To mark the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Hindu American Foundation released four new sections of its annual human rights report, highlighting persecution of Hindus in the countries of Afghanistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.
“As the world observes this occasion, the hope and promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights still remains unfulfilled for millions of people in these four countries, who are deprived of their basic dignity and fundamental rights,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF Managing Director and author of the report. “The Declaration defines many of the basic civil, social, political, cultural, and religious rights that comprise the foundation of modern international human rights law.”
In Afghanistan, the plight of minorities and women continued to worsen, as these vulnerable groups remained marginalized and subjected to violence, discriminatory laws, and social prejudice and harassment. 2020 saw most of the remaining Hindu and Sikh community flee for safety in India, after being targeted by a gruesome ISIS attack early in the year.
Similarly, ethnic and religious divides have increased in Malaysia under the current reign of the National Alliance and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yasin, with the government expanding restrictions on religious freedom, speech, and civil liberties. The Indian Hindu population further faces systemic institutional discrimination and destruction of their temples.
At the same time, 2019-2020 in Sri Lanka was marked by political turmoil, terrorism, riots, and religiously motivated violence. Government authorities continued to discriminate against religious minorities and did not adequately respond to or prevent religious violence or harassment by non-state actors. The government has also failed to take any steps towards accountability or post-conflict justice for war crimes committed against the primarily Hindu Tamil minority during the decades long civil war.
Finally, despite a transition to democracy in Bhutan, many of the discriminatory policies favoring Buddhists and Drukpa culture remain in place. There are also still a number of human rights issues facing the ethnic Hindu minority in particular, including discriminatory citizenship laws, restrictions on civil liberties, political prisoners, social prejudice, and religious freedom and minority cultural/linguistic rights. Furthermore, Bhutan has yet to face accountability for the ethnic cleansing of more than 100,000 ethnic Nepali Hindus in the early 1990s, most of whom have now been resettled in Western countries such as the United States.
Beyond these four countries, the Foundation has been documenting human rights violations against Hindus and other minorities in several other countries and regions around the world.
This past October, HAF released its annual report on Pakistan, and plans to release additional reports in 2021.
Earlier this week, Pakistan was designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the US State Department for the third straight year for its “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom” against its religious minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Shia Muslims.
Due to national security interests, however, the State Department waived sanctions against Pakistan, which normally accompany a CPC designation under the International Religious Freedom Act.
“While we commend the State Department for recognizing the desperate conditions of minorities in Pakistan, we urge them to impose targeted sanctions on the country and hold it accountable for engaging in and allowing egregious violations of religious freedom,” added Taniel Koushakjian, HAF Director of Public Policy.