Afghans are warning of dire consequences for the country’s tiny Christian population should American forces leave Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama prepares to announce his plans for a troop drawdown in a televised address to the nation scheduled for Wednesday evening.
“If U.S. troops are not in Afghanistan the Taliban will come to power,” said Obaid S. Christ, an Afghan Christian exiled to India who spoke to me Tuesday. “We will have the same situation we had in the 1990s when the Russians left Afghanistan, when we had civil war and millions killed.”
The exile, who changed his name and fled Afghanistan in 2007 after an Islamic court issued an arrest warrant following his conversion to Christianity, acknowledged that the U.S.-backed government headed by President Hamid Karzai has been no friend to Christian converts either. Earlier this year two civilian courts sentenced to death jailed Afghan Christians for changing their religion. After international pressure, including personal visits to one jail by U.S. and European diplomats, the two were released and allowed to leave the country. Both now reside in Europe.
But a more recent, gruesome incident makes clear that the danger for anyone turning from Islam in Afghanistan is not over. A video released in recent weeks, and made available to WORLD this week by two separate Afghan sources, shows four Afghan militants beheading a man believed to be a Christian in Herat Province.
The militants, who claim to be Taliban, captured the victim, a man in his 40s named Abdul Latif (according to Obaid Christ, who provided translation of the video), earlier this year from his village outside Enjeel, a town south of Herat.
In the two-minute video, the men, wearing explosive belts (or suicide vests) and kaffiya head scarves to cover their faces, recite verses from the Quran while forcing Latif to the ground and pinning him with their feet. “You who are joined with pagans … your sentence [is] to be beheaded,” read one of the militants in Farsi from what looked like a paper decree. “Whoever changes his religion should be executed.” The passages refer to Sura 8:12 (“I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks …”) and the hadiths, or sayings of Mohammed.
As Latif fought his captors from the ground, one of the militants thrust a medium-sized blade into the side of his neck. With blood flowing onto the ground the militants shouted “Allahu Akhbar” or “God is great” over and over until Latif was fully beheaded and his head was placed on top of his chest.