Sikhs are finished in Afghanistan

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.

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ANGUISHED: A child after the attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Shor Bazaar, Kabul, on 25 March 2020 – Photo: Reuters
By Asia Samachar Team | CANADA |

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.

 

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