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Minority rights: Torture of an Ismaili man and recent arrest of 15 Ismailis in Badakhshan

On 5 May 2024, two local media outlets shared an old video, previously circulated in 2019 and 2022, showing Taliban members harassing an elderly Shia Ismaili man in Badakhshan; AW investigators confirmed the video’s age, highlighting ongoing repressions against Ismailis despite the footage being presented as new.


24 May 2024

On 5 May 2024, two local media outlets, including resistance-led NRF News, and Aamaj News shared footage on X, showing a group of Taliban members harassing and torturing an elderly man belonging to the community of Shia Ismailis. According to the description in the post, Aamaj News received the video from local sources in Badakhshan, who claimed that a group of Taliban members, led by Qari Abdul Rahman Khadim, were “persecuting” a person from the Ismaili faith, who was suffering from a mental disability.

In the video, a group of nine Taliban members, some armed, are seen harassing an elderly Ismaili man. Many of the Taliban members in the video appear to be minors and adolescent boys. However, one Taliban member, with a beard, appears to be significantly older than the rest of the group and leading the abuse, and is seen threatening the victim with a gun and knife, mocking him for holding Ismaili beliefs. 

This apparent leader is also seen giving the following command to the rest of the group, in the Badakhshani dialect of the Dari language: “Lay/hold him down so I slaughter him.” Following this, three of the younger Taliban members hold the victim down as the older Taliban member holds a knife to his throat, and mockingly asks him: “How many Gods do you believe in?” 

The Ismaili man replies: “Five Gods. Six Gods. I believe in Agha Khan [leader of Ismaili Muslims].” 

Following this, the older Taliban member replies: “How many of the 5-6 Gods do you trust, which of the six Gods is most powerful?” He then asks his armed companions to put the man in a standing position, and the group proceeds to pretend to shoot him. 

Meanwhile, the Ismaili man tells the armed men: “I am a poor man. Leave me alone and let me go.” Following this, the footage ends.

Verification and identification

AW investigators verified the footage, and determined that the incident was first reported by social media users on Facebook in September 2019. Pictures from the video also circulated on X in July 2022.

Local sources confirmed to AW that the incident took place in the Falakh Madak village of Badakshan’s Zebak district; these sources also identified the older Taliban member in the video – who appeared to lead the group – as Commander Shamsullah, originally from Badakhshan’s Jurm district. They further noted that Shamshullah currently works with the Taliban’s Chief of Army Staff, Qari/Mawlawi Fasihuddin. These sources also corroborated that Qari Abdul Rahman Khadim was a Taliban Commander in the area when the footage was initially posted to social media; the sources noted that he previously served as the Chief of Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat's guards.

While AW investigators were unable to locate any social media profiles associated with Commander Shamsullah, they identified a Facebook account that appears to belong to Khadim, who, according to the AW sources and sources quoted by Aamaj News, commands the local Taliban. The profile picture, seen below, was last updated in October 2021.

Figure: Profile picture on a Facebook account appearing to belong to Commander Khadim.

As seen above, the text on the profile picture reads: “I am Qari Abdul Rahman Khadim, one of the companions of the Islamic Emirate in Badakhshan,” strengthening the case that the account belongs to the Commander.

Current claims concerning repressions of Ismailis in Badakhshan

Although the video was previously observed on social media in 2019, AW has recorded numerous claims of Taliban repressions against Badakhshan’s Ismaili residents in recent months.

For instance, in January 2024, AW recorded allegations of repressions in Shia Ismaili areas of Badakhshan, including Shighnan, Eshkashem, Zabak, and Yamgan districts, where the Taliban authorities reportedly established conversion schools, and allegedly forced Shia Ismailis to send their children to these institutions.

In August 2023, similar claims of Taliban attempts to coerce Ismaili civilians to convert to Sunni Islam in Badakhshan in order to receive humanitarian aid were reported by KabulNow and social media users.

A video was also circulated, showing the conversion of an Ismaili civilian after he allegedly was denied humanitarian aid and an eight-minute audio clip shared by Independent Persian, in which an alleged Taliban cleric of Ishkashim City in Badakhshan asks Taliban officials and leaders to support the establishment of religious schools in areas where the residents are followers of the Ismaili religion so that they can become the followers of Sunni Islam. In the same month, another prominent media outlet, Voice of Citizen News reported that one of the Taliban commanders in Badakhshan had beaten Ismaili religious teachers.

Most recently, in early May 2024, local media claimed that the Taliban allegedly arrested 15 Ismailis for alleged ties with the NRF. AW was unable to independently verify these claims.

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