‘Everyone is scared’: Sikhs in Afghanistan terrified of life under Taliban rule, Island residents aim to help

'Everyone is scared': Sikhs in Afghanistan terrified of life under Taliban rule, Island residents aim to help
Watch Sikhs in Afghanistan say they feel scared, Islanders pushing to help protect them. Tahmina Aziz has more.

Streets in Kabul appear deserted as many are staying in their homes or places of refuge including one of the most vulnerable groups, the Sikhs.

Currently, about 300 are gathered in a Gurdwara, their place of worship, in Kabul, including women and children who are fearing for their lives.

Here on Vancouver Island, many are demanding action from the federal government, including Jindi Singh, the national director of Khalsa Aid Canada.

“We’re completely kind of frustrated and scared about what’s happening,” he said.

“The Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan have been there for hundreds of hundreds of years. They are Afghans. So, even for them to be thinking of having to leave and it is just the last few of them left is heart-wrenching for them,” he explained.

Singh said the group’s escape is only minutes away, but the situation on the ground is chaotic.

“They said it’s a 20-minute ride from the Gurdwara to the airport, but it’s probably the most dangerous 20 minute right in the world right now. The various checkpoints and crowds that are trying to get into the airport,” he said.

An Afghan Sikh in Kabul, who is hiding his identity over fears of safety for himself and his family, said everyone at home is scared.

“Things are getting worse here. Everyone is scared. We see … the Taliban [all over]. Everyone is stuck in their house, especially Sikh people,” he said.

He was told by the Taliban that they don’t want them to leave and have promised their safety, but the group is reluctant to believe them.

The Taliban have taken over national media outlets and are spreading a message they’ve changed, but not everyone buys it, including Ahmad Rashid Salim, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I don’t believe in the words of the Taliban and I can definitely understand that Sikhs in Afghanistan. They’re fearful. They’re afraid because this is their lived experience. They know the reality and the brutality of the Taliban rule,” said Salim, who researches and teaches on topics in the fields of Islamic studies, Farsi literature, and Afghanistan.

He explained that the Sikhs in Afghanistan lived in the country peacefully alongside other faiths for hundreds of years until the Taliban took over in the 1990s, where they’ve tried to destroy Afghanistan’s rich history and diversity.

Salim said the Taliban are just waiting to do it again.

‘They know that sooner or later, the issue of Afghanistan is going to become old news and the international media and community is going to turn the page. And I think, unfortunately, that moment is when the Taliban will fully display their true colours and the terror will once again reign over Afghanistan.”

In the meantime, Jindi Singh said there are many efforts being made locally and across Canada to help the group flee to a safe place.

He and his group are reaching out and speaking to politicians, pressuring them to protect the Sikh community in Afghanistan.

Another group launched Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace (CCAP) this week calling on the Canadian government to expand its Afghan resettlement program, provide immediate humanitarian aid, engage in diplomacy through international forums and advocate for the rights of girls, women, ethnic and religious minorities.

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Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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