[Documents menu] Documents menu

Afghan minorities adapt to Talibanisation

The Hindu, Monday 02 April 2001

WASHINGTON, APRIL 1. For the few religious minorities of Afghanistan, life under the Taliban militia is a constant challenge.

The Sikhs are allowed to worship in `gurdwaras' but, in order not to offend the Taliban which has banned all idolatry, they do not display the familiar pictures of the Sikh gurus inside the `gurdwaras.'

An elderly Sikh shopkeeper was spotted by a Washington Post reporter wearing a Muslim cap and long beard.

We are in Afghanistan, not India, he said, we must behave according to the circumstances. Here there is strong Sharia (Islamic law) and we are only a few... We worship the book, do not display images and are treated well by the Government. But economically, we are barely keeping our heads above water, he said.

There were a few Hindus in Afghanistan, no Christians and the only known Afghan Jew was a rabbi (priest) who was allowed to maintain Kabul's sole synagogue, the paper said. And there were no practising Buddhists.

The Shiites in Kabul were allowed to celebrate Naw Ruz - the Persian new year which had its origin in Zoroastrianism - this year.

But there were armed guards inside the shrine and the people were not allowed to observe the tradition of slaughtering animals on the occasion.

And at mid-afternoon, members of the Taliban's religious police appeared and chased everyone away.

In some rural areas, Shiites were persecuted but in Kabul and Herat they were allowed to worship at mosques and study at Koranic schools.

Periodic massacres of Shiite ethnic groups have been reported in northeastern Afghanistan, the Post said.