June 18, 2022 (New York, NY) — Early Saturday morning, gunmen launched an attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least one Sikh and injuring several more. According to reports from the Afghan Sikh community that the Sikh Coalition has been able to corroborate, the gurdwara was significantly damaged in the process.
“The recurring tragic violence targeting the Afghan Sikh community is devastating, but also entirely predictable and preventable,” said Sikh Coalition Executive Director Anisha Singh. “The international community, and in particular the United States, continues to fall short of urgently-needed efforts to protect and safely resettle all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.”
On March 25, 2020, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) attacked a Kabul gurdwara, killing 25 Sikhs and injuring eight more. The following day, the funeral procession was targeted with bombs, and survivors were given an ultimatum to permanently leave or face imminent death. In the two years since, hundreds of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have fled to third-party countries like India, but have been unable to obtain refugee status for resettlement to the United States or other western countries. During the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were relegated to a low priority for safe evacuation and resettlement.
The Sikh Coalition has advocated for the immediate resettlement of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus since the March 2020 attack. While campaigning, President Biden supported resettlement for these families; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate have also urged for resettlement. Despite these shows of support, little has been done to help the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus who are left in-country, or those who have been temporarily evacuated to–but have no future for permanent resettlement in–other nations like India.
According to the recently published annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), religious freedom conditions have worsened in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country nearly one year ago. Some of the USCIRF’s recommendations include expanding existing Priority (P-2) designations granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program access to certain Afghan nationals, including Afghan religious minorities at extreme risk of religious persecution, and creating by law a P-2 designation for members of religious groups at extreme risk of persecution.
“The United States must do more to protect religious minorities who remain in Afghanistan or are stuck in limbo in other third party countries,” said Mrs. Singh. “The moral imperative to do more is obvious, and these families could be resettled now if we prioritize them. How many more attacks have to occur before we take action?”