On April 14, 2021, President Joseph Biden’s administration announced the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. This has raised legitimate concerns that all of the important gains in human rights and protection of religious minorities made in the past years may quickly erode and revert to the brutal state created by the Taliban regime.
We commend the intention of Bill S1642 sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein requiring the Secretary of State to report on the status of women and girls in Afghanistan post-US withdrawal. We urge you to cosponsor the bill and consider an additional provision requiring the Secretary of State to report on the status of the religious minorities.
During the Taliban’s reign in the 1990s Hindu and Sikh Afghans were subjected to an array of atrocities including kidnapping, extortion, targeted violence, property grabbing and religious persecution. Much like the Nazi treatment of Jews, the Taliban had forced Afghani Hindus and Sikhs to wear yellow badges.They also imposed Jizya, an egregious tax on Afghani Hindus and Sikhs in order for them to be able to practice their religion. The attacks and violence on Sikhs and Hindus and their places of worship have continued unabated and the final nail in the coffin was the 2020 attack on Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul triggering another wave of exodus. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in March 2001 is seared in the memory of the world! Small communities of Hindus and Sikhs continue to live in various parts of Afghanistan and are worthy of the attention that Bill S1642 seeks for the female citizens of Afghanistan.
With news of an imminent withdrawal, the Taliban is already gaining ground in Afghanistan and have made no firm commitment to protect fundamental rights in a transitional government or after a peace agreement. They continue to restrict the rights of religious minorities and women in areas under their control without remorse or apology.
As Hindu Americans, a tiny religious minority ourselves, we understand the importance of freedom to practice religion as enshrined by our first amendment. We are also acutely aware of how our brethren in Afghanistan are deprived of the same, especially those of us that have had ties with Afghanistan. We urge you to consider including religious minorities in Bill S1642, so we are aware of their status.
We also urge the United States government to use all forms of influence to press the Taliban to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law, not just to protect women and children but also all religious minorities.