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Marginalized Sikhs 'Don’t Care' About Afghan Election

Sharma: "Why should I vote for candidates who won’t do anything for us?"
While many in Afghanistan are gripped by election fever, members of the country’s tiny Sikh community say they couldn't care less.

The around 3,000-member community has endured a long history of religious discrimination and harassment in Afghanistan. Sikhs numbered more than 100,000 several decades ago, but the outbreak of war and the onset of growing persecution pushed many out.

Those who have stayed -- many of them working as shopkeepers and fortune tellers -- say they have been forgotten by the government and will boycott the April 5 presidential election in protest.

One of them is Gujrat, a 55-year-old shopkeeper in Kabul. He says that even though he has a voter card, he will not be using it until the situation for his community improves.
Gujrat: "We can't even bury our dead."
Gujrat: "We can't even bury our dead."
“Our lands were forcedly grabbed by warlords and militia leaders during the civil war,” he says. “We cannot even bury our dead according to our own traditions. We have nothing here anymore.”

Gujrat says that even though he has faced many hardships, he will never leave Afghanistan, which he calls “our land and the land of our fathers and grandfathers.”

The most recent blow to the Sikh community came in December, when parliament rejected a decree proposed by President Hamid Karzai that would reserve a seat for Hindus and Sikhs in the lower house of parliament.

Sharma, another Sikh resident of Kabul, says that many in the community feel let down by the decision. “Why should I vote for candidates who won’t do anything for us?”

-- Frud Bezhan