Afghan Shias Find Themselves Subject to Greater Persecution After Kandahar Mosque Bombing

Three days ago, a suicide bombing took place in the Afghan city of Kandahar– 47 people were killed as of October 18th, and at least 70 were wounded. The bomb detonated around 1:00 p.m. and was claimed by ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province) also known as ISIS-K. A similar bombing in the northern part of the country was claimed by the ISKP, which has a history of targeting the Shia community, according to an article by The Guardian. 

The Associated Press has reported that while the Taliban’s chief for Kandahar’s department of culture and information, Hafiz Sayeed, has stated that the bombing caused 47 fatalities and wounded 70, officials in the region have been giving different casualty figures. The exact number is still unknown. ISIS-K’s media wing, Amaq, has released a statement since then claiming that two “Islamic State fighters” entered the mosque after killing the guards and blew themselves up while the Shias were praying, according to CNN. It’s been reported that a spokesman for the Taliban interior ministry, Qari Saeed Khosti, has stated that the bombing is currently under investigation.

It’s not surprising that this bombing has happened. Shias are a minority sect in Islam and have consistently been targeted for centuries for their beliefs. Many within Sunni Islam consider them “kaffir,” which translates to infidel, and those on the extremist side only further encourage that violent mindset. Now that the United States has pulled out of Afghanistan, sectarian divisions are only going to grow and anti-Shia sentiment could go unpunished. Religious divisiveness will only increase as time goes on. 

Shias in Afghanistan mainly belong to the ethnic group of Hazaras, who are situated in the rural parts of the country. Many of them are from the region of Turkestan, and have been driven closer to Afghanistan and Iran due to persecution. Some are also located near the Pakistan border. According to the Minority Rights Group, the Hazara minority has faced long-term persecution since the 1880s, as they experienced severe “political, social, and economic repression.” These attacks in the past two weeks only exemplify that persecution and the deep sectarian division that runs through the region. 

With the United States having withdrawn from Afghanistan, and the Taliban taking over, there’s no telling what will happen to the Shia community. It’s impertinent that the international community takes hold of the situation to protect the minority from being persecuted. Whether this comes in the form of involvement of the United Nations, or negotiations with other countries, it does not matter. What matters is that the Shia minority in Afghanistan is protected and able to live their lives freely without the fear of being killed for their religious beliefs.