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ACCORD - Austrian Center for Country of Origin & Asylum Research and Documentation

July 17, 2018

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Size of the Sikh community

In its May 2018 report on religious freedom in 2017, the US Department of State (USDOS) mentions that of the estimated 34.1 million inhabitants of Afghanistan, non-Sunnis and non-Shiites are less than 0.3 percent of whom it is estimated that around 1,300 people are Sikhs or Hindus:

"The U.S. government estimates the total population at 34.1 million (July 2017 estimate). […] Other religious groups, mainly Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, and Christians, constitute less than 0.3 percent of the population. Sikh and Hindu leaders estimate there are 245 Sikh and Hindu families totaling 1,300 individuals in the country. ” (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section I)

The Afghan news channel Tolo News reported in June 2016 that the number of Hindus and Sikhs had fallen from 220,000 in the 1980s to 15,000 in the 1990s, down to 1,350 in 2016:

"An investigation by Tolo News reveals that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980's. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahideen was in power during the 1990's and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country. " (Tolo News, June 20, 2016)

The Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera, based in Doha, Qatar, estimates the Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan at 50,000 people in the 1970s. Regarding the current situation, Al Jazeera writes that there were 102 Sikh families in Kabul, while in regions once settled by Sikhs and Hindus, such as Jalalabad and Kandahar, only a few dozen families remained:

"Official census figures do not exist, but according to Rawali Singh, deputy head of the Afghanistan Sikh and Hindu Community Council, about 40 years ago, an estimated 50,000 Sikh and Hindu families lived in Afghanistan. That number has shrunk to around 363 families, the vast majority of whom are Sikhs, and has steadily declined in recent years, largely due to persistent social discrimination and prejudice. In Kabul, only 102 Sikh families remained, said Rawali, and in the past year alone, more than 150 families have left Afghanistan. In other areas of the country, such as Jalalabad and Kandahar, where Afghan Sikhs once lived in large numbers, at most only a few dozen families remain. "(Al Jazeera, January 9, 2016)

In an article from January 2017, Al Jazeera reports that around 3,000 Hindus and Sikhs lived in the provinces of Kabul, Nangarhar and Ghazni:

“'There is a place in Jalalabad where it is believed Guru Nanak visited in the 15th century and is very sacred to the Sikhs in Afghanistan,' says Rawail Singh, an Afghan Sikh civil rights activist, adding that Jalalabad, to the east of Kabul , continues to have a substantial Sikh population. […] ‘It is estimated that Hindus and Sikhs make up around 3,000 Afghans scattered across provinces of Kabul, Nangarhar and Ghazni’ says Singh. " (Al Jazeera, January 1, 2017)

Legal situation and treatment by state actors

The USDOS writes in the report cited above that according to the Afghan constitution, people with a belief other than Islam are free to practice their beliefs within the legal framework:

"The constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but stipulates followers of religions other than Islam are free to exercise their faith within the limits of the law." (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Executive Summary)

The USDOS also writes that Hindu and Sikh groups have reported that they have been able to build places of worship and train other Hindus and Sikhs to be clergy, but that the law criminalizes conversion and the government still does not prosecute them have allowed:

"Hindu and Sikh groups reported they remained free to build places of worship and to train other Hindus and Sikhs to become clergy, but per the law punishing conversion, the government continued not to allow them to proselytize." (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section II)

The independent Kabul-based non-profit research institute Poresh Research and Studies Organization (PRSO) wrote in November 2016 that the constitution contained many articles that would discriminate against Hindus and Sikhs. Article 3 states that no law should contradict Islam. Article 35 demands that the statutes of political parties conform to the principles of Islam. Article 62 also states that the head of state must be a Muslim:

"The current Constitution contains many articles that are discriminatory towards Hindus and Sikhs. Article 3 states that no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, while Article 35 states that the manifesto and charter of political parties should be consistent with the principles of Islam. Further, article 62 restricts the political participation of non-Muslim Afghan citizens, stipulating that any head of state must be Muslim. […] ”(PRSO, November 19, 2016, p.6)

Al Jazeera wrote in an article that Afghanistan's Minister of Culture and Information agreed that minorities had been treated unfairly, but that the government was taking the necessary steps to address the issue. According to Ehsan Shayegan, a researcher at the Poresh Research and Studies Organization, the problem lies in the constitution, passed in 2001, which does not support a pluralistic democratic system, e.g. by excluding non-Muslims from the presidency in Article 62. While Article 22 of the Constitution guarantees the equality of all citizens before the law, it contradicts itself by excluding part of the population in Article 62:

"Kamal Sadat, Afghanistan’s minister of culture and information, agrees that the treatment of the minority groups hasn’t been fair, but says the government is taking necessary steps to address the matter. ‘It is indeed tragic how our Hindu and Sikh brothers have been treated over the years. They’re an integral part of our history and community, and we are working to improve their conditions, ’he told Al Jazeera, adding that the government was looking into all allegations of land grabbing made by Sikhs and Hindus.

The problem, however, lies in the inadequate systems and institutions that were brought in place post-2001, according to [Ehsan] Shayegan [an Afghan researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization]. ‘Our new constitution was drafted to imitate some of the best model constitutions of the world, but they are still inadequate when it comes to supporting a pluralistic system of democracy’ he says. He notes, for example, the example of Article 62 that prohibits non-Muslim Afghans from becoming president of the country. ‘The constitution guarantees equal rights to all Afghan citizens in Article 22 and then contradicts itself in Article 62 by excluding a section of the population’ Shayegan points out. " (Al Jazeera, January 1, 2017)

Regarding the trials of Sikhs and Hindus, the USDOS reports that many Hindus and Sikhs avoid going to court for fear of retaliation and prefer to resolve conflicts through community meetings or mediation. According to representatives of religious minorities, non-Muslims would not be accorded the same rights by the courts as Muslims:

"According to the Hindu and Sikh communities, their members continued to avoid settling disputes in the courts due to fear of retaliation and instead settled disputes through community councils or mediation. Representatives of minority religious groups reported a continued failure by the courts to grant non-Muslims the same rights as Muslims. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section II)

The leaders of both Hindu and Sikh communities have continued to complain of discrimination, including severe delays in the judicial system, the USDOS said. The illegal appropriation of Sikh property remained the most common legal problem:

"Leaders of both Hindu and Sikh communities continued to report discrimination, including long delays to resolve cases in the judicial system. The illegal appropriation of Sikh properties remained the most common judicial problem." (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section II)

Regarding Sikhs' burial rites, USDOS reports that while the government provided land for the cremation of deceased Sikhs, Sikh religious leaders indicated that the distance from urban areas and the unsafe region of that land remained would render useless. According to the USDOS, Hindus and Sikhs have continued to complain of interference from local residents during their cremation rites. In response, the government provided police support work to protect Sikh and Hindu communities during their cremation rituals. The government promised to build modern crematoriums for the Sikh and Hindu population:

“Although the government had provided land to use as cremation sites, Sikh leaders stated the distance from any major urban area and the lack of security in the region continued to make the land unusable. Hindus and Sikhs reported continued interference in their efforts to cremate the remains of their dead from individuals who lived near the cremation sites. In response, the government continued to provide police support to protect the Sikh and Hindu communities while they performed their cremation rituals. The government promised to construct modern crematories for the Sikh and Hindu populations. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section II)

The USDOS also reports that the falling numbers of Sikhs, Hindus and other religious minorities have few places of worship available. According to the Council of Sikhs and Hindus, there were twelve Sikh temples and two Hindu temples during the 2017 reporting period. In comparison, there would have been a total of 64 in the past:

"According to minority religious leaders, the decreasing numbers of Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious minorities had only a few places of worship. According to the Sikh and Hindu Council, which advocates with the government on behalf of the Sikh and Hindu communities, there were 12 gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and 2 mandus (Hindu temples) remaining in the country, compared with a combined total of 64 in the past. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section III)

Parliamentary participation

The Afghan news channel TOLO News reported in an article from June 2018 that Awtar Singh (other transcription: Otar Singh) would represent the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities in the upcoming elections. He stated that the majority of the members of the two communities had registered for the elections. According to the article, the two communities are entitled to a seat in the 249-seat parliamentary lower house (Afghan Wolesi Jirga). According to the independent electoral commission, over 600 Sikhs and Hindus had registered for the elections as of June 2018:

“Otar Singh, who will represent the Afghan Sikh and Hindu community in the elections, has said the majority of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan have registered to vote in the upcoming elections. He said that over 200 Sikh and Hindu families live across Afghanistan. [...] The Afghan Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, has 249 seats and the Hindu and Sikh community have one seat. According to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), until now, over 600 Sikhs and Hindus have registered to vote in the elections. " (Tolo News, June 5, 2018)

Harassment, access to the education system and the labor market

The USDOS writes on the subject of harassment in everyday life that Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities are confronted with discrimination and insults on the part of Muslims, although it is possible for Hindus and Sikhs to practice their religion publicly. Members of the Hindu community reported that the level of harassment towards them was lower than that of the harassment towards the Sikh communities, which they attributed to the lack of distinctive headgear on the male relatives:

"Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, and other non-Muslim minorities reported continued harassment from Muslims, although Hindus and Sikhs stated they continued to be able to publicly practice their religions. Members of the Hindu community continued to report they faced fewer incidents of harassment than Sikhs, which they ascribed to their lack of a distinctive male headdress. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section III)

USDOS reports that members from Hindu and Sikh communities continued to refuse to send their children to public schools due to harassment from other students. In the past they took them to private Hindu and Sikh schools, of which, however, due to the dwindling number of Hindus and Sikhs and their financially limited resources, there were few:

"According to members of the Sikh and Hindu communities, they continued to refuse to send their children to public schools due to harassment from other students, although there were only a few private school options available to them due to the decreasing sizes of the two communities and their members' declining economic circumstances. The Sikh and Hindu Council reported one school in Nangarhar and two schools in Kabul remained operational. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section III)

The USDOS also states that leading figures in the Sikh community see the lack of job opportunities as the main reason for the emigration of Hindus and Sikhs. They also stated that illiteracy was an inhibitor of access to the labor market. According to the Sikh and Hindu communities, economic conditions would worsen with increasing emigration, while at the same time security concerns among members of the two religious communities would increase:

"Sikh leaders reported the main cause of Hindu and Sikh emigration remained a lack of employment opportunities; they said one factor impeding their access to employment was illiteracy. Both communities stated emigration would continue to increase as economic conditions worsened and security concerns increased. " (USDOS, May 29, Section III)

The UK Home Office cites a February 2015 report by Afghanistani scientist Antonio Giustozzi that Sikhs were only employed by traders and artisans who were also part of the Sikh community. However, that does not make the job search easier either, since relatives are preferred:

"In his report of February 2015, Dr. Antonio Giustozzi stated: Nobody apart from a Sikh trader or craftsman would employ any of them [i.e. members of the Sikh community] and even that would be difficult as Sikhs would prioritize their own relatives for hiring. ’” (UK Home Office, February 2017, p.24)

Security situation of the Sikh community

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is an agency of the European Union that aims to promote practical cooperation between the member states in the field of asylum and supports the member states, among other things, by researching country of origin information and publications. In the EASO decision-making guidelines on the country of origin Afghanistan, published in June 2018, there is a summary of information on the religious minorities of the Hindus and Sikhs, from which it emerges that members of these minorities are recognized as citizens of equal value to Muslims in accordance with the constitution and the laws of Afghanistan. There is no information about ill-treatment by the state or by insurgent groups. Members of the mentioned minorities are sometimes employed in government offices. In Afghanistan, however, they are exposed to social discrimination, harassment and, in some cases, social violence:

“Under the Constitution and laws, Hindus and Sikhs are recognized and protected as equal citizens with Muslims. There is no information of mistreatment by the state or by insurgent groups. Members of these minority communities sometimes serve in the government. Hindus and Sikhs have encountered societal discrimination, harassment and some reported instances of societal violence in Afghanistan. ” (EASO, June 2018, p.62)

Friederike Stahlmann, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), wrote the following in an article for the asylum magazine of the Informationsverbund Asyl & Migration from March 2017 on the legitimation of discrimination against Hindus and Sikhs:

“This amalgamation of ethnic-racist, religious and political front lines is part of a long-standing hate propaganda that declares individual groups to be political enemies, thus provoking and legitimizing attacks in everyday life and allowing everyday violence between groups and against minorities to escalate. A similar pattern can be found in the threats faced by Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. They, too, are not only persecuted as a religious minority, but as alleged “Indians” also as “illegitimate foreigners” and as enemies of all those who are politically close to Pakistan, which is hostile to India. Here, too, the current escalation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is reflected in the increasing rapprochement between Afghanistan and India in an increase in everyday attacks. In practical terms, this not only means, for example, that the state had to set up a primary school for Sikhs in response to international pressure, because their children in regular schools were too often severely abused by their classmates. In the meantime it also means that many Sikh parents no longer dare to bring their children to this school because the way to school is too great a safety risk. "(Stahlmann, March 2017, p.84)

The author writes about attacks on Sikhs in everyday life and their reporting:

“The danger posed by this type of complex enemy image is not only evident in the comparatively well-documented victims of large-scale attacks in Kabul. The regular attacks in everyday life, on the way to work, while shopping, in the hammam or at school attract much less statistical and media attention. Even fatal attacks on members of ethnic or religious minorities or on returnees from Iran or Europe have become commonplace. Friends from Afghanistan tell me about such attacks almost every day. With regard to the media, however, the low level of interest in the everyday leads to systematic under-reporting. For the victims, on the other hand, publication and reporting only make sense if they can hope to find protection from the respective security organs. This is unlikely for local minorities, not only because of the racism in the state institutions. It is also because z. B. the police usually does not take on any protective function inside, but is used almost exclusively for external security. Relative protection exists only for those who belong to the local majority population, if this also constitutes the ruling elite and can thus offer a certain degree of deterrence locally. The increasing ethnic segregation in cities like Kabul is a consequence of this. Another is that those who are persecuted or threatened cannot find refuge in areas that are dominated by a foreign majority. "(Stahlmann, March 2017, p.84)

Stahlmann reports on the role that economic power plays in the context of discrimination and impunity:

“One consequence of the lack of social control is that crime is not sanctioned in everyday life, even with private actors, as long as there is only the presumption that the perpetrator has connections or resources that could protect him from being sanctioned. Victims can thus be found nationwide and in all social classes, but especially among those who are known to have no influential contacts who could help to defend themselves or to defend their rights. This applies to local minorities like Pashtuns under Hazara in Bamyan or Sikhs in Kabul. "(Stahlmann, March 2017, p.86)

Stahlmann wrote the following about the high level of arbitrary violence in the country in an expert report on Afghanistan published in March 2018, with reference to various sources (Rana / Times of India October 3, 2015, Shalizi / Reuters June 22, 2016, Singh April 26, 2017):

“On the one hand, [arbitrary violence] harbors the specific risk that minorities along ethnic, religious or partisan lines of conflict will be denied protection by security forces or that they will be explicitly persecuted. Prominent examples of this would be Hindus and Sikhs, who are known to have no powerful political or military representation and are therefore exposed to all forms of crime and religiously and politically motivated attacks everywhere in the country. "(Stahlmann, March 28, 2018, P.119)

Stahlmann quotes a statement by the Vice President of the Afghan Sikhs:

“Rawail Singh, the vice president of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu community, emphasizes the dangers that this lack of political protection means for attempting to report assaults and acts of persecution: 'The experience of the last years [...] taught us that seeking help from the police in cases of threats, assaults and even murder is not only in vain but also dangerous. As Sikhs and Hindus, we not only face the usual problem of corruption. It is also well known among state officials, that we do not enjoy the powerful high-ranking support one would need to pursue one’s claims and defend one’s rights. We also had to learn that we are dismissed and discriminated against on religious and political grounds by state officials. Where we tried to seek help in situations of immediate danger, we were told to go 'where we came from', that 'kafirs' had no rights in a Muslim country and should be grateful to be alive, and members of our community have been beaten up and threatened with further violence by state officials. '”(Singh, April 26, 2017, quoted in Stahlmann, March 28, 2018, p.191)

In a decision of the Federal Administrative Court of June 15, 2018, an expert opinion by the regional expert Dr. Sarajuddin Rasuly of November 2016 quoted on the general situation of the Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, which among other things contains the following paragraph on the security situation:

"According to my telephone information from Afghanistan, the Sikhs are not attacked by the Taliban as a target group on their travel routes, but the new terror group, namely Daesh, kill the Sikhs, including their wives and children, if they catch them on the main roads." (BVwG , June 15, 2018)

An article by the international news agency Reuters from June 2016 contained a statement by Awtar Singh, chairman of the National Council of Hindus and Sikhs, on the situation of the two communities in Afghanistan. Singh notes that the situation of the Hindus and Sikhs has worsened compared to earlier times when they were treated as Afghans rather than outsiders. Your country has been taken by powerful members of the government, especially warlords. They face threats and the already small Sikh and Hindu communities continue to shrink. In the previous week (June 13-19, 2016) dozens of Hindu and Sikh families had left Helmand province, where Taliban insurgents, who are present in large parts of the southern province, sent a letter in which they had sent 200,000 Afghani ($ 2,800) per month from the community requested:

"’ The good old days have long gone when we were treated as Afghans, not as outsiders, ’Avtar Singh said from a temple in Kabul, all the while keeping an eye on visitors using monitors linked to security cameras. ‘Our lands have been taken by powerful figures in the government, especially by the warlords. We are facing threats, and this small community is getting smaller and smaller every day, ’he added. Last week, dozens of Hindu and Sikh families left Helmand, where Taliban insurgents, who have a presence in much of the southern province, sent a letter demanding 200,000 Afghani ($ 2,800) a month from the community. ” (Reuters, June 23, 2016)

The article also cites a statement by Dahi-ul Haq Abid, the deputy minister for Hajj and Religious Affairs, in which he stated that the government had done its best to improve the situation of the Hindus and the Sikhs. According to the statement, he admits that the community has been driven out of the country by conflict, but says their situation is not as bad as claimed:

"Dahi-ul Haq Abid, deputy minister for Haj and religious affairs, said the government had done what it could to improve the livelihood of Hindus and Sikhs. ‘We agree that conflicts pushed them out of the country, but their condition is not as bad as they claim,’ Abid added. " (Reuters, June 23, 2016)

In an article in the Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung from November 2017, which describes the security situation of the Sikhs in Afghanistan, Awtar Singh speaks again:

“In his office behind the prayer room of the Daramsal, Avtar Singh tells his worries about the future. 'I lost two brothers myself. People pretend that the conflict between religious communities is something new. But there has always been hatred. ‘Nonetheless, Awtar Singh claims that the situation of the Hindus and Sikhs is worse than ever. 'Because many are fleeing, we become an even smaller minority. That means that we are even less important in a corrupt and contested country. So fewer people are interested in our well-being and nobody cares about the protection we so badly need. ‘

It is a doom-loop. Because it is easy to deny such a small minority the legitimacy of national affiliation. After the US-led military intervention from 2001 when Hamid Karzai became president, the communities were better off. Karzai had succeeded in ensuring that minorities in Afghanistan were given permanent representation in parliament in order to represent the interests of all ethnicities and religions of the pluralistic society. With poverty and corruption, however, tensions between the various parts of society quickly returned. The Sikhs in particular were an easy target, they were and are already visually conspicuous in public life. After all, the women do not wear a veiled headscarf, whereas the men wear a turban. 'I claim that I was better off under the Taliban than I am today. Back then there was order. We paid protection money, and that was good, sagt says Awtar Singh. 'When I was threatened by a fellow citizen once during the Taliban, a young Talib stepped in. He held a rifle to the head of my potential tormentor and said: 'Leave him alone, he's an Afghan, just like you! ‘‘ "(Wiener Zeitung, November 3, 2017)

Incidents reported in the media since September 2016

The US Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE / RL) reported in an article dated July 1, 2018 about a suicide attack on the same day against a group of Hindus and Sikhs who were on their way to a scheduled meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern province of Nangarhar. 19 people were killed in the bombing, 17 of whom were Sikh and Hindu communities. According to the spokesman for the hospital in Nangarhar, at least ten of the 20 wounded, some of whom are in critical condition, are also members of this community:

"Afghan officials say at least 19 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a group of Hindus and Sikhs on their way to meet the country’s president in the eastern province on Nangarhar. Nangarhar health officials said that 17 out of 19 dead in the July 1 attack are from the minority Hindu and Sikh community. Inamullah Miakhail, spokesman for the provincial hospital in Nangarhar, said that at least 10 of the 20 wounded were also from the same minority community. They are receiving medical treatment in at a hospital in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, he added. Officials say some of the wounded are in critical condition. " (RFE / RL, July 1, 2018)

BBC reports on the same attack and writes that it occurred in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. 19 people were killed, most of whom were members of the Sikh community. In addition, Awtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate in the parliamentary elections planned for October 2018, was among those killed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not provide any evidence for it:

"A suicide bombing in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has killed at least 19 people, most of them members of the country's Sikh minority. Police said they had been traveling in a vehicle to meet President Ashraf Ghani, who is visiting Nangarhar province, when the bomber struck. Among those killed was the only Sikh candidate who had planned to contest October's parliamentary elections. The Islamic State (IS) group said it carried out the attack. […] Nangarhar health director Najibullah Kamawal told AFP news agency that 17 of the dead were Sikhs and Hindus. Another 20 people were wounded, he added. [...] IS said on its Amaq news agency that it had carried out the attack although it gave no evidence for the claim. [...] The Indian embassy in Kabul condemned the cowardly terrorist attack. It confirmed that Awtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate running in the 20October elections, was among the dead. " (BBC, July 1, 2018)

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), a London-based international network promoting free media, reported on the same event on July 5, 2018 and wrote that 17 people were killed and seven others injured in the attack. Two attack survivors quoted in the article said the group received no help immediately after the attack. One of the two said that the soldiers only watched while the victims were on fire. The other said that the police did not even allow other people to intervene to help.

Narinder Singh, the son of Awtar Singh, called on the government to conduct a detailed investigation into how a suicide bomber managed to get to the site of the attack despite numerous checkpoints and strict security measures. He said that the community had lost all of its "elders" in the attack and that they no longer had leaders in Afghanistan:

"Afghanistan’s tiny community of Hindus and Sikhs have been questioning their future in the country after a suicide attacker targeted a group of dignitaries traveling to meet President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack in which 17 people were killed and seven more injured. Among the dead was Awtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. One survivor, Gorbit Singh, said that he had been among some 25 Hindu and Sikh representatives due to meet the president at the governor’s office that morning to discuss community concerns. That meeting had been canceled, and they were asked to return at 3.30 pm. ‘When we got together once again later, we were attacked,’ he said. ‘The soldiers just watched while our friends were burning. They didn’t help us with medical evacuation. ’Another delegate, Guljit Singh, from the Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, also criticized the security services for their response. ’Our friends were in flames, but no one came to help,’ he said. 'The police did not even not allow other civilians to lend a helping hand.' Awtar Singh's son Narinder Singh called for a rigorous government investigation into how a suicide bomber had managed to reach the site of the attack despite numerous checkpoints and the tight security measures in place that day. ‘We lost all our elders in this incident, and we don’t have any leaders in Afghanistan now,’ he said, adding that if the perpetrators were not arrested, the community would launch a series of public demonstrations. ” (IWPR, July 5, 2018)

The incident is also mentioned in an article in the English-language Indian daily newspaper The Times of India (TOI) on July 3, 2018. Harnam Singh, President of the Dadami Taksal Sikh Seminar, calls on the United Nations to intervene to protect the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan and asks that the United Nations take note of the suicide bombing in Jalalabad almost the entire leadership of the Sikhs and Hindus had been killed:

"Seeking UN intervention for the security of Sikhs and Hindus living in Afghanistan, Harnam Singh, the president of prominent Sikh seminary Dadami Taksal, resented the non-granting of Indian citizenship to any Sikh or Hindu Afghan national who have been residing in India for over two decades. ‘UN should take cognizance of killing of almost entire Sikh and Hindu leadership in the suicide bombing in Jalalabad and should immediately intervene to ensure their security’ said Harnam Singh while talking to TOI on Tuesday. " (TOI, July 3, 2018)

RFE / RL reported two incidents in December 2016 in which Sikhs were killed: On December 29, 2016, Narmang Singh, a local Sikh community leader and business owner, who was also known as Dilsoz, was on his way to work in the city of Kunduz was shot. According to the police, three suspects were arrested. On September 30, 2016, a Sikh was abducted from home in Jalalabad and later shot:

"Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan have demanded authorities investigate attacks against members of their communities, after a local Sikh community leader was shot dead in the northern city of Kunduz. Narmang Singh, a shopkeeker also known as Dilsoz, was killed by gunmen on his way to work on December 29, the second deadly attack against members of the Sikh community in Afghanistan since September. [...] Police in Kunduz say three suspects were arrested in connection with Singh’s killing.

On September 30, a Sikh man was abducted from his home and shot dead by suspected militants in the eastern city of Jalalabad. The killing sparked protests by the Sikh community. " (RFE / RL, December 30, 2016)

The Indian news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) also reports on the above-mentioned murder in Jalalabad, but the source cites Saturday, October 1, 2016 as the date of the incident. The Sikh Sardar Rawail Singh, who lives in Jalalabad, was abducted from home and shot dead by fighters in military uniform in Khalis Famil in Nangarhar Province:

"A Sikh man was abducted from his home and gunned down by suspected militants in Afghanistan's restive Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, a media report said today. Sardar Rawail Singh, who lived in Jalalabad, was abducted from his house yesterday morning by militants wearing military fatigues and killed in Khalis Famil area. […] The insurgents abducted Singh from his home at about 7:20 AM (local time) yesterday and gunned him down at Khalis Famil area, provincial governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani was quoted as saying by Pajhwok Afghan News.

Rawinder, one of the protesters, said Singh had a dispute with his neighbor on Friday. Next morning, the neighbor came along with some gunmen and abducted Singh from his home before killing him, he said, adding that Singh had invited his friends for a party at his home when his neighbor objected. " (PTI, October 2, 2016)

Tolo News (Tolo News, December 29, 2016) and the Indian-based news agency Asian News International (ANI) also report on the above-mentioned murder of the leader of a Sikh community in Kunduz. According to the ANI, the Taliban are suspected of killing Lala Del Souz at the behest of Pakistan. He was on his way to his shop on December 29, 2016 when an armed man shot him. According to relatives, Del Souz was shot five years earlier and survived the attack:

"The Taliban at the behest of Pakistan is suspected to have killed Lala Del Souz, a leader of the minority Sikh community in Kunduz city of Afghanistan. Del Souz, a naturopath, was reportedly on his way to his shop in the Haji Gulistan Kochi Haman area on the morning of December 29 when gunmen fired at him. He died from his injuries while being taken to hospital. According to the relatives of the deceased, he had been shot five years ago but survived the attack. […] ”(ANI, January 2, 2017)

No further incidents could be found between September 2016 and July 2018.

Women

The expert opinion of Dr. Sarajuddin Rasuly from November 2016 contains a paragraph on the situation of Sikh women in Afghanistan:

“[Sikh women] have had to wear larger headscarves and body covering since the beginning of the rule of the fundamentalists, from 1992 to the present day, like Muslim women, and they do not go out of their homes without a male accompaniment. When they go to the traditional areas, outside of the big cities, they sometimes wear burqa so that they are not bullied and insulted. Outside the big cities, Sikhs women are obliged to follow the same strict rules as Muslim women when they appear in public. "(BVwG, June 15, 2018)

The UK Home Office cited a report by Dr. Antonio Giustozzi, dated February 28, 2015. Giustozzi writes in the report that the Sikh community feared that women wearing their Sikh clothing could be harassed because they did not comply with the strict Islamic dress code. For Sikh men nowadays it is unthinkable that a female family member is unaccompanied outside the house:

"In a report of February 2015, Dr. Antonio Giustozzi stated, ‘They [the Sikh community] fear that a woman dressed as a Sikh could be harassed because of not meeting Islamic strictures concerning the dress code. It would be unthinkable today for a Sikh man to let a female member of his family travel outside the family home alone. ’” (UK Home Office, February 2017, p.27)

An article in the English-language Indian daily Hindustan Times from August 2014 contains information on the women and children of the Sikhs. The article states that Sikh women would not go out because they would be insulted and laughed at:

“Both the minority communities have been facing discrimination at the hands of the majority Muslim community. Sikh children are not allowed to go to the schools and if they dare to, they are bullied and beaten up. Also there have been some incidents where Muslim kids have cut their hair. The Sikh women do not go out of their homes because they are insulted and laughed at. " (Hindustan Times, August 22, 2014)

The USDOS mentioned in its report that women of various religious backgrounds reported harassment by Muslim religious leaders because of their clothing. As a result, women said they continued to wear burqas in public in rural and some urban areas, including Kabul. Almost all women reported wearing some form of head covering. Some women have said that they would do this out of personal conviction. However, many have stated that they did it because of social pressure, to avoid harassment and to increase their own safety in public. The Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MOHRA) and the National Ulema Council have stated that there is no official pressure on women regarding clothing:

"Women of several different faiths, including Islam, reported harassment from local Muslim religious leaders over their attire. As a result, the women said, they continued to wear burqas in public in rural areas and in some urban areas, including Kabul. Almost all women reported wearing some form of head covering. Some women said they did so by personal choice, but many said they did so due to societal pressure and a desire to avoid harassment and increase their security in public. MOHRA and the National Ulema Council both continued to state there was no official pressure on women regarding their attire. " (USDOS, May 29, 2018, Section III)

The US State Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a state body to monitor the state of freedom of expression and conscience, as well as freedom of religion and belief abroad, writes in its April 2017 published Annual report on religious freedom (observation period January 2016 to February 2017) that women in Afghanistan were forced to wear a burqa in areas under the control of the Taliban. 7/8 In areas under government control, women are confronted with restrictions on their clothing due to social norms that are often enforced by clergy. Non-Muslim women would report feeling compelled to wear burqas or other face veils:

"In Taliban-controlled areas, women are prohibited from working, attending school, or leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative, and are forced to wear the burqa. [...] In Afghan government-controlled areas, due to societal norms often enforced by religious clerics at the local level, women and girls often face discrimination, violence, harassment, forced marriages, prohibitions on working or studying outside the home, and restrictions on how they dress. Women and girls often do not report crimes committed against them. Non-Muslim women report they feel compelled to wear burqas or other face veils. " (USCIRF, April 26, 2017, pp 122-123)

No further information on Sikh women could be found in the sources currently available to ACCORD.

Swell:(Access to all sources on July 17, 2018)

Al Jazeera: Inside the little-known kitchen of Afghanistan's Sikhs, January 9, 2016
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/ajeats/2016/01/afghanistan-sikhs-160104170656660.html

Al Jazeera: The decline of Afghanistan's Hindu and Sikh communities, January 1, 2017
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/12/decline-afghanistan-hindu-sikh-communities-161225082540860.html

ANI: Pak backed Taliban behind killing of Sikh community leader in Afghanistan, January 2, 2017
http://www.aninews.in/newsdetail-MTY/MjkzNzQ2/pak-backed-taliban-behind-killing-of-sikh-community-leader-in-afghanistan.html

BBC News: Afghanistan blast: Sikhs among 19 dead in Jalalabad suicide attack, July 1, 2018
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-44677823

BVwG - Federal Administrative Court: W151 2116977-1, June 15, 2018
https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/Dokumente/Bvwg/BVWGT_20180615_W151_2116977_1_00/BVWGT_20180615_W151_2116977_1_00.html

· EASO - European Asylum Support Office: Country Guidance: Afghanistan; Guidance note and common analysis, June 2018
https://www.easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/easo-country-guidance-afghanistan-2018.pdf

· Hindustan Times, Dark days continue for Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan ’, August 22, 2014
http://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/dark-days-continue-for-sikhs-and-hindus-in-afghanistan/story-6SSLOpBTjGbZVCuWaByyIO.html

IWPR - Institute for War and Peace Reporting: Afghan Sikhs Hit By Suicide Attack, July 5, 2018
https://www.ecoi.net/de/dokument/1437639.html

PRSO - Poresh Research & Studies Organization: Ignored Identities (The Status of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan’s Legal System), November 19, 2016
http://www.porseshresearch.org/porseshv2/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Ignored-

Identities-Status-of-Hindus-and-Sikhs-in-Afghanistans-Legal-System.pdf

PTI - Press Trust of India: Sikh man shot dead in Afghanistan, October 2, 2016 (published in India Today)
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/sikh-man-shot-dead-in-afghanistan/1/778355.html

Reuters: Afghanistan's dwindling Sikh, Hindu communities flee new abuses, June 23, 2016
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-minority/afghanistans-dwindling-sikh-hindu-communities-flee-new-abuses-idUSKCN0Z82SL

RFE / RL - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Afghanistan’s Sikh, Hindu Minorities Demand Probe Into Sikh Killing, December 30, 2016
http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/334260/475984_de.html

RFE / RL - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Suicide Attacker Targets Hindus, Sikhs In Eastern Afghanistan, July 1st, 2018
https://www.ecoi.net/de/dokument/1437288.html

· Stahlmann, Friederike: Threats in everyday social life in Afghanistan. In: Articles from Asylmagazin 3/2017: Topic Afghanistan (published by Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration), March 2017
http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/6_1495100812_am17-3-thema-afghanistan.pdf

Stahlmann, Friederike: Expert opinion Afghanistan, reference number: 7 K 1757 / 16.WI.A, March 28, 2018
https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1431611/90_1527075858_gutachten-afghanistan-stahlmann-28-03-2018.pdf

TOI - Times of India: Sikh body seeks UN intervention for security of Sikh and Hindus of Afghanistan, July 3, 2018
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/64844331.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Tolo News: Nearly 99% Of Hindus, Sikhs Left Afghanistan in Last Three decades, June 20, 2016
http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/nearly-99-hindus-sikhs-left-afghanistan-last-three-decades

Tolo News: Unknown Gunmen Kill Head Of Sikh Community In Kunduz, December 29, 2016
http://www.tolonews.com/node/30411

Tolo News: Afghan Sikh Minority Prepares for Elections, June 5, 2018
https://www.tolonews.com/elections-2018/afghan-sikh-minority-prepares-elections

UK Home Office: Country Policy and Information Note Afghanistan: Hindus and Sikhs, February 2017
http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1226_1486721358_afg-sikhs-and-hindus-cpin-v3-1-february-2017.pdf

USDOS - US Department of State: 2017 Report on International Religious Freedom - Afghanistan, May 29, 2018
https://www.ecoi.net/de/dokument/1436774.html

USCIRF - US Commission on International Religious Freedom: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2017 Annual Report; 2017 Country Reports: Tier 2 Countries: Afghanistan, April 26, 2017
https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1408358/5250_1494407455_afghanistan-2017.pdf

Wiener Zeitung: Outlaw Hindus and Sikhs, November 3, 2017
https://www.wienerzeitung.at/nachrichten/welt/weltpolitik/926684_Geaechtete-Hindus-und-Sikhs.html