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A Remembrance…

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REMEMBERING – AFGHAN SIKHS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE 1988 Every year during Vaisakhi, the Afghan Sikh community remembers the Afghan Sikhs (male, female & children) who lost their lives in 1988, 1989 & 2018. Last year it was decided that this remembrance event will be held on 29th March every year. This got missed due to ongoing Coronavirus and recent killings of the Sikhs in Kabul. Let’s remember them and revisit these ghastly events. 13 April 1988 – A gunman entered the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Jalalabad when the place was full of devotees. He killed 13 Sikhs and 4 Muslims security guards. Dalair Singh Arora and Harwinder Singh Batra confronted him and managed to kill the terrorist. Dalair Singh lost his life and is remembered for his bravery. Harwinder Singh lives in London now. March – Oct 1989 – The Mujahideen attacked Jalalabad with intention to capture the city. The local tribal chief impressed upon Mujahideen for peace, but latter said they had to attack, and the chief gave them the map of old township and marked that area where Mujahideen could bomb. And this area was where Sikhs lived in Jalalabad. For 6 months the missiles were fired on the area and 102 Afghan Sikhs died and over 500 were injured in these attacks. 1 July 2018 – During a gathering of Afghan Sikhs in Jalalabad waiting to meet the President, a suicide bomber blew himself and killed 17 Sikhs and three Hindus including community leaders Avtar Singh Khalsa and Rawail Singh. 25 March 2020 – The gunmen entered Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji in Kabul and killed 27 Afghan Sikhs including many women and young children.

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Source: The Wire By: Angshuman Choudhury

An Afghan Sikh family arrive to see their relatives near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan March 25, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

On March 25, three gunmen stormed the Guru Har Rai Gurudwara in the Shor Bazar area of Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, killing at least 25 and injuring 15. Most of the victims belonged the Sikh minority of Afghanistan. The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), which is the Islamic State’s arm in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claimed the attack not long after the mindless bloodshed. The Indian government condemned Wednesday’s heinous attack in strong words, calling it “cowardly”.

While Sikhs have been targeted by Afghan militant groups in the past, this was certainly one of the biggest attacks on the minority in recent times.

Immediately after the attack, certain commentators and media houses began to push the importance of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to protect the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan. The CAA, which came into force earlier this year, eases Indian citizenship requirements for asylum seekers from six religious denominations from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India on or before 31 December 2014. Sikhs are amongst those six beneficiary communities.

The CAA has come under intense criticism from domestic and international quarters for expressly leaving out Muslim refugees and thus, negating the constitutional principles of secularism and equality before law. Since it was tabled in parliament late last year, India has seen fierce street protests and civil unrest. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has so far refused to recall the amendment.

After the attack, BJP leader from Delhi, Kapil Mishra, tweeted: “What would those who were distributing langar in Shaheen Bagh be thinking today?”

Mishra, who was banned by the Election Commission during the Delhi election campaign for a communally-loaded tweet, was not-so-subtly referring to the anti-CAA protestors who had been on a sit-in protest in East Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area since 14 December. Sikh groups had set up langars (community kitchens) near the protest site to distribute free food, an act that received much praise. Mishra seemed to be suggesting that the Shaheen Bagh protestors, many of whom are Muslims, were responsible for the dastardly attack against Sikhs in Kabul.

Another pro-BJP commentator, Abhinav Prakash, who is also an assistant professor at Delhi University, tweeted that “all those opposing CAA are supporters & cheerleaders of such routine massacres.” Several other pro-Hindutva pages and voices argued how Wednesday’s attack proves that the CAA is much-needed. An editorial in the Free Press Journal arguedthat anti-CAA protestors “would not cry themselves hoarse against a law which neither directly nor indirectly seeks to hurt them” if they understood that “attacks on non-Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan are routine”.

These are highly misleading narratives that conceal not just the anti-constitutional nature of the CAA, but also the sociopolitical reality of Afghanistan. There is absolutely no doubt that the Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan are under constant threat of attacks by Islamist groups, such as the Taliban, ISKP and Haqqani Network.

Islamist extremism in Afghanistan

Only two years ago, a deadly suicide bombing in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar Province, killed Avtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate running in the country’s parliamentary elections that year. They were no better off during the oppressive Taliban regime during 1996-2001. According to a recent report by the Afghan news agency, TOLO News, 99% of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan left the country over the last three decades.

But Hindus and Sikhs are not the only religious minorities living in fear of extremist aggression in Afghanistan, a Sunni Muslim majority country. Muslim minority sects, such as the Shias, too are under constant threat of attacks by Islamist militants. According to informal third-party estimates, Shias make up about 10-15% of the population of Afghanistan. The bulk of Afghan Shias belong to the Hazara ethnic group.

An Afghan Sikh woman mourns for her relatives near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Only two weeks back, on March 6, ISKP claimed an attack on a Hazara ceremony in the Shi’ite-dominated Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, which killed 32 people. In September 2018, at least 22 people, mostly Hazaras, were killed in an ISKP-linked twin explosion in the same area. Two people were killed and forty injured in July 2019 when ISKP militants attacked a Shi’ite mosque in the central province of Ghazni. At least 143 people were killed in four separate ISKP-linked attacks on Shi’ite areas and mosques in the 2016-17 period.

According to Javed Kohistani, a retired Afghan general and political expert, Daesh “was formed mainly based on anti-Shiite agendas for taking over Shiite governments in Syria and Iraq”. Sectarian tensions between Afghan Sunnis and Shias started emerging around 2011, fuelled by a complex mix of external and internal factors. Since then, particularly after the ISKP’s entry, Shias have faced the full brunt of Islamist extremism in the country.

According to Rustam Ali Seerat, an Afghan research scholar in South Asian University, an “unholy alliance” between the Taliban and Daesh has put Afghan Shias and Hazaras in a high risk of “massacres and even annihilation”. The Shi’ite Hazaras aren’t just much-favoured targets for Islamist militants, but also subjects of systematic discrimination by the Afghan government.

“On the one hand, the terrorist groups target Hazaras with deadly attacks and, on the other hand, the Afghan government removes Hazaras from the government [posts] and tries to prevent Hazara areas from prosperity in development and economic policies,” says Ahmad Behzad, a Hazara in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the Afghan Parliament).

There is also evidence of Hazaras facing social discrimination within Sunni-majority Afghan society. Melissa Chiovenda, an anthropology doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut, told Al Jazeera in June 2016 that “even open-minded non-Hazaras with a high degree of education” admit that “they feel a certain discomfort when they encounter Hazaras in certain positions of authority in Afghanistan.”

Besides the Shi’ite minorities, the ISKP and Taliban are also accused of targeting Afghan Sunnis, both through targeted bombing of religious gatherings and politico-strategic attacks against government targets. Fair to say that the Afghan political-security landscape is far more complex than the straightforward ‘Muslims vs non-Muslims’ binary that pro-Hindutva groups in India routinely project.

Therefore, the fact that the CAA leaves out endangered Muslims, especially vulnerable sectarian minorities like the Shia Hazaras, is deeply problematic. India is already host to a significant population of Afghan Muslim refugees, including Shia Hazaras. Out of the 15,559 Afghan refugees registered with UNHCR India (according to the August 2019 factsheet), around 10% are Muslims, which includes Hazaras and other Shi’ite groups. The CAA won’t ease their pathway to Indian citizenship.

The current UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Michele Bachelet, also noted that the CAA discriminates against the Afghan Hazaras and Shia refugees in an intervention plea filed at the Supreme Court of India on March 4. Worse, the CAA also excludes under-threat Muslim sectarian minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, such as Ahmadiyas and Bohras.

Besides, contrary to what pro-Hindutva groups argue, the CAA’s retrospective cut-off date means that Hindus and Sikhs who are currently living in Afghanistan (such as those targeted in Wednesday’s attack) and would want to seek asylum in India in the future won’t be able to avail its exclusive benefits. It’ll only protect those who have already fled Afghanistan and are no more under Islamist threat.

The CAA is ultimately bad in law, as argued by top constitutional experts. Sure, it is some sort of an asylum law, but a grossly discriminatory one. If India genuinely wants to protect vulnerable people in its neighbourhood, it needs to enact a wholesome asylum policy that doesn’t privilege one group of people over others, takes into account non-religious forms of persecution (like ethnic and political) and doesn’t put a hard cut-off date.

The CAA doesn’t achieve that. It is nothing more than a sloppy, half-hearted and prejudicial piece of legislation that doesn’t have any place in a secular country like India.

Angshuman Choudhury is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, and former GIBSA Visiting Fellow (Oct-Dec 2019) at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin.

Source: MENAFN

KABUL: Hundreds of Afghan Sikhs have signed a letter to Indian Embassy to Kabul in which they have called for New Delhi’s help to leave their motherland after a Daesh-claimed deadly attack targeted their temple in Kabul.

An attacker stormed a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) on March 25 in the old part of Kabul, opening at the worshippers held hostage.

At least 26 worshippers were killed in the attack and another eight wounded.

Some 700 Sikhs signed the letter addressed to Indian embassy and called for an immediate leave of their country. The signatories have said they would want to live in Afghanistan.

The letter published in the Indian Express, calls Daesh terrorist group a potential threat against Afghan Sikhs and tries to wipe them out.

The March attack against Sikh was not the first case. A suicide bomber also a Daesh mercenary blew himself up among a group of them heading to meet President Ghani in the Jalalabad city of the eastern province of Nangarhar, killing and injuring scores of them in July 2018.

The government of Canada said it would grant asylum to all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. But they refused the call, saying they would never leave home if the government provides them with security.

By Asia Samachar TeamCANADA |
The aftermath: A girl cries at the coffin of a women, one of the 25 who died in the Kabul gurdwara attack on 25 March 2020. – Photo: Reuters

The Kabul attack killing 25 innocent souls have been a real shaker. The 25 March incident, followed by two consecutive days of more attacks in the Afghanistan capital have left the small band of the Sikh minority community living in heightened fear. Even before the attack, they were already almost living on egg shelfs.

What can the world community do to help the Sikh and Hindu minorities hammed by increasing attacks from the Muslim groups? At this point of time, leaving Afghanistan seems to be the only solution.

“It is too small a minority, unable to defend itself, and politically inconsequential. I’d still like to be able to help them get out, instead of having more killed,” Suneet Singh Tuli, the speaker of the Canadian branch of the World Sikh Parliament, tells Asia Samachar.

Canada is one of the options but it does not seem to be working out just as yet. Some 26,000 Syrian were resettled in Canada between December 2015 and February 2016. But the route does not seem to be open for the Afghan Sikhs.

“Although we’re trying to put pressure on the Canadian government, unfortunately it is unlikely they will act,” he said.

Suneet is the founder and owner of DataWind Ltd, a provider of wireless web access products and services. Here are excerpts from the interview.

AS: What is your view on the recent attacks on Sikhs in Kabul?

Suneet: The Afghanistan situation is really alarming as there are constant threats, and we believe that further attacks are imminent, and there is insufficient security to protect them.

Is Canada their best hope to seek refuge? 

Although we’re trying to put pressure on the Canadian government, unfortunately it is unlikely they will act — very upsetting. Most likely, they’ll have to go to Pakistan or India — where they’ll be forced to languish as ‘non-citizens’ for many years. It’s very sad and frustrating.

Canadian leaders seem silent on the plight of the Afghan Sikhs. Is that proper reading of the situation?

Yes.

What are the ground challenges in getting the Afghan Sikhs to move out?

There are logistical issues, but we can charter a plane and bring them. Unlike the 20,000 Canadians stuck in India due to the curfew, we don’t have those movement restrictions in Afghanistan.  And these people we need to move are mostly in Kabul.

Beyond logistics. Does it mean they have to leave everything they have and start afresh?

Yes, there is no choice. But, those in the Gurdwara have already been driven out of their homes — and they would congregate each night at the Gurdwara for safety.

A few  Afghan Sikh families have moved to Canada some years earlier. What are their experiences ?

Only 15 families have made it here that were originally in Helmunt province — they all have jobs and are starting to get settled in. They’re not yet as established as the Kabuli Sikhs of Southhall, but that takes a generation.

The Afghan Sikhs in London are well established. They have flourishing businesses and real estate.

The Sikh-Afghani newcomers in Canada are living on rent, mostly uneducated (hence labour jobs). But they are safe and have a future.

If we bring them to Canada, then we’ll ensure they have jobs, training, education and support — starting fresh here will be easier than the risk they face in Kabul currently. Those that got out over the last couple of decades were generally those that could afford to get out, so, had some wealth. Those left behind are the most needy.

What can Sikhs in other countries do to help the Afghan Sikhs?

If there are immigration or refugee sponsorship programs in each respective country, then we should consider those too. Alternatively, help get signatures on the various petitions that are being circulated so that this becomes a global movement and the politicians respond to the pressure. And lastly, financially help the organizations that are working on this. World Sikh Parliament is not collecting any funds, we are routing our funds through other organizations.

Is it the end of the line for Sikhs in Afghanistan?

Sadly, that’s the case. It is too small a minority, unable to defend itself, and politically inconsequential. I’d still like to be able to help them get out, instead of having more killed.

Have you personally met any of the Afghan Sikhs who moved to Canada? What was your impression?

Yes. Good folk, grateful to be in Canada. They will make good Citizens of Canada. And they are our brothers, there’s an instant kinship when you meet them.

By Asia Samachar TeamBRITAIN |
Afghan Sikhs and military service: A 1973 photo capturing the first ever Sikh doctor from Jalalabad. Prof Dr Bhagat Singh Hakimzada (left hand side) and Prof Dr Saran Singh Motizada (slightly on the right hand side) in military uniforms. Both graduated in 1972 and went for military service which was compulsory for every Afghan male from the age of 22. It was a one year service for postgraduates upon their graduation, and two years for the rest. In early 1970s, after military service, every post graduate was granted permission to wear military uniform on some special occasions. Sikhs would wear especially on Nagar Keertan (Sikh religious procession). – Photo & Information courtesy of Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana

As you read this article, the fate of Sikhs and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan stand in the balance.

The 25 March attack on the gurdwara in Kabul may just the defining marker for the end of the long and cherished history of Sikhs in this part of the world. In that attack, 25 men, women and a child, were brutally murdered by gunmen.

The ISIS/Daesh have claimed responsibility. It was an attack with a simple purpose: wiping out the so-deemed ‘infidel’ community out of Afghanistan.

“Their politics is horrendous. Sikhs are but a small pawn in this whole scenario. In fact, Sikhs are not even a player in this whole thing. They are too small, too insignificant,” Inderjeet Singh, author of the Afghan Hindus & Sikhs – History of a Thousand Years, told Asia Samachar.

“It will be a feather in their cap if they can chase Sikhs out of the country. They will consider it a victory,” he said.

Here are excerpt of the interview with the author of the first English book on Afghan Sikhs.

What was the first thing that ran through your mind when you heard about the Kabul attack?

The possibility of something like this happening was always at the back of my mind. So, when it came, I felt sad, but not shocked. If you follow the series of previous bombings, you knew that the Kabul Sanggat were sitting in a precarious area.

Many Sikhs may not have ground knowledge of those incidents. Some may think this only happening onto Sikhs. Not at all. Taliban has blasted a lot of bombs to gain an upper hand in the negotiations with the US. People condemn the killing, but no one condemns the killers. We are talking about people in Afghanistan.

Their politics is horrendous. Sikhs are but a small pawn in this whole scenario. In fact, Sikhs are not even a player in this whole thing. They are too small, too insignificant.

It will be a feather in their cap if they can send Sikhs out of the country. They will consider it a victory.

The ISIS/Daesh has claimed the responsibility for the attack. If Sikhs are small and an insignificant minority, why the attacks upon them?

Their ideology includes the killing for kafirs/infidels, including Sikhs. Some may not know that ISIS include Shia Muslims in their list of infidel community who should either be brought into Islam (strict form of Sunnism, their interpretation of Islam) or be killed. ISIS has declared an unofficial war against Shias in Afghanistan. Their places of worship, weddings, tuition centre and any gatherings have been targeted numerous times in past five years. Sikhs are also infidels in their eyes. This is a continuation of their war on infidels. The whole world knows of the carnage they unleashed on the Yazidis.

ISIS have claimed that this is their ‘revenge for Kashmir’. What are your thoughts on that.

It is a human tendency to justify their actions. Sikhs were targeted and killed on 1st July 2018 in Jalalabad when there was no Kashmir issue or the Delhi riots. Sikhs are a small minority in India and recently it was well recorded that during recent Delhi riots, on number of instances, Sikhs had saved Muslims from the rioting crowd.

Washington Post reported that one of the terrorists who attacked the Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib at Kabul was an Indian Muslim from Kerala. Indians know the difference between Sikhs and Hindus. The first person these terrorists killed was an Afghan Sunni Muslim security guard outside the Gurdwara Sahib. ISIS will kill anyone who comes in the way to creating their so called ‘Islamic Caliphate’.

Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib, Kabul, attacked on 25 March 2020, killing 25 people

What is the solution to this problem?

ISIS will not come to a negotiating table. They are the closest thing we have to pure evil on this earth. Their propaganda videos were so powerful that many Muslim youngsters in the West left their homes to join ISIS in Syria. Where is the counter narrative? It must come from Sunni Muslims clergy. Every ISIS terrorist believe that he will get ‘martyrdom’ after killing infidels and get 72 hoors (virgins) in next world. The Islamic Hadith clearly states that killing a human is a sin and non-Islamic population should be treated as dhimmis. We have lost the propaganda war. Where is the counter narrative? Where are the videos from intelligent Sunni Muslim clergy who can refute ISIS and related organisations interpretation of Islam? Unless you defeat this evil ideology, we can’t win over them. The world must work together to combat this wickedness. They are a threat to world peace and humanity.

At this juncture, what is is the future of Sikhs in Afghanistan?

Very bleak. There are about 800-850 Sikhs in Afghanistan and they are ethnically Afghan, but most Afghans refute it. There are many are widows with children who have never left their houses (which is Gurdwara). Who will provide shelter and food? In India they will be relatively safe, but the state does not provide welfare. The Sikh community need to set up an organisation with proper planning, funding to decide for their food, shelter and schooling for children. There is a cost to this. Some may be able to migrate to Canada. At this juncture, they have officially made a request to the Indian authorities to allow them to seek refuge in India.

Tell us more about the gurdwara that was attacked?

Guru Har Rai Sahib (1644-61), the seventh Sikh Guru, had sent Bhai Gonda to Kabul to preach Sikhi. He built a Dharamsaal (earlier name for gurdwaras) at that time. This Gurdwara Sahib was taken over by Ahmed Shah Masood in the early 1990s as it was the strongest structure in the area, and it became his base where he attacked and defended from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Gurdwara Sahib was very badly damaged. The Taliban was removed in October 2001. In the subsequent years, resilient Afghan Sikhs abroad provided funds and the Gurdwara Sahib was renovated again by 2014. It houses 150 Afghan Sikhs who have lost their homes during the 1980s and the early 90s to the war and illegal occupation by powerful neighbours or warlords.

AFGHAN SIKHS DOCTORS FROM NANGARHAR PROVINCE: (L-R) Dr Nirmal Singh Nagpal, Dr Tara Singh Wadhwa, Late Dr Raghbir Singh Bir, Dr Kulbir Singh Darwesh, Dr Saran Singh Hakimzada and Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana Ji. They graduated with Mds from Medical College of Nangarhar University, Jalalabad, in the 1970s. This photo was taken in London in 2015. Dr Khurana is writing biographies of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus doctors which should be published in a few months.

Tell us about the history of Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Guru Nanak visited this part of the world in the first decade of the 16th century. We have historical Gurdwaras and places in Kabul, Jalalabad, Sultanpur, Kandahar and in other cities. His son, Baba Sri Chand, who started the Udasi sect has also visited Afghanistan and we have Gurdwaras commemorating his visit in Kabul and Kandahar. Bhai Nand Lal, a close Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh (1675 – 1708), whose Persian verses are sung by Sikhs in Gurdwara Sahibs with great devotion, was born in Ghazni. We have a Gurdwara Sahib there as well. During the 1980s, as per the Afghan authorities, the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were close to three lakhs (300,000). As a Sikh, I would not like my historical heritage to be abandoned but security is a huge issue. We can leave few caretakers and rest if, they wish, could migrate to safer countries.

Is there a hope for peace, with Taliban – USA deal? What does it means for minorities?

It all depends if the Taliban is able to control ISIS? If not, then you will continue to have attacks on minorities. Taliban was particularly harsh on women during their rule from 1996-2001 and women parliamentarians are genuinely worried. Sikhs found a way to deal and live under Taliban by giving them a payment (perhaps Jaziya). Everyone is concerned living under their rule. Personally, I was really disgusted when over the past 18-24 months Taliban attacks have resulted in the killings of many innocent (Sunni) Muslims civilians, just to have better negotiating power with USA. This is not a trait of an organisation that wants to rule the country. The Afghan media in the country and Europe condemn the killings but not the killer.

How do local Afghans treat Sikhs?

The 40 years of civil war have made Afghans bitter and in some cases, more fundamentalist. Sikh boys are bullied in school. At times, they are taunted and asked to convert. Their houses have been illegally captured by warlords and powerful neighbours during the Mujahideen era. They are mostly living in Gurdwara Sahib. The regime is sympathetic to Sikhs and has allotted 5 million for repair of Gurdwaras and Temple. The government is currently renovating the premises of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Jalalabad but no government has done anything to free the illegal occupation of the houses of Afghan Sikhs in Kabul.

I personally know Afghan Sikhs who lived during 1960s to 1992 and they all state that Afghans would treat them very tolerably. Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana, a former Member of Afghan Grand Assembly (1990-92), has compiled a short biography of some 40 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus doctors and physicians. Some 90% of the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus left the country in 1992 just before Mujahedeen captured the last bastion, Kabul city. Sadly those days are gone now and may never return. I feel privileged that I am the first person to write their rich history in English.

Source: Asia Samachar

ANGUISHED: A child after the attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Shor Bazaar, Kabul, on 25 March 2020 – Photo: Reuters
A Sikh organisation har urged the Canadian government to absorb the last remaining Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan after the latest terror attack upon a Sikh gurdwara in central Kabul on Wednesday that killed 25 men, women and children.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino to highlight the desperate plight of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

It highlighted the need for a direct sponsorship program to get them out safely before more die at the hands of ISIS.

For many amongst the 2,000 odd Sikhs and Hindus, the senseless attack upon the Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Shor Bazaar was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back as far as their dreams of continuing to live in Afghanistan. The gunmen stormed the gurdwara, shot discriminately and held 80 hostages.

After the first attack on 25 March, the next day, an explosive went off just outside the crematorium as the Sikhs were cremating their dead. And the next day, yet another attack.

In a tweet yesterday, US-based Sikh activist Harinder Singh from Sikhri noted: “3rd attack in 3 days on Sikh-Afghanis. Kabul Gurduara President Gurnam Singh: Sikhs must stay at home in Kabul … Attacks happening while 200 policemen are present … Sikhs are finished in Afghanistan … Appeals globally for immediate help & intervention. #SaveAfghanSikhs”

Indeed, the plight of the small band of Sikhs – born and bred in the Afghanistan – is probably at the end of the line.

“Without internal flight options, or prospects of meaningful integration in neighbouring countries, international resettlement has become the only viable solution for Afghan Sikh and Hindu asylum seekers,” WSO Canada said in a statement the day after the incident.

The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack on the group’s Amaq media arm, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant postings and groups. The gunmen was identified as Indian national Abu Khalid al-Hindi, AP report.

In the past, Canada has opened its border to the needy citizens of the world. In December 2015, the first of many government-arranged flights arrived with Syrian refugees. From then till February 2016, slightly more than 26,000 Syrian refugees were resettled in Canada, under the government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the statement, WSO Canada said: “Kabul is home to the last remaining Sikhs in Afghanistan. Sikh and Hindu Afghans currently face a difficult, if not unliveable, situation in many parts of Afghanistan. The Sikh and Hindu communities that have lived in Afghanistan for hundreds of years now number approximately 1,000. Prior to 1992, their population numbered over 200,000, however due to persecution and discrimination, most have been forced to flee to other countries. The Afghan Sikh and Hindus remaining in Afghanistan are the most vulnerable who do not have the resources or ability to relocate.”

The WSO said it, along with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation and the Canadian Sikh community, have consistently called for measures to address the plight of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, as Afghan authorities have been unable to offer meaningful protection of their basic human rights.

It said it continues to assist the efforts to resettle some of these Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada, which were begun by Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar before his tragic death in 2015. While 15 refugee families have now settled in Canada, many others continue to await the processing of their files.

WSO president Tejinder Singh Sidhu said, the attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai and the brutal murder of so many Sikhs was a horrific act of terror, but sadly not one that was unexpected.

The Sikhs of Afghanistan are a persecuted minority that has been subject to ethnic cleansing for many years, the World Sikh Parliament (WSP) said in a statement after the attack.

In the early 1990s there were as many as 200,000 Sikhs spread across Afghanistan, but as a result of over 30 years of unabated attacks, the community has been reduced to under 300 families.

After the July 2018 incident when at least 10 Sikhs were killed in a targeted suicide bombing in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, WSP noted that the Canadian Sikh community again lobbied hard for the Canadian government to step-in and help bring these people to safety.

“Unfortunately the disappointing response from our elected officials was that there was no proof that the attack was ethnically motivated, despite the fact that Sikhs were primarily killed in the attack – and the Canadian government did not act, despite the pleas of Sikh Canadians. Since then, Sikhs have continued to be attacked, kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan,” it said.