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Shiite Ulema meeting disrupted by Taliban

According to news reports, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the incident occured due to a lack of coordination among Taliban groups.


16 May 2022

On May 13, news outlets and social media posts reported that the Taliban had disrupted the Shiite Ulema Council meeting in Kabul, allegedly ripping down banners and threatening to kill the attendees.

The fifth consultative meeting of the Shiite Ulema Council was scheduled to take place on May 13, at the Resalat seminary building in Kabul. According to a post on social media, the event was attended by figures including Yasser Mohseni, the grandson of Ayatollah Asef Mohseni, founder of the Council of Shiite Ulema of Afghanistan; Ayatollah Salehi, chairman of the Council of Shiite Scholars of Afghanistan; Seyyed Hussein Alemi Balkhi, the former Minister of Refugees of Afghanistan, and others. Yasser Mohseni was quoted by local media Etilaatroz as confirming Taliban forces disrupted the event and called their actions “wrong, extremist and provocative”.

Bilal Sarwary, a former BBC journalist, published a video showing the aftermath of the alleged disruption with the caption “A few days ago, Shiite dignitaries welcomed Amir Khan Mottaqi. Today, the Taliban attacked the Council of Shiite Ulema and disrupted everything”. In another tweet, a former journalist shared photos of the meeting in progress and images following the alleged disruption, saying “after smashing tables and chairs and tearing banners, they expelled these ulema from the Resalat seminary with humiliation and insults.” The video and images clearly show that the room where the Ulema meeting was held had been vandalised.

Figure: Photos of the Shiite Ulema Council Meeting, before (top) and after (bottom).

International Shiite news organisation Shafaqana claimed on May 16 that shortly afterwards the Head of the Sixth Intelligence Unit and Mawlawi Aminullah Waqar, the Head of the 495th Intelligence Department, went to the location and promised to identify and punish the men involved in the incident.

On May 14, an article by Azadi Radio claimed that Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, told them the men responsible for disrupting the meeting had already been arrested.

He also claimed that their actions were due to a lack of coordination among the Taliban. According to Mr Mujahid, even though a Taliban group was aware of the meeting, another Taliban group did not know and attempted to stop the event. Yasser Mohseni also spoke to the reporters and told them that the relations between the Taliban and the Shiites were peaceful and good, but added that the Taliban need to prevent incidents such as this by having better internal coordination.

While up-to-date census data is unavailable, it is estimated that around 20% of Afghanistan’s population are Shia, with most being Tajiks and Hazaras. The majority - including the Taliban - are sunni muslims.

Last September, following the Taliban takeover, members of the Shia Ulema Council called for an inclusive government in Afghanistan, in which Shia Muslims are represented, and the rights of minorities respected.

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