understanding and religious tolerance. He emphasizes that even the Taliban should grasp this point because not all individuals in society are religious, and if they are, they do not all follow the same religion or sect. Intolerance and lack of religious tolerance push individuals into violence and hatred, pitting them against themselves and others.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Qasim Khalid, the Taliban’s governor for Kabul, who attended the Shiite religious ceremony, called for the prohibition of “Extremism and Laxness” in religious matters. He stated that religious scholars in Afghanistan should participate in such ceremonies to promote unity among citizens.
The tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura, is the day of martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet of Islam. He was killed in the battle of Karbala, Iraq, on October 10, 680 AD, along with 72 of his companions, fighting against Yazid ibn Muawiya. Muslims, especially Shiites, commemorate this day annually.