US Senators write to Pompeo to protect Afghan Sikh, Hindu facing persecution

Kabul attack


In a bipartisan letter, senators in the US wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to provide emergency refugee protection to the Afghan-Sikh and Hindu communities facing persecution at the hands of ISIS-K (Khorasan) in Afghanistan.

The letter stated that the ISIS-K specifically targeted minorities in Afghanistan posing a threat to their existence. The initiative was taken by senior US senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with 19 of his Senate colleagues at the behest of Sikh diaspora living in the US.

“This Administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority,” the senators wrote. “Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities.”

The letter also calls on Secretary Pompeo to offer additional support to members of the Sikh and Hindu communities that choose to remain in Afghanistan and to ensure that Afghan religious minorities benefit from the $20.6 million in American aid already provided to address COVID-19.

The letter added that a recent example of an attack against the minority community was when the ISIS-K blew up the Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul, killing 25, and further planned an explosion during their funeral service.

The senators added that the population of fewer than 1000 people represented a ‘dire’ circumstance’ that needed emergency address. “We urge the State Department to provide emergency refugee protection to Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus by referring them to the FY20 US Refugee Admission Program, through Priority (P1) embassy referrals,” it said.

Joining Senator Menendez in signing the letter were Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).