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Archive for November, 2006

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GG2.NET NEWS [25/11/2006]

A SIKH group urged the government on Friday to arrange safe passage for Sikhs living in Afghanistan who said they faced humiliation and ill-treatment there.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) was reacting to the agency’s report that said Sikhs in southern Afghanistan were spat on by locals and their men stoned.

The report said Sikhs hid in back alleys in the city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the hardline Islamic Taliban movement, and yearn for the safety of India.

‘The government of India should look at the Sikhs in Afghanistan as its own citizens and act urgently to give them the option of safe passage from Afghanistan where their religion is in danger,’ DSGMC president Harvinder Singh Sarna said.

He said New Delhi must rehabilitate Sikhs who choose to come to India but Indian officials would not immediately comment.

Sikhs who fled Afghanistan in the 1990s and live in India say New Delhi should do more for them as well as their community members still residing in the Islamic nation.

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New Delhi, Nov 24: Shocked over reports of attacks on members of their community in Kandahar, Sikh leaders today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to use diplomacy to ensure their safety in that country.

The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSMGC) also shot of letters to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and US President George W Bush through their embassies here requesting that Afghan Sikhs intending to travel to India should be given a safe passage.

“We demand the government take very serious note of gross violation of basic human rights of the Sikh community in Afghanistan and use diplomacy to ensure they live their lives with dignity and in a safe environment,” DSGMC Chief Harvinder Singh Sarna told reporters here.

He also urged that the government grant citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, insisting they have been facing hardship in their own country of origin after being forced to leave Afghanistan under the Taliban regime then.

“News reports about humiliation and attacks on Sikhs in Afghanistan have shocked the entire community. We trust that the Prime Minister would take immediate remedial measures in this regard,” he said.

Those Sikhs and Hindus who have migrated to India should also be granted citizenship that they have been long asking for, Sarna said.

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24 Nov 2006 13:08:31 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Kamil Zaheer

NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (Reuters) – A Sikh group urged the Indian government on Friday to arrange safe passage for Sikhs living in Afghanistan who said they faced humiliation and ill-treatment there.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) was reacting to a Reuters report that said Sikhs in southern Afghanistan were spat on by locals and their men stoned.

The report said Sikhs hid in back alleys in the city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the hardline Islamic Taliban movement, and yearn for the safety of India.

“The government of India should look at the Sikhs in Afghanistan as its own citizens and act urgently to give them the option of safe passage from Afghanistan where their religion is in danger,” DSGMC president Harvinder Singh Sarna said.

“If they are ensured bread and butter in India, they will not like to stay in Afghanistan where they are humiliated and ill-treated,” Sarna told a news conference, accompanied by about a dozen Sikh community leaders.

He said New Delhi must rehabilitate Sikhs who choose to come to India but Indian officials would not immediately comment.

In the late 1980s, there were about 500,000 Sikhs spread across Afghanistan, many of them money lenders for generations.

But following the Mujahideen civil war and the rise in 1994 of the Taliban, with its hardline interpretation of Islamic law, most fled. At present, there are small groups scattered across the war-torn Central Asian nation and, with the Taliban resurgent in the south, continue to feel seriously threatened.

India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also called on the government to exert pressure on Kabul to ensure the safety and dignity of Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Sikhs who fled Afghanistan in the 1990s and live in India say New Delhi should do more for them as well as their community members still residing in the Islamic nation.

“We are getting no help here from the Indian government, and those in Afghanistan who want to come here face problems in getting Indian visas,” said Khajinder Singh Khurana, president of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh Welfare Society.

 

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By SSNews, terry friel, reuters india
Nov 23, 2006, 17:33

In western countries, since the 9/11 terror attacks on American soil by members of Al-Qaida there has been a surge in prejudice, discrimination, hate crimes and even murder of members of the Sikh community. This was due to ignorance of the Sikh appearance of wearing turbans and beards and many people in the west mistook them for fundamentalist Muslims or Arabs and conducted hate crimes against them. Ironically, on the other side of the world in Afghanistan, the Taliban and fundamentalist Muslims have been doing the same thing – conducting prejudice, discrimination and hate crimes against the Sikh community.

Forced to wear yellow patches in the days of the Taliban, the homesick Sikhs of Afghanistan still hide in back alleys. In the Taliban’s birthplace, the southern city of Kandahar, their children cannot go to school and locals stone or spit on the men in the streets, who mostly try to hide in the narrow alleys of the mud-brick older quarter of the city.

“We don’t want to stay in Afghanistan,” says 40-year-old Balwant Singh. “The locals tell us ‘you are not from Afghanistan, go back to India’. Sometimes, they throw stones at us, the children. We feel we have to hide.

“I am even afraid to go to parts of the city.”

Their temple, or Gurdwara, in Kandahar has a simple traditional yellow pole capped by the orange Nishan Sahib flag.

It sits outside a stark prayer room in an obscure courtyard reachable only after knocking on two sets of unmarked heavy timber doors down a cramped mud-brick tunnel-way.

The pole does not rise above roof level, unlike the splendid Gurdwaras across India where they tower above the temples and the countryside, visible for kilometres.

There are about 10 Sikh families in Kandahar — fewer than 50 people. Another 22 lonely men, all their families back in India, live as traders in the neighbouring province of Uruzgan, another Taliban stronghold.

SCATTERED

Similar numbers are scattered across Afghanistan, a strictly Islamic nation where most people do not recognise Sikhism and it’s pluralism – respect for all faiths. Sikhism was founded about 600 years ago in the western plains of India..

In the late 1980s, there were about 500,000 Sikhs scattered across Afghanistan, many here for generations. The country’s Islam was moderate, based on the Sunni Hanafi sect.

Sikhs, Hindus and Jews were prominent in the economy, mainly as moneylenders — often underwriting the wars of various kings.

Most Sikhs, along with the country’s handful of Hindus, had lived there since before the British and the Indian empire in the 19th century.

But after the mujahideen civil war and the 1994 rise of the Taliban, most had fled by 1998.

In 2001, the Taliban ordered Sikhs, Hindus and other religious minorities to wear yellow patches, ostensibly so they would not be arrested by the religious police for breaking Taliban laws on the length of beards and other issues.

It is not clear how widely the rule was enforced.

The Sikhs who have returned since, like those of Kandahar and Uruzgan, are mainly small-time traders who complain of the pittance they make here, but say it is more than India offers.

Most come from poor families who fled to Delhi when Britain arbitrarily divided its Indian empire into Muslim Pakistan and secular but mainly Hindu India in 1947, forever splitting the Sikh homeland, the fertile plains of the Punjab.

Almost all have no papers or visas and are at the mercy of authorities in a country where corruption is rife — one of the biggest challenges to Afghanistan ever succeeding as a nation.

“They take our homes, they take our businesses,” says Hem Singh, a 42-year-old trader from Uruzgan. “We can’t do anything.

“We have no rights.”

Most are general traders or pharmacists. Forced to sell their goods cheaper than their Afghan competition to ensure business, they are too ashamed to tell their families what life is really like.

“We keep it secret,” says Hem Singh. “We don’t tell our families how bad our life here really is.”

SCARS OF WAR

They cannot travel to Afghanistan via the fastest route through Pakistan because of the decades of enmity between New Delhi and Islamabad so they use alternative routes which can be difficult and sometimes dangerous.

In a cramped room in Kandahar, turbaned Sikh men, several of whom showed scars from bomb blasts suffered travelling the roads of the dangerous south to stock their shops or wholesale to Afghan traders too scared to travel themselves.

The resurgence of the Taliban is making their lives worse: the highways are more dangerous with a new spate of suicide bombings and a resurgence of fundamentalist Islam is making their differences from Afghans more pronounced.

The Taliban is the strongest it has been since U.S.-led forces ousted its hardline government in 2001. This has been the bloodiest year since then, with more than 3,700 people killed, almost a third of them civilians.

“We are always afraid someone will kill us or hurt us because we are Sikh,” says Sabrat Subir Singh, a 62-year-old trader from Uruzgan. “But what can we do? We need the money.

“No one here is happy. We are angry and sad.”

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 For reasons of privacy, the names have been changed to A, B, C, D and E. – Webmaster

Monday 20th November 2006

AN AFGHAN family who face eviction from their Swindon home say it will leave them with no place to go.

A and B and their children C and D have applied for refugee status three times in three years, but now they say the authorities have washed their hands of them by refusing them benefits.

And their new failed asylum seeker status could lead to them being told to leave their County Road home today.

“We came here with nothing, we have nothing, and nothing to go back to,” said 19-year-old D.

“We gave up everything. We had to get out of Afghanistan and we cannot go back, so if we get evicted, we are facing a life in the cold. My parents are ill – they could not survive on the streets.

“We have not come here to live off benefits – we want to work. I’d be happy to pay back the taxpayers who have allowed us to live here for years but we have not been allowed to. However, getting refugee status would have let us do that.”
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The E are a Sikh family who ran a textile business in Kabul, the Afghan capital. But during the 1990s as the Taliban took over and introduced Sharia law, life for the E and other Sikh families became increasingly uncomfortable. Many were persecuted and family members were kidnapped and never seen again.

In July 2003, the family handed over all their belongings and their house to an agent who agreed to get them out Afghanistan and to a safe country. And, after a three-month journey, they arrived in Dover in the back of a lorry and it was there they sought asylum.

“There is no way we can go home. Even now Sikhs are still being persecuted there today,” said D.

“Once there were thousands of Sikhs there, and now just 0.01 per cent of the Afghan population is Sikh.
“We have not come here to live off benefits – we want to work”

“None of us want to go back because we know what we face. Even Muslims don’t want to go back because it is not safe, but the UK Government think it is now safe out there.”

D’s mother suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome from her time in Kabul.

C, 18, who is currently studying fashion design, has had to tell her university tutors that she may not be back because of the problems.

She said: “Our greatest problem is that the courts have not been interested in our evidence.

“We have explained to them how dangerous it would be to have go back, but they are relying on evidence that is several years old. It is little things like that that can have the biggest effects on people’s lives.”

The family say that in one court hearing they told the court about a building called a “posta” out of which gangs of Mudjahadeen and Taliban would terrorise communities, it was translated to the hearing as a dance hall.

D said: “It seems ridiculous evidence could be mis-translated. Kabul is not a city of nightclubs, it is a warzone. You only need to watch the news to see this.

“If we were sent back, we would be sent to a refugee camp in Kabul, there would be no support, and no security, you couldn’t even guarantee getting home at night. It is just too dangerous.”

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove has taken up the plight of the family, and is working to ensure they aren’t left on the streets. She said: “I am concerned about the situation the family is in and, as with any other constituents who contact me, I have worked on their behalf in an effort to get the best outcome possible.”

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a personal story

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Hi, ich bin Kuljit Singh!
Ich bin 23 Jahre alt und bin in Kabul (Afghanistan) geboren. Mein Heimatland kenne ich nur aus dem Fernseher oder aus Erzählungen meiner Eltern. Es ist in letzter Zeit so viel Schlimmes in Afghanistan passiert, dass man sich nicht mehr traut, sich als Afghane zu bekennen. Meine Eltern haben schon vor 16 Jahren beschlossen, Afghanistan zu verlassen. Denn schon damals befand sich Afghanistan in einem nie endenden Krieg. Seit 1987 sind wir alle in Deutschland. Es war für uns nicht einfach in einem fremden Land zu leben, aber mit der Zeit hat es sich geändert. Für uns gibt es keine Rückkehrmöglichkeit. Ich hoffe, dass in Afghanistan bald Ruhe einkehrt. 1996 habe ich mein meinen Schulabschluss erzielt und bin mit mein Dad in die Textilbranche eingestiegen. Heute führen wir ein kleines Unternehmen in Essen. Wir sind beide zufrieden mit unserer Arbeit.
Wenn ich Zeit habe, treibe ich Sport, gehe schwimmen oder surfe im Internet. Ich Reise unheimlich gern. Durch meinen Beruf habe ich die Möglichkeit, viel rumzukommen, aber nicht immer dorthin, wo ich gerade hin möchte. Denn es sind meistens Geschäftsreisen. In letzter Zeit interessiere ich mich sehr für meine Religion. Es kommt daher, weil es in Deutschland sehr wenige Sikhs gibt und ich kaum noch Kontakt mit Gleichaltrigen habe. Daher versuche ich meine Kultur und Religion in meinem Kopf einzuprägen. Denn es ist das Einzige, was ich aus Afghanistan mitgebracht habe. Meine deutschen Freunde sind begeistert, dass sie einen Sikh als Freund haben, auch wenn sie nicht viel über die Sikh-Religion wissen.
Ich habe keine großen Zukunftspläne, aber ich wünsche mir, dass die Menschen irgendwann einmal lernen, friedlich miteinander zu leben, unabhängig davon, welcher Religion sie angehören oder welche Hautfarbe sie haben. Denn das alles ist für mich unwichtig, man sollte ein gutes Herz haben.

Euer Kuljit Singh

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