On Thursday, April 23rd the Hindu American Foundation launched a nationwide campaign calling on Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans, and all human rights activists to contact their Senators to save Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan facing extreme persecution and annihilation.
The HAF campaign specifically calls on Congress to update existing US refugee assistance law to include religious minorities from Afghanistan.
The Hindu American Foundation is proposing that the following text be added as an amendment to the Lautenberg Amendment, P.L. 101-167, § 599D, 103 Stat. 1261 (1989) (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1157) as amended.
“Open-access P-2s inside their country of origin: Afghan Religious Minorities: Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jewish and other minority-religious adherents identified in the Lautenberg Amendment, P.L. 101-167, § 599D, 103 Stat. 1261 (1989) (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1157) as amended (“Lautenberg Amendment”). With the annual statutory renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment, these individuals are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution.”
“Whether it is India or the United States, we must act now before it’s too late. Innocent lives hang in the balance,” stated HAF Managing Director, Samir Kalra, Esq.
The HAF campaign comes in response to the March 25, 2020 terrorist attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul, Afghanistan that left 25 dead and injured at least 8 others. About 150 people were inside the gurdwara at the time of the attack, including women and children. The very next day, terrorists attacked the cremation ceremony of the 25 victims, illustrating the heightened threat that religious minorities, like Sikhs and Hindus, face in Afghanistan.
Sukhi Chahal, chairman of the San Jose, CA based Punjab Foundation praised HAF’s efforts, saying “Sikh Americans and Hindu Americans have an important responsibility to work together to amplify the voices of our Afghan brothers and sisters, and the U.S. and India have a critical role to play in providing relief for these persecuted religious minorities.”
HAF immediately condemned the attack and sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him and his administration to take concrete steps to assist the Hindu and Sikh communities fleeing Afghanistan for India.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the March 25th attack. However, some Afghan experts have pointed to a possible role of the Haqqani group and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), both of which are supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. It is widely believed that no group can carry out a terrorist attack in Afghanistan without the support of the Haqqani group and their affiliates like LeT.
The March 25th attack is only the latest incident of violence directed at non-Muslims in Afghanistan. In July 2018, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus en route to meet Afghan President Ashraf Gani, resulting in the deaths of 19 people and wounding 20 others.
There are only an estimated 200 Sikh and Hindu families left in Afghanistan. The situation for religious minorities in Afghanistan is dire — even more so now, with a present-day threat from IS for them to convert to Islam, leave, or die.