Two years after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the last remaining Hindus and Sikhs in the nation continue to face severe religious persecution as the Taliban imposes strict Islamic laws (Sharia). While the country’s last Jew escaped soon after the fall of Kabul, only a few Sikh and Hindu families continue to live under the Islamic regime.
Fari Kaur, one of the last remaining Sikhs in the capital, Kabul stated, “I cannot go anywhere freely.” She made reference to the Taliban’s directive that all women must wear the all-encompassing burqa or niqab when they are outside. “When I go out, I’m forced to dress like a Muslim so that I can’t be identified as a Sikh,” she said. Essentially, Fari Kaur said that she has to wear a full burqa when she goes out in public so she is unrecognisable as a ‘Sikh’.
A suicide attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad in 2018 that targeted Sikhs and Hindus resulted in the demise of her father. According to accounts, up to 1,500 Sikhs, including Kaur’s mother and sisters left Afghanistan as a result of the incident. However, she was unwilling to leave and remained in Kabul to complete her education which was her father’s dream.
When Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) terrorists attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul in March 2020, twenty-five worshippers were massacred. Most of the minority’s survivors departed the country after the brutal episode. Fari Kaur continued to stay there, but now, more than two years after the Taliban seized power, she noted that the lack of religious freedom imposed by the Islamic regime forced her to look for asylum abroad.
Kaur revealed, “We have not celebrated our key festivals since the Taliban returned to power. We have very few community members left behind in Afghanistan. We cannot even look after our temples.”
There were around 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan in the 1980s. However, many were driven out by the war that started in 1979 and the escalating persecution. The Taliban and rival Islamist organisations vowed to defend minorities throughout the civil war in the 1990s, but many Sikhs and Hindus came to India after their homes and businesses were lost.
When the Taliban initially came to power between 1996 to 2001, they proclaimed that all Sikhs and Hindus in the nation would have to wear yellow badges which sparked outrage around the world. They were forbidden from constructing new temples and were also required to pay a specific tax known as jaziya which was historically levied on non-Muslim subjects by Muslim monarchs.
However, the minorities were provided with the same rights as other Afghan nationals after the United States-led invasion in 2001 and they also received seats in the country’s parliament.
The Taliban made an effort to allay the concerns of Afghans who were not Muslims after gaining authority for the second time. Their members visited Sikh and Hindu temples in an effort to try and reassure those who managed to survive in the communities of their commitment to their safety and well-being. However, the harsh constraints on them have compelled many to leave their country of origin.
Many of the Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan who have emigrated to India now live in abject poverty. Chabul Singh, a 57-year-old Sikh man who left his homeland with his wife and two sons some years ago said, “We abandoned our country out of extreme desperation.” The family currently resides outside of New Delhi, where he and his kids work odd jobs to make ends meet.
Singh said, “In Afghanistan, our distinctive turbans gave us away, and we were killed both by the Taliban and Daesh (Arabic moniker of IS-K).”
The situation for religious minorities in Afghanistan, including Hindus and Sikhs has deteriorated under the Taliban government, according to Niala Mohammad, director of policy and strategy at the nonprofit Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington. She was earlier the South Asia analyst for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
She voiced, “The situation continues to deteriorate as political extremist factions that claim to represent Islam, such as the Taliban, ascend to power in the region. This exodus of diverse religious groups has left a void in the country’s social fabric.”
Afghanistan has world’s second most displaced population
According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Afghanistan currently has an astonishing 6.55 million internally displaced people (IDPs) placing it second behind Syria when it comes to displaced population.
As of December 31, 2022, there are about 4.39 million people who have been forced to escape because of conflict and violence, compared to 2.16 million people who have been relocated because of natural disasters.
The research also issued caution over the probable increase in worldwide displacement during the following 30 years. Additionally, Afghan people have been leaving their homes because of poverty, insecurity and turmoil in the country.
Source : Op India