Numerous messages sent by activists in the Netherlands informed AMASO about the return of a Sikh Afghan family from the Netherlands back to Afghanistan on 9th of October. Later that day, the family was deported back to Afghanistan after staying almost 2,5 years in the Netherlands. This is probably the only case AMASO has been directly involved in where a family from one of the most vulnerable minorities in Afghanistan has been sent back.
This deportation is wrong specifically for this family because of the particular risks to the Sikh and Hindu minorities, but also because of the deterioration in the general security situation in Kabul and the rest of the country. The Taliban has gained more ground than ever and ISIS is targeting people belonging to sects other than their own, as well as other religions.
The family visited AMASO 3 days after their arrival in Afghanistan. Probably this was the first time they had come out of the temple since their return to Afghanistan. They family is frightened and doesn’t understand what their future will be in Afghanistan. According to Ehsan Shayegan, an Afghan researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization studying the minority religions of Kabul giving interview to Aljazeera for its recent article The Decline of Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh Communities by Ruchi Kumar.
“If you go through the evidence and data from the 1970s to date, you will be able to see how drastically their population has fallen…In the 70s, there were around 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs, and now they are estimated to be less than 7,000,” Shayegan says.
In another part of the article a Sikh interviewee complains about the return of the warlords and the land grabbing: “Persecution started again, and several big and small warlords forcefully took away lands belonging to the Hindu and Sikh minorities”.
This is the exact situation that forced the family we met to flee the country. Their home in Kabul was grabbed by a warlord and they were forced to leave the area. They then stayed with a Muslim family because they had nowhere to live. The warlord and his men found them even there and warned them to leave the area or they would be killed.
The family that had hosted them said they would have to find somewhere else because they did not want to get caught in the conflict. The family fled the country and headed to Europe to ask for protection. Instead they were forcibly sent back to a country they would have a tough time to survive because the Dutch authorities made errors of judgement in their case (as they have in other recent cases).
The family is currently at the only temple in Kabul and will stay there until they have a safe option to leave the country again.