Afghanistan, Islamic Militants in Nigeria and Ayatollah Khamenei Named Persecutors of the Year

( – Afghanistan, Islamic militants in Nigeria, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, were named 2022’s Persecutors of the Year by International Christian Concern (ICC).

At a ceremony in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, ICC unveiled this year’s “Dis-Honorees” in recognition of their role in persecuting Christians. At their annual award ceremony (which began in 2021), the group names a nation, an entity, and a person as the persecutors of the year.

This year, the nation that inflicted the most pain on Christians was Afghanistan. The ICC described the Taliban government as putting a “death sentence on Christians.” The group describes the Taliban government as “The Embodiment of Persecution.”

According to the ICC report, the Taliban has employed intimidation and harassment tactics in order to push Christians into hiding. These measures have limited Christians’ access to food and medical supplies, and have led to arrests and torture. The Taliban has also rolled back human rights in the region, particularly for women.

Societal and employment discrimination has deprived minorities–especially Christians–of necessities. Some families have taken measures as desperate as selling their daughters into marriages with older men.


The Taliban took control of the Afghan government on August 15, 2021 amid the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The United States officially completed the withdrawal on August 30, 2021.

In 2020, the Trump administration agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan before May 1, 2021. President Biden moved that deadline to September 11 of that year less than two months after entering office.

Nigeria’s Fulani militants were deemed by the ICC to be the entity that posed the greatest threat to Christians in the past year. According to ICC: “Fulani militias have killed tens of thousands of Christians and left countless homeless in a 20-year genocide.”

The Fulani people are a nomadic culture in the Sahel, the dry region south of the Sahara. Desertification and the expansion of the Sahara have pushed the Fulani farther south into Nigeria, where the Muslim north is increasingly confrontational with the Christian south.

Over the past year, a radicalized, fundamentalist Islamic sect of the Fulani people has terrorized Christians throughout Nigeria. Their tactics include kidnapping, raping, dismembering, and burning their victims. The situation has produced a refugee crisis among Christians.

Last week, two Catholic priests were murdered in Southwestern Nigeria. Dozens of Christians were massacred in Nigeria during Pentecost early in June. ICC claims that the government of Nigeria has a complacent attitude towards this persecution and refuses to acknowledge the ethnic nature of the conflict, instead describing it as “farmer-herder” clashes. The organization draws a parallel between this response and the initial response to ethnic violence in Rwanda that culminated in the 1994 genocide.

The ICC gave Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, its Individual Award for persecution in the last year.

Khamenei controls the security and judicial branches of the nation’s government, which are largely responsible for the intense persecution of Christians within Iran. Although the state claims to allow the free practice of religion, only certain established ethnic groups, such as Armenians and Assyrians, are permitted to practice Christianity.

The Ayatollah has led a campaign of arrests and church closures against Iranian Christians that has driven believers underground. He has described house-churches as “national security threats” and uses the power of the state to vigorously track them down. His attacks on religious freedom have led to the State Department to designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern for its severe violations of religious freedom.

Khamenei’s government has jailed Christians at the notorious Evin Prison. Evin Prison is notable for its miserable conditions, lack of medical care, and the frequent, severe torture inflicted on prisoners by the guards. Although Iranian officials have long denied accusations of abuse at Evin Prison, when footage of conditions in the facility leaked in 2021, even the head of the Iranian prison system admitted that the prison conditions there were “unacceptable.”


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