Targeting of Muslims in the Central African Republic
The Muslim minority has borne the brunt of political and ethnoreligious violence. Attacks on individuals and places of worship, and sexual violence towards women have been widespread.
Themes: Ethno-religious violence, security force violence
Approximately 89% of the population of CAR identify as Christian with 9% identifying as Muslims.
In 2012, following longstanding grievances about government marginalization and discrimination against Muslim minorities, predominantly Muslim militias in the north of the CAR mobilized and marched on the capital. In response, militias from predominantly Christian- and folk religion-practicing communities mobilized for self-protection and began retaliating against Muslim civilian communities.
This triggered more than half a decade of political and ethnoreligious violence, including attacks on individuals based on their religious identity, on houses of worship and on religious enclaves in cities. Women have been the targets of rape and sexual slavery which have been used as a deliberate tactic of war. Muslim minorities bore the brunt of the violence, with an estimated 80 percent of CAR’s Muslim population displaced in the first two years. Muslims continue to lack access houses of worship, as the civil conflict destroyed an estimated 417 of the country’s 435 mosques.
Following some progress in previous years, the situation deteriorated in 2021 with an increase in targeted attacks on Muslims including arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture and inhumane treatment. This violence was based on the assumed affiliation of Muslims to rebel groups based on their religious or ethnoreligious identity.
In February, national security forces and foreign fighters with links to Russia overran a mosque in Bambari and shot dead at least three Muslims. In May, CAR authorities arrested a Muslim shopkeeper in Kaga Bandoro and the next day his charred body was found on the outskirts of town, cut into pieces. In June, foreign fighters reportedly stormed the home of the Sultan of Koui and insisted he and two companions accompany them. The Russian-linked fighters returned a few hours later and told the Sultan’s family that he and his companions had been killed by a landmine. A United Nations (UN) human rights investigation found that they had in fact been shot. A few months later, foreign fighters reportedly raided the home of the second most influential Muslim cleric in Koui, the imam of Koui central mosque, and disappeared him after harassing him for weeks to stop teaching children in the Quranic School.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom