– United Sikhs asks Australia to rehabilitate Afghan Sikhs; Labor Party’s MP comes out in support

Sikh24 Editors

Melbourne – Victoria – Australia, 19 May 2020. For over 4 decades, the Sikh community in Afghanistan has suffered war-like conditions. They have endured barbaric attacks resulting in the loss of loved ones and having their religious freedom stifled by terrorism.

Thirty years ago, the population of Sikhs in Afghanistan was said to be around 250,000, but after decades of conflict and massacre through the rise of the Taliban, many have sought asylum in other countries and the community is thought to have been reduced to about 120 families.

United Sikhs has been advocating for and serving Afghan Sikhs for many years. This work is ongoing and the families of those lost and injured have been provided assistance. Avenues for immigration documentation to allow for resettlement are being pursued and the necessary resources to obtain such documentation have been put in place.

After the most recent terrorist attacks on 25 March 2020, in Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji in Kabul, the Sikh Diaspora, international leaders and human rights advocates moved swiftly to condemn the persons and groups responsible.

The United Sikhs reached out to government leaders around the world to stand against the religious persecution in Afghanistan and to protect Sikhs and other ethnic-religious minorities in the area.

The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the 25 March 2020 terrorist massacre in the gurdwara that left 25 people dead and many others injured. On March 28th, there was another terrorist attack directed at the Sikh community with improvised explosives.

Witnesses state that the Islamic State also issued a 10-day ultimatum for Sikhs to leave Afghanistan. The remaining roughly 650 Sikhs in Afghanistan wish to leave as immediately as possible, so they can escape the concentrated and constant violence in the region at the hands of terrorists or external actors pursuing mass killings against Sikhs.

The United Sikhs team in Australia has been working closely with elected representatives of Parliament to raise the concerns of the Afghan Sikh community and warrant that Australia play a pivotal part in ensuring those innocent families in consistent danger can be saved through resettlement.

The United Sikhs forwarded their concern for the Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan by writing to all of the Parliamentarians of Australia, including the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr Scott Morrison.

They were requested to treat the Afghan Sikh issue on a priority basis and provide them safe refuge in Australia as the lives of those Afghan Sikhs and Hindus hangs in the balance.

Mr Julian Hill, an Australian Labor Party MP from the Bruce Constituency, has listened to our teams’ representations and taken a proactive approach by writing to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne MP.

In a detailed letter, Mr Hill highlights his concerns for the safety of the Afghan Sikh community and fears that if urgent action is not taken, the threats from extremist groups to murder Afghan Sikhs en masse could turn into reality.

Mr Hill calls for an urgent international humanitarian effort to facilitate the resettlement, in which he believes Australia can play a vital role by offering assistance to broker a global agreement.

United Sikhs asks Australia to rehabilitate Afghan Sikhs; Labor Party’s MP comes out in support  

Washington Post – Mothers, newborns among 16 dead after gunmen storm Kabul maternity ward

Sharif Hassan and Susannah George

Kabul – Afghanistan, 12 May 2020. Mothers, newborns and nurses are among 16 dead after gunmen stormed a maternity ward in the Afghan capital Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Sixteen others were wounded.

The hospital is one of the busiest in Kabul and houses a maternity ward run by Doctors Without Borders. Photos and videos from the scene showed police officers carrying newborns to emergency medical teams nearby. One photo showed a woman lying on her back crumpled against a hospital room wall, a small baby in her arms.

The same day, a suicide bombing at a police officer’s funeral in Nangahar province left 24 dead and 68 wounded, according to the provincial governor’s office.

The attacks come amid a surge in violence in Afghanistan, nearly three months after the United States and the Taliban signed a landmark peace deal. The Taliban denied responsibility for both attacks, and the shooting in Kabul echoes earlier attacks on Afghan minority groups carried out by the Islamic State.

The future of armed groups such as the Islamic State in Afghanistan was a critical element of negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in the lead-up to the signing of the agreement in February.

USA negotiators demanded assurances from the Taliban that terrorist organizations with aims of attacking the West would not be allowed to operate in territory under their control.

The Taliban has stepped up its own attacks on Afghan security forces in recent weeks, a tactic that the militant group says is within the bounds of the agreement with the United States but which has angered Afghan leaders and sparked condemnation from American officials.

In response to Tuesday’s violence, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered Afghan forces to resume attacks on the Taliban, switching from “active defensive” footing to “offensive” mode, in a move that could further jeopardize the peace deal.

The hospital attack is just the latest deadly shooting targeting minority groups in Kabul. The hospital is in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood, where the Islamic State has concentrated attacks in the past.

In March, shooters killed 25 at an ethnic Hazara and Shiite gathering, and later that month, gunmen stormed a Sikh Gurdwara, killing 32.

Afghan security forces battled for nearly four hours to clear the site and kill the attackers. More than 100 patients, family members, doctors and nurses were evacuated from the hospital during the attack.

An obstetrician at the hospital said she ran toward a safe room with a nurse and a wounded woman when she heard the gunfire and explosion. Once inside, she began to treat the woman while gunfire rang through the hospital halls.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Aryan called the attack a “crime against all values.” He added, “Any groups that are involved in such attacks are against all human and Islamic values.”

The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, Shaharzad Akbar, condemned the brutality of an attack targeting newborns. She wrote in a tweet, “Among their first experiences [is] being targeted in a war they & their mothers had no part in.”