Archive for October, 2011

Fazle Hadi Muslimyar accompanied by Dr. Anar Kali Hunaryar senate member met with some representatives of Hindus. The Hindus complained that usurpation of their properties in Khost is major problems for them. They also asked that the representatives of Afghan refugees in India should also be given the chance of membership to the traditional Loya Jirgah. Muslimyar assured them that their problems will be taken up through the senate commissions. According to news the speaker of the senate met with some ulema and influential of Geizab province of Daikundi. The elders complained over lack of health care center, non-implementation of development projects in the province and other environmental problems. Meanwhile, Muslimyar met with Mohammad Ayab Salangi Commander of Kabul police. Salangi informed Muslimyar about the security situation, maintaining of security of parliament. Muslimyar in order to praise the services of the police commander awarded him with the parliament insignia.

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July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report on Afghanistan by U.S.  Department of State

September 13th 2011

Excerpts regarding Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan

The country’s population is almost entirely Muslim. Non-Muslim minority groups, particularly Christian, Hindu, and Sikh groups, were targets of discrimination and persecution. Conversion from Islam was understood by Shia and Sunni Islamic clergy, as well as many citizens, to contravene the tenets of Islam. Within the Muslim population, relations among the different sects continued to be difficult. Historically the minority Shia community has faced discrimination from the majority Sunni population. This discrimination continued during the reporting period. Local Hindu and Sikh populations, although allowed to practice their religion publicly, continued to encounter problems obtaining land for cremation and historically have faced discrimination when seeking government jobs, as well as harassment during major celebrations. Most local Bahais and Christians did not publicly state their beliefs or gather openly to worship.

The country has an area of 402,356 square miles; population estimates ranged from 24 to 33 million. Reliable data on religious demography is not available because an official nationwide census has not been conducted in decades. Observers estimate that 80 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, 19 percent Shia Muslim, and other religious groups comprise less than 1 percent of the population. According to self-estimates by these communities, there are approximately 3,000 Sikhs, more than 400 Bahais, and 100 Hindu believers. There is a small Christian community; estimates on its size range from 500 to 8,000. In addition there are small numbers of adherents of other religious groups. There is one known Jewish citizen.

Historically members of the same religious groups have concentrated in certain regions. Sunni Pashtuns dominate the south and east. The homeland of the Shia Hazaras is in the Hazarajat, the mountainous central highland provinces around Bamyan province. Northeastern provinces traditionally have Ismaili populations. Other areas, including Kabul, are more heterogeneous and include Sunni, Shia, Sikh, Hindu, and Bahai populations. The northern city of Mazar-e Sharif includes a mix of Sunnis (including ethnic Pashtuns, Turkmen, Uzbeks, and Tajiks) and Shia (Hazaras and Qizilbash), including Shia Ismailis.

In the 20th century, small communities of Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs lived in the country, although most members of these communities emigrated during the years of civil war and Taliban rule. By the end of Taliban rule, non-Muslim populations had been virtually eliminated except for a small population of native Hindus and Sikhs. Since the fall of the Taliban, some members of religious minorities have returned, many settling in Kabul.

There are two active gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) in Kabul and 10 in other parts of the country; there were 64 gurdwaras throughout the country before the war. There are four Hindu mandirs (temples) in three cities: two mandirs are located in Kabul, one of which shares a wall with a mosque; one is in Jalalabad; and one in Ghazni. Eighteen others were destroyed or rendered unusable due to looting during the mujahidin civil war.

As in previous years, Hindus and Sikhs complained of not being able to cremate the remains of their dead in accordance with their customs, due to interference by those who lived near the cremation sites. The government did not protect Hindus’ and Sikhs’ right to carry out cremations. The community repeatedly petitioned the government for land on which to carry out cremations. Bahais also could not bury their dead in accordance with their customs, but they lodged no formal complaints as they sought to avoid government attention. Although community representatives expressed concerns over land disputes, they often chose not to pursue restitution through the courts for fear of retaliation, particularly when powerful local leaders occupied their property. There were no known reports of active discrimination against Hindus by the government.

The government provided free electricity to mosques. The Hindu and Sikh communities lobbied the government to provide free electricity to their gurdwaras and mandirs; however, the government had not addressed these concerns as of the end of the reporting period. Further, gurdwaras and mandirs were charged as business entities, paying at a higher rate.

n Kabul foreign residents met regularly at Christian worship services in private locations. Buddhist foreigners were free to worship in Hindu temples.

The government provided limited funding or assistance for Sikh schools. The government assigned one teacher to a Sikh Gurdwara in Kabul to teach Dari and mathematics to Sikh and Hindu children.

One member of the Sikh community continued to serve as a member of the Upper House of Parliament. The Hindu and Sikh communities have lobbied to have one seat each designated for a Hindu and a Sikh representative in parliament. They pointed out that 10 seats are reserved for the ethnic minority Kuchi community and that their communities should also have reserved representation.

Non-Muslim minorities such as Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians continued to face social discrimination and harassment and, in some cases, violence. This treatment was not systematic, but the government did nothing to improve conditions during the reporting period. Public opinion continued to be openly hostile toward Afghan converts to Christianity and to proselytizing by Christian organizations and individuals. Public protests occurred in several provinces after inflammatory public statements made by members of Parliament and television programming; one protest burned an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI, and another protest demanded the closing of all churches (although none exist). More than 1,000 individuals marched in Mazar-e Sharif, demanding the banning of organizations that proselytized. One Christian-affiliated NGO lost its office space when neighbors requested that its landlord evict them.

The Hindu population, which is less distinguishable than the Sikh population (whose men wear a distinctive headdress), faced less harassment, although both groups reported being harassed by neighbors in their communities. The Sikh and Hindu communities, although allowed to practice their religion publicly, reportedly continued to face discrimination, including intimidation. Although Hindus and Sikhs had recourse to dispute resolution mechanisms such as the Special Land and Property Court, in practice the communities felt unprotected.

Many in the Sikh and Hindu communities did not send their children to public school because of reported abuse and harassment by other students. In previous years, Hindus and Sikhs sent their children to private Hindus and Sikhs schools, but those schools have closed since the community’s deteriorating economic circumstances have made private schooling unaffordable for most families. There is one school for Sikh children in Ghazni; one in Helmand; and since March, one in Kabul that only teaches Dari and Pashto. There is one school in Nangarhar provided by the government for the Sikh community. A few Sikh children attended private international schools. There were no Christian schools in the country. No Hindu children attended school in Kabul during the reporting period. The government took limited steps to protect and reintegrate these children into the classroom environment.

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