Ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan have historically faced persecution and violence, which intensified at the hands of various armed groups over the last four decades. Even before the Taliban returned to power last summer, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Early Warning Project ranked Afghanistan as the second most at-risk country for a new onset of mass killing. The situation hasn’t improved under the new Taliban government. The Hazara, an ethnic and religious minority group, remain a primary target of attacks. And many in the Sikh community have fled in recent months due to threats and harassment. These recent attacks and threats toward ethnic groups and other at-risk civilians once again raise the specter of mass atrocities. 

To complicate matters, the country has plunged into a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban’s abrupt takeover of Kabul. And many of the same oppressive policies against women and girls that made the group international pariahs in the 1990s have been reintroduced.

Meanwhile, reports of crimes against humanity in Ukraine have brought significant international attention to prevention, protection and accountability efforts — as well as sparked debate over the lack of a similarly swift response to atrocities in Afghanistan and other conflict zones. U.S. policymakers and the international community now face the urgent challenge of assessing, monitoring and responding to the heightened risk for mass atrocities and protecting vulnerable civilian populations.

On June 3, USIP and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide held a discussion with distinguished experts and activists to assess the atrocity risks faced by Hazaras and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan and the key perpetrators driving the rising threat. The discussion also considered how the risks for atrocities may evolve in the coming months, and what the United States and international community can do to prevent further violence against Afghan civilians.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #AfghanistanUSIP.


Scott Worden, introductory remarks
Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia, U.S Institute of Peace

Rina Amiri, keynote remarks 
U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights

Farkhondeh Akbari
Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender, Peace and Security Centre, Monash University

Lauren Baillie
Senior Program Officer, Atrocity Prevention, U.S Institute of Peace 

Shukria Dellawar
Legislative and Policy Manager for the Prevention of Violent Conflict, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Naomi Kikoler, moderator 
Director, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 

Related Publications

Why Have the Wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine Played Out So Differently?

Why Have the Wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine Played Out So Differently?

Thursday, June 23, 2022

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

The Taliban insurgency and U.S. troop withdrawal, and Russian incursions culminating in the February 24 invasion, constituted existential “stress tests” for Afghanistan and Ukraine, respectively. Ukraine and its international supporters have succeeded in preventing an outright Russian victory, imposing severe and continuing costs on Russia — ranging from high casualties to financial sanctions. Whatever happens next, the invasion has solidified Ukraine’s national will, status and orientation as an independent, Western-oriented sovereign country. In sharp contrast, Afghanistan’s government and security forces collapsed within a month after U.S. troops left the country, its president and many others fled, and the Taliban rapidly took over.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

How the Taliban’s Hijab Decree Defies Islam

How the Taliban’s Hijab Decree Defies Islam

Thursday, May 12, 2022

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Mohammad Osman Tariq

The Taliban continued this week to roll back Afghan women’s rights by decreeing women must be fully covered from head to toe — including their faces — to appear in public. This follows decrees limiting women’s ability to work, women’s and girls’ access to education and even limiting their freedom of movement. Afghan women are rapidly facing the worst-case scenario many feared when the Taliban took over last summer. While the Taliban justify these moves as in accordance with Islam, they are, in fact, contradicting Islamic tradition and Afghan culture as the group looks to resurrect the full control they had over women and girls when they ruled in the 1990s.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderHuman RightsReligion

Why Religion-Based Support is Vital for Afghan Refugees

Why Religion-Based Support is Vital for Afghan Refugees

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

By: Andrés Martínez;  Carolina Buendia Sarmiento

The increasing violence and insecurity in Afghanistan could force over half a million more people to migrate from the country by the end of 2022, adding to the population of almost 2.6 million Afghan refugees worldwide. And for these millions of migrants, the plight of serious mental health challenges is a concern that we cannot afford to overlook.

Type: Blog


View All Publications