Afghan Hindu, Sikh populations shrinking: US
“Members of minority religious groups continue to suffer discrimination under the law and the government often did not protect minorities from societal harassment,” said a US State Department report on religious freedom.
Two Christian converts mentioned in the previous report were no longer detained, it explained, blaming the Afghan government for enforcing existing legal restrictions on religious freedom selectively and in a discriminatory manner.
During the year, the report said, there were no incidents involving individuals attempting to proselytise, but some faith-based NGOs reported continued monitoring by government entities.
The congressionally-mandated document referred to unconfirmed reports of harassment of Christians thought to be involved in proselytising. There were reports of international aid organisations being falsely accused of -- or affiliated with -- proselytizing.
“As in previous years, Hindus and Sikhs complained of not being able to cremate the remains of their dead in accordance with their customs, due to interference by those who lived near the cremation sites,” the State Department said.
It claimed the government did not protect the right of Hindus and Sikhs to carry out cremations. However, a Sikh senator requested the intervention of the Ministry of Interior to provide protection and escort to Hindus and Sikhs in the event of cremations within their communities.
Subsequent to the senator’s intervention, they were able to cremate the remains, the report said, adding the community continued to petition the government for land on which to carry out cremations.
“By 2001, non-Muslim populations had been virtually eliminated except for a small population of native Hindus and Sikhs. Since the fall of the Taliban, some members of religious minorities have returned, but others have since left Kabul due to economic hardship and discrimination.
“Estimates from Hindu and Sikh religious leaders indicate that their population shrank in the past year as compared to the year before,” the report said.
According to the document, in situations where the constitution and penal code are silent, including apostasy and blasphemy, courts relied on interpretations of Islamic law, some of which conflict with the country’s international commitments to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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