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Afghan Refugee Letter Template

UNHCR Afghan refugee letter template
(In coordination with the Barnabas Fund)

Ms. Montserrat Feixas Vihe
Chief of Mission
UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
14 Jor Bagh, New Delhi - 110 003

Tel: 0091 1143530428 / 0091 1143530424
Fax: 0091 1143530460

Email: indne@unhcr.org

and/or

Ms. Kiran Kaur
Refugee Senior Protection Officer
UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
14 Jor Bagh, New Delhi - 110 003

Tel: 0091 1143530428 / 0091 1143530424
Fax: 0091 1143530460

Email: indne@unhcr.org

I am writing to request that UNHCR reopen and reconsider the following refugee applications:

  1. Aman Ali, who is married with four children (UNHCR Ref # 10C01212)
  2. Rahimullah (UNHCR Ref # 10C01471)
  3. Hos… (UNHCR Ref # 09C02251)
  4. Moh… (UNHCR Ref # 09C02249)
  5. Roh… who is married (UNHCR Ref # 09C02247)
  6. Haq… (UNHCR Ref # 09C02252)
  7. San… (UNHCR Ref # 09C02248)
  8. Shazia and her sister Sunita (UNHCR Ref # 07C01121)

I appeal to you to reconsider the refugee status of the above mentioned applicants on humanitarian grounds. We understand that the applicants, who are converts from Islam to Christianity, will be deported back to Afghanistan in the near future. In light of Afghanistan’s recent record of hostility toward converts from Islam, the applicants face potential imprisonment and execution for apostasy if denied refugee status by your office. Due to their conversion becoming known and public, there is a real and imminent threat to their lives.

In May 2010, the Afghan television network Noorin TV broadcast footage of baptisms involving Afghan Muslim converts to Christianity. Producers called for an investigation into how NGOs were promoting Christianity which led to serious threats against Christians in Afghanistan. On 31 May 2010, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, Deputy Secretary of the Afghan Lower House of Parliament (the Wolesi Jirga), openly called in parliament for the public execution of the Afghan Christians shown in the TV program. President Hamid Karzai should have supported the right of Christians to choose their own religion. Instead, the Karzai administration called for an investigation into how aid organizations were promoting Christianity in the region. The investigation resulted in the arrest of Afghan Christians, including Mr. Sayed Mossa, who was pressured by officials to recount his faith. The broadcast and arrests persuaded other Christian converts to flee the country.

Since, there have been renewed arrests for evangelism and conversion. In October, another Afghan Christian, Mr. Shoaib Assadullah, was arrested in Mazar-i-Sharif for giving a Bible to a friend. Both Mr. Mossa and Mr. Assadullah were abused while in prison, charged with apostasy, and issued the death sentence in court. Only after international pressure were Mr. Mossa and Mr. Assadullah released from prison and able to leave Afghanistan.

While Afghanistan’s Constitution addresses religious freedom, it does not mention converting from one religion to another. In the cases of Mr. Mossa and Mr. Assadullah, the judge did not base his decision on the penal codes of Afghanistan’s constitution, but on Islamic law. “According to Afghanistan's constitution, if there is no clear verdict as to whether an act is criminal or not in the penal code of the Afghan Constitution, then it would be referred to sharia law where the judge has an open hand in reaching a verdict,” Qamaruddin Shenwari, director of the Kabul courts' north zone, told CNN.

It should be noted that Afghanistan's official policy towards converts is contravening its own Constitution (Article 2). It also contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18, and Article 7 of the Rome Statute International Criminal Court, to both of which Afghanistan is a signatory.

In light of recent occurrences, it is clear that there are strict punishments for apostates which will jeopardize the lives and freedoms of the applicants scheduled to be deported. The eight cases at hand should be eligible for refugee status under Article 6B of the UNHCR Statute which states that one can attain refugee status if they have a “well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion and is unable or, because of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the government of the country of his nationality.”

I ask you therefore to kindly reopen and reconsider the closed or rejected applications of the following cases and grant them protection by officially recognizing them as refugees under Article 6B of the UNHCR Statute.

Yours sincerely,