Humanists UK calls for greater protection of non-religious Afghans at UN

7 March, 2022

Geneva, Switzerland – The European headquarters of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Humanists UK has called for the UN Human Rights Council to do what it can to uphold the rights of non-religious Afghans. It has done so by way of an intervention in which it highlighted the deteriorating state of freedom of belief and increasing persecution of minorities since the Taliban takeover last year.

The intervention was made by video by Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson, during the plenary Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In his comments, he said:

‘Even before August [Afghanistan] was one of 13 countries where blasphemy or apostasy is punishable by death, making it impossible legally and socially for the non-religious to live openly. Now, reports are received of murders and disappearances of atheists and humanist organisations are inundated with requests from Afghans for support and relocation. What progress has been made by the Council to send observers to monitor this persecution on the ground?

‘We are also concerned about non-religious Afghan refugees in Pakistan. This is not a safe country for the non-religious, who are targeted by blasphemy laws and subjected to mob violence. How does the UNHCR intend to identify such refugees who are entitled to resettlement through its schemes but unable to openly identify themselves?’

At the time of the Taliban takeover, Humanists UK urged the UK Government to do what it can to support the humanitarian needs of Afghans. Over the past seven months, Humanists UK has been acting in concert with Humanists International in this. It has liaised with the Foreign Office about protecting the rights of women and girls, and increasing funding and support for local NGOs. Humanists UK has 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 it hopes that the UK will call for accountability and sanctions against actors and governments directly or indirectly supporting the Taliban.


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

Watch the intervention.

Read the intervention.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.