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A Right Move for Protecting Minorities’ Rights

Amid uproar of war and corruption, the government took a remarkable step forward in guaranteeing the rights of one of the most unprivileged minority community in Afghanistan. In response to calls from civil organizations and Afghan Hindu activists, the council of cabinet ministers brought amendments to the election law so that the Hindu and Sikh minorities of Afghanistan could have a seat in the parliament. The council added articles to the election law which envisages adding another seat to the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the parliament. According to the decision, the lower house of the parliament would have 250 seats in total which one of them could be won by Hindu and Sikh minorities in the election. The government also decided that the whole country would be as electoral constituency for the mentioned minorities.

The decision came after the Hindu minority community and many civil organizations urged the government and the parliament to promote rights of the minority community in Afghanistan and preserve the previously allocated seat for them. Before that, the lawmakers, who were in the process of approving the election laws, removed the only seat set aside for the Hindus in the parliament. The move was followed by broad criticisms from Hindu minority community and the civil society. Then, for the first time, a group of Hindu representatives met President Hamid Karzai and raised the issue as well as other issues related to prejudices against the Hindus with the president.

Given the status of the Hindu minority community in Afghanistan, the decision taken by the government should be praised. The decision is indicating that the government is remaining concerned and committed to protecting the most vulnerable segments of the society, including minority groups and women. The Afghan history is replete with failures in guaranteeing the rights of the minority groups and the women, which puts the country in the list of the most insecure places in the world for the minority groups. In fact, recognizing equal citizenship rights for all citizens is a privilege that only could be found in democratic societies.

The Hindus and other minority communities in Afghanistan have long suffered from insecurity and widespread formal and informal prejudices against them. Even in the one recent decade after the Taliban regime toppled in 2001, the Hindus and Sikhs have been treated with prejudice wherever they live, work and communicate with others in the society. They have been threatened and sometimes attacked when they wanted to do their rituals. According to estimates, a large portion of Hindu populations have migrated in recent years to the neighboring countries as they have remained a main target of deep-rooted prejudices in the Afghan society.

It is not clear whether the changes in the law could be binding and final, or will the government send the amendments for parliamentary approval. If even it is sent to the parliament, the high possibility is that the lawmakers will approve the amendments, since many of the MPs already have been supporting allocation of the seat for Hindu minorities. The parliament needs to play its role as the so-called “house of the nation”, and safeguard dignity and equality of all Afghan citizens, so that the country takes the right path in regards with the human rights and rights of the citizens.

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