Humanists respond to crisis in Afghanistan

19 August, 2021

Photo credit Andre Klimke via Unsplash.

Take action today by writing to your MP to urge them to advocate for a humanitarian response to the crisis.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been devastating for millions of people, with many losing their lives, livelihoods, or being internally displaced.

The crisis is particularly devastating for women and girls. They now face being denied the right to education, being denied employment, being unable to leave their homes without a male chaperone, and being forced to wear a full face covering when they do.

It is also devastating for minorities, including LGBT people, religious minorities, and the non-religious. Even before the Taliban took over, it was already the case that blasphemy and apostasy were punishable by death. Sadly it is likely that such laws will be more widely used and enforced.

At Humanists UK, we have been doing whatever we can to urge the UK Government to do what it can to support the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. We have been acting in concert with Humanists International in this.

We have been liaising with the Foreign Office about the need for the UK to do whatever it can to protect the human rights of women and girls. This includes by increasing funding and support for local NGOs. We have also asked them to support NGOs and human rights defenders that promote democracy, children’s rights, freedom of religion or belief, education, health care, and other vital needs. And we hope that the UK will call for accountability and sanctions against actors and governments directly or indirectly supporting the Taliban.

We have also asked the UK Government to use international levers to uphold Afghans’ rights and safety. That includes through the UN Human Rights Council and the Security Council. We are pleased to see the UK supporting an emergency session of the Human Rights Council next week. We hope to see it use the Security Council to bring a resolution to bring sanctions against those breaching international law, and to mandate that UN agencies and other humanitarian groups should have full and free access to those in need.

We have also alerted the Government to particular humanist activists who need safe haven. And we have been in correspondence with the Home Office about the need for any UK resettlement programme to include the non-religious among those who are prioritised. The non-religious community in Afghanistan may appear to be very small. But that is simply a reflection of how severe the persecution they have always faced has been.

And we have been urging our members and supporters to write to their MPs, making the same asks.

This weekend was also the General Assembly of Humanists International. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, is also presently the elected President of Humanists International. Speaking in that capacity as he opened the Assembly, Andrew commented:

‘[We must now] think of the people of Afghanistan, where the advance of the Taliban all over the country has ushered in the end of hopes for freedom. The things most valued by our humanist movement – freedom of thought, speech, and choice; human rights including of women, LGBTI+ people, and children; knowledge, rationality; human empathy – are the things most hated by the Taliban and those who have allied or will ally with them. I know that all national humanist organizations will be urging the governments of their countries to take whatever action they can – unilaterally and multilaterally – to secure the human rights and equitable treatment of everyone within Afghanistan.

‘I know too that we will all be increasing our support for Afghan refugees – both humanists and others – who have fled or are fleeing the utter darkness of the regime that their homeland will now suffer again. And we will be urging our governments to do the same. Our growing horror at the rise of totalitarian regimes of all kinds must not extinguish our hope that a better world is possible. But it is an urgent call to action that none of us can ignore.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

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