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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Click here to read a research paper by Roger Ballard on Afghan Hindus and Sikhs which was written in 2011

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Click here to read the thesis by Chitra Venkatesh Akkoor who completed this work in 2011 as part of her PhD degree in University of Iowa. Chitra made multiple trips to Germany and spent significant amount of time with Afghan Hindus in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Cologne to complete this work.

 

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Source:  Kabul Press

By M. Amin Wahidi

In a racist action, the parliamentarians of Afghanistan refused the allocation of a single seat in the parliament for the Sikhs and Hindus minority group. Although the Sikh and Hindu people of Afghanistan have passed a long way of suffering for their religion but they are still discriminated against.

 

Recently the Afghanistan Parliament has passed the election bill, which was under discussion for a long time because of its controversial articles regarding allocation of seats in the parliament for the vulnerable categories such as women and religious and ethnic minorities. The bill is passed by both houses of the parliament and is awaiting Karzai’s signature to be put in act.

 

The vulnerable categories were listed in the proposed bill as the women, the Kochis (nomads) and the Hindus and Sikhs.

 

The allocation of certain number of seats for Kochis and for women was approved but the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan remained with no seats, which is a sign of religious discrimination against a group of the citizens while in the constitution of Afghanistan, the citizens are guaranteed equal rights and opportunities regardless of their ethnicity, race and religion so, if they women are considered vulnerable, they Sikhs and Hindus are also vulnerable and there numerous of proof cases for this fact.

 

In the constitution of Afghanistan there are articles such as 2nd, 6th, 22nd and 24th that emphasize on freedom of religions for non-Muslims and then equal opportunities for all citizens of the country that should be guaranteed by the government.

 

Afghanistan is a country with an absolute majority of Muslims but we have Sikhs, Hindus and Christians who are considered as very vulnerable religious minority groups and need to be protected, given equal opportunities and fair treatment as every other citizen in the country, and in some cases they have to be given compensatory opportunities for their long sufferings because of discrimination against them.

 

Afghanistan is a home for different ethnicity and different cultures and our Sikh and Hindu fellows, not only have the same rights as every one else, but they should also be given more opportunities and be compensated for all injustice and misbehavior conducted against them through the years, that forced them limit their religious practicing, lose their wealth and properties. They were also very badly tortured by the Taliban during 1990s.

 

Most citizens of Afghanistan know that millions of Afghanistani people are around the world as asylum seekers and refugees and tens of thousands of them have already obtained citizenship from European countries, from the USA or Australia and are enjoying the justice, fair treatments and equal opportunities in their new countries, but the way our politicians still think within the country is very stinky and disturbing; they discriminate against a religious minority of their own country in a very bad manner.

 

Our Hindu and Sikh brothers and sister are peaceful, positive and very potential citizens of the country who are mostly involved in small and large scale businesses in the country and have paid taxes for years in this country and their attitude has been always friendly with Muslim citizens of the country.

 

They have served in the military when it was an obligatory service and have paid all their dues to the country as everyone else; it is not fair to discriminate them for their religion and culture.

 

In this regard Kawa Gharji an Afghanistani journalist in exile and a writer for Kabul Press has posted an ironic post on his Facebook Timeline as below;

 

“No Pain No Gain!

 

As the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan did not participate in the glorious civil war and did not destroy schools, did not blast themselves, did not conduct suicide attacks, did not cultivate opium and other dangerous narcotic substances, so their quota of parliament seats will be given to the hardworking Kochi brothers.

 

This quota is given to the Kochis to thank them for their day and night efforts in destruction, annually attacks on Behsud, burning the farms, destroying schools, threatening school girls and women, putting remote-controlled bombs on the roads, prohibiting and divesting more than 70,000 students from education and killing the innocents and dragging their bodies on the ground by horses.

 

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has given a chance to the Sikh and Hindu citizens of the country, to prove themselves with the above-mentioned standards but they have failed the criteria. So they did not deserve a seat in the parliament.”

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“Sarbat Sangat Kabul Guru rakhega….

Sarbat Sangat uppar Meri khushi hai…” 

                     – Paatshahi 10 Samat 1756.

The above quotation is from a Hukamnaama of Guru Gobind Singh of 1699 CE, blessing the Sangat of Kabul.  The opening and concluding lines of the Hukamnaana (edict) read: “Sangat of Kabul, the Guru will save you…. I am pleased with the Sangat of Kabul.”  (Reproduced by Giani Kartar Singh Sarhadi, “Kes Philosophy”, 1960 p.189)

Today, there is fear and desperation in their empty eyes. They have no livelihood and no work; and their growing children receive no education. Their daughters do not have much hope of finding suitable matches; and they are not certain where the next meal would come from. Many women and children live in Gurdwaré, Sikh place of worship relying on Free Kitchen

And so, a young adventurous Afghan Sikh, Pritpal Singh, who had left Afghanistan 2 decades ago, set out from the UK to document the suffering of fellow Afghan Sikhs and Hindus communities in Afghanistan. The film “MISSION AFGHANISTAN by an Afghan” portrays “the life and hardships of minorities in War-torn Afghanistan.”

Those who could afford it, left the country. Those left behind have hardly any means of support. They have no present and no future.

These are Sikh women with children, widows and families left behind in a war-riven Afghanistan. Together with the Hindu community, their numbers are dwindling, as they live from day to day in many towns in Afghanistan. The situation of women is made worse because this is an conservative country where women are confined to walled enclosures and cannot go out to work.

They cannot even dispose off their dead with dignity. Cremations are done with stealth in fading light and away from the sight of local communities.

Even Gurdwaré of great historical significance are in a state neglect and disrepair.

The country has been torn apart by war for decades and peace is not in sight when the Americans, British and other foreign troops leave. For minorities like the Sikhs and Hindus, the situation is quite hopeless. As a Sikh lady points out in the documentary, they cannot just depend on short term handouts by generous Sikhs from abroad.

The need is for sustained support projects which set up schools and also provide work for the poorer Sikhs in Afghanistan. Much can be done by the more prosperous business Afghan Sikhs who are doing well in Sikh diaspora countries like the UK, Germany, India, UAE & US.

Funded by Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Southall (UK), Pritpal had only a very limited budget. The main advantage of this low budget but professionally produced documentary was that, with one local cameraman, and dressed as an Afghan fluent in Farsi & Hindko, Pritpal was able to merge and mix with communities, and keep a low profile in a highly dangerous environment. Travelling on mined countryside roads, strewn with destroyed army vehicles, he was able to film remote places and intermingle with communities in a war zone. This is a country where tourists make attractive targets for hostage-taking by terrorists, and filming crews have to travel with convoys.

Pritpal returned from this dangerous mission with, in his words, “The treasure of well over 1500 photographs and films of key historical Gurdwaré, Mandir & Mosques of Afghanistan – something which has never been done in past!”

He travelled to Kabul, Jalalabad, Sorkhrod, Agh Sarai, Charikar, Salang and Ghazni.

Truly, his mission to bring out the truth about the desperate condition of his fellow Sikhs in a country where their forefathers lived for thousands of years, is a remarkable achievement. He loves his country of origin and is concerned that “if they migrate to other countries, our history and our historical sites will vanish”.

It is a highly informative journalistic documentary. In Hindko, English, Farsi, Panjabi & Pashto with English subtitiles.

Written by Gurmukh Singh
UK Civil Service

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Listen  to BBC’s interview with Dr. Fakirchand Chandihok

د افغان هندوانو او سکانو د حقونو فعالان وايي په دغه هېواد کې د دوی بنسټيز بشري حقونو ته پام نه کيږي.

د افغان هندوانو او سکانو د حقونو فعال او د بشري حقونو د دفاع نړېوالې ټولنې (Global Human Rights Defence) غړی فقیر چند چندیهوک وايي افغان هندوان او سکان ځينې وختونه اړ کيږي چې د خپل مړي د سوځولو لپاره د افغانستان نورو ولایتونو او ان پېښور ته ولېږدوي.

دی زیاتوي د دوی ماشومان اوس هم له زده کړې بې برخې دي. ښاغلی چندیهوک د بي بي سي پښتو وېبپاڼې سره په مرکه کې د افغان هندوانو پر ستونزو غږيږي.

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Message from UK based Afghan Sikh Community

ਅਫਗ਼ਾਨੀ ਇਸਤਰੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਬਚਿਆਂ ਨੂ ਦੇਸ਼ ਨਿਕਾਲਾ ਨ ਦੇਣ ਦੀ ਮੰਗ ।

ک فاجعه بشری، از کشورهالیند، سه خانم و یک کودک به افغانستان اخراج میگردند

अफ्घानी स्त्री व बाल शरणार्थीओं को देशनिकाला न देने की मांग ।

Afghan Sikh Community Leaders in Britain urging UK, Dutch and all European Governments to stop deportation of all Afghans — Sikhs, Hindus & Muslims. An emergency crises appeal made live from Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Southall in West London on a UK based satellite TV station Sikh Channel.

Fantastic News – Joint action by Afghan family, all Dutch and UK Sikh Institutions. And of course by Waheguru’s grace, the deportation an Afghan Sikh family (mother (36), daughter (19), son (13) and daughter (9)) to Afghanistan has been stopped temporarily. We were informed late Friday afternoon, 22 June 2012 about this Sikh family would be deported on 25 June 2012 at 11.30 am. Through this joint effort, Ardas of Sangat and Media attention, we have prevented a humanitarian disaster and crisis as the Judge ruled Monday morning that the eviction has been put on stop for the time being.

Fantastische Nieuws – Gezamenlijke inzet van Afghaanse familieleden en alle Sikhs Verenigingen uit Nederland en Verenigd Koninkrijk. Ook met name door Waheguru’s gratie is de uitzetting van een Afghaanse Sikh familie (moeder (36), dochter (19), zoon (13) en dochter (9)) voorkomen. Vrijagmiddag (22 June 2012) laat werden wij geinformeerd en geconfronteerd met het feit dat deze familie op 25 June 2012 om 11.30 uur zouden worden uitgezet. Door deze gezamenlijke inzet, Ardas van Sangat en Media aandacht, hebben wij een humane ramp en crisis voorkomen – doordat de rechter op Maandag heeft geoordeeld dat de uitzetting tijdlijk stop wordt gezet.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar
Afghan Ekta Cultural Religious/Community Centre 
65-75 King Street Southall
UB2 4DQ United Kingdom
www.gurunanakdarbar.org.uk

Let us all lobby our MPs and MEPs together with all NGOs to put our case forward. Afghanistan remains unstable as just last week a bomb was exploded in the capital Kabul.
News Source: Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/22/taliban-attack-kabul-lake-resort

 

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March 20, 2012

By Nina Shea

Source (Eurasia Review)

Today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf) released its 14th annual report, which it is mandated to do under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report identifies the world’s worst persecutors and makes foreign-policy recommendations, which are non-binding, to the administration and Congress. Its decisions are based on the agency’s visits to foreign countries, and a wide array of other sources, including the State Department’ s own excellent annual compilation of worldwide religious-freedom violations. The commission is distinctive because it is an independent federal agency, and it is to make its name-and-shame lists and policy recommendations unburdened by foreign-policy considerations other than the defense of religious freedom.

I thought Afghanistan should be on the list as well and said so in my dissent, which is excerpted further down in this column.

I believe that Afghanistan, too, belongs in the ranks of the world’s worst religious persecutors. Apart from the depredations of the Taliban, Afghanistan’ s government under President Karzai fails to respect religious freedom, and its violations are egregious, ongoing, and systematic, thus meeting the statutory standard for CPC designation. The State Department’s recent religious-freedom report on Afghanistan found:

The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals.

An example was the razing of that country’ s last remaining church after its 99-year lease was cancelled, as the State Department reported last September. This event did not draw the international protest that accompanied the Taliban’ s detonation of the Bamiyan Buddhist statues in 2001, but, with respect to the status of religious freedom, it is equally emblematic.

Afghanistan, therefore, has now joined the lonely company of hardline Saudi Arabia as a country with no churches. The millions of Christians in Afghanistan, including some very beleaguered and oft-jailed converts, must hide their faith and seek the protection and secrecy of walled embassy compounds to pray in community.

Furthermore, we learn from the State Department report that, in addition to Christians, particular “targets of discrimination and persecution” are Hindu and Sikh groups.

The one synagogue, located in Kabul, is shuttered because Jews dare not venture there.

The Uscirf report itself states:

Conditions for religious freedom are exceedingly poor for dissenting members of the majority faith and for minority religious communities. The Afghan constitution fails explicitly to protect the individual right to freedom of religion or belief and allows other fundamental rights to be superseded by ordinary legislation. It also contains a repugnancy clause stating that no law can be contrary to the tenets of Islam, which the government has interpreted to limit fundamental freedoms. Individuals who dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy regarding Islamic beliefs and practices are subject to legal action that violates international standards, for example prosecutions for religious crimes such as apostasy and blasphemy. In addition, the Afghan government remains unable, as well as at times unwilling, to protect citizens against violence and intimidation by the Taliban and other illegal armed groups.

The Afghan government’s slide into extreme intolerance accelerated this month when, at the behest of his senior Islamic advisers, President Karzai publicly backed their statement that women should not mingle with men in workplaces, schools or other areas of daily life, and should not travel without a male relative, according to a March 6 BBC report.

For anyone concerned about human rights and religious freedom, the Uscirf report is unsettling but important reading.

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