Afghan Sikhs and Hindus Considering Immigration Following Deadly Attack on Sikh Temple in Kabul

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus Considering Immigration Following Deadly Attack on Sikh Temple in Kabul

In March 2020, a militant attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul’s Shor Bazar Gurdwara area killed 25 people, leaving those in the already-dwindling Hindu and Sikh communities concerned for their safety. Since then, many have immigrated to other countries, including India and Canada. By September 2020, a community of over 250,000 had shrunk to less than 700 as Sikhs and Hindus fled violence and discrimination.

The Islamic State terror group later took credit for the March 25 attack, but discrimination against religious minorities in Afghanistan predates the group’s founding in 1999. In the 1990s, the Taliban ordered Sikhs and Hindus to identify themselves with yellow armbands, although this policy was eventually left unenforced after a global backlash. Some Sikhs also reported their homes, businesses, and other property were illegally seized and could not be reclaimed, while multiple Hindu temples were destroyed in battles between warlords.

Violence has continued in recent years, with the Islamic State also carrying out an attack in Jalalabad in March of 2018 that killed 19 people, most of them Sikhs.

Deepak Ahluwalia, a California-based immigration attorney and Sikh rights activist, said that he believes Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan “face religious persecution and are being threatened with genocide.”

Zabihullah Farhang, a spokesperson for Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), noted that Hindus and Sikhs “face a lot of discrimination in the public places, with their children in schools, with employment and work opportunities.”

Although the Afghanistan government has taken steps to address discrimination and violence, many have noted that these efforts are largely symbolic. One Washington, DC, civil rights attorney says that the country’s Constitution only allows Muslims to run for president and that Sikhs and Hindus face judicial bias, illegal property seizure, and difficulties in performing basic religious rituals.

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