The last Jew to leave Afghanistan, minorities are fleeing the country for fear of the Taliban


Jablon Simintov did not want to leave his homeland – Afghanistan. Despite a sad separation from her family in Israel, Zablon endured the civil war and oppression of the Taliban from 1996-2001.

Simintov and his 29 neighbors were evacuated to a neighboring country, the AP reported. ᲡThe Afghans accompanying Imintov were mostly women and children.

Simintov lived in a half-ruined synagogue before leaving Kabul. In March, he told RFE / RL that if the Taliban regained power after the withdrawal of Western troops, he would leave Afghanistan.

“I will leave Afghanistan after celebrating our important holidays in September – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur”, He said then. “It is difficult to stay. “If the Taliban return, they will oust us.”

As the Taliban grew stronger over the past two years, Simintov’s concerns deepened, and he was finally convinced he had to leave the country, despite trying to stay in Afghanistan until he could get kosher food and pray in Hebrew.

Zabulon Simantov while praying at the Jewish Cemetery in Kabul. 2013 year

ცოლიAfter his wife and two children moved to Israel twenty years ago, he often said that his life in Afghanistan was “God’s will.” The first threat came in 2018 – when Washington began negotiations with the Taliban.

“People are worried about peace talks. “If the Taliban came back and acted as they did during their rule in the 1990s, it would be a matter of public concern.”, – he told the BBC in 2019.

Simintov is not the only one leaving the homeland, where the Jewish community numbered 40,000 members in the 1990s.

The minority of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced. Their number was 200 thousand in the 1980s and now only a few hundred families are left.

Gunmen stormed their temples, killing many, and kidnapping them for ransom. In Afghanistan, most members of these communities have already left the country. The rest there are now going to join the displaced members of their community in India.

There is now a threat that some non-Muslim minorities in Afghanistan, most of whom fled the country after the communist coup in 1978 and the invasion of the Soviet Army, may disappear altogether as a result of the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan.

A small community of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs celebrates the New Year.

A small community of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs celebrates the New Year.

The Taliban, on the one hand, sought to dispel the fears of non-Muslims. The Taliban visited Sikh temples and assured the remaining members of the community that they would be safe.

“The Islamic Emirate is taking serious and effective steps to protect human rights, the rights of minorities, as well as excluded communities within the framework of the sacred religion of Islam.”The Taliban-led government said in a statement on September 7.

It is difficult to convince minorities with these words.

Sandip Singh, 20, moved to India earlier this year. He told RFE / RL that the community was a target of systematic discrimination and threats in Afghanistan. He recalls walking to school in Kabul, “Both students and teachers mocked me, pulled my hair and straw”. Sikhs usually have their hair covered under a turban.

17-year-old Dursha also went to school in Kabul and was also the target of ridicule for her appearance and attire.

John Singh, an Afghan Sikh, moved to India after leaving the country, is in New Delhi, but as he says, it is difficult to integrate there, but to return – impossible.

Family members mourn those killed in an Islamic State attack on a Sikh temple on March 25, 2020.

Family members mourn those killed in an Islamic State attack on a Sikh temple on March 25, 2020.

A crucial change

Religious minorities have been discriminated against in Afghanistan in the past, although their rights are protected by the country’s constitution.

Now their existence hangs in the balance, as the Taliban-led government consists of only Sunni clerics.

In 2001, a few months before the fall of their regime, an international resonance followed the Taliban’s announcement that all Hindus in the country should wear the yellow sign.

The Taliban understanding of Islamic law will play a crucial role in the country’s state policy.

The creation of the Ministry of “Vices and Virtues” indicates that the Taliban intends to use a direct interpretation of Islamic law.

Afghan clerics and Islamic scholars argue that non-Muslims are not discriminated against in Islam. Kabul-based religious scholar Mufti Bilal Ahmed Safin told RFE / RL that by presenting Islam, he was a non-Muslim. “Life and property must be protected and they must have all the rights granted to them by Allah.”

Hindu shrine in Kabul.

Hindu shrine in Kabul.

In the early 1990s, the Taliban and other Islamist groups pledged to protect minorities, but most Hindus and Sikhs fled Afghanistan.

The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom in the World has called on Afghanistan’s religious minorities to leave Afghanistan because of the threat of persecution by the Taliban. The head of the commission, Nadine Maenza, said that because Afghans are forced to leave the country because of their religion, the U.S. “Especially the vulnerable should be given asylum.”

Another Sikh, Sardar Gurbachan, did his best to stay in Afghanistan.

He lived in a Sikh temple in Kabul for years after losing his business and property in Ghazni.

But after Islamic State militants attacked the temple and killed 25 Sikhs, including nine of his relatives, Gurbachan decided to emigrate to India.

“My fellow Afghans, when I was traveling by taxi or bus, would ask me if I was from India.”… Although he speaks fluently both of Afghanistan’s largest languages, Pashto and Dari, Afghans still do not consider him to be theirs. “The fact that I speak freely about Pashto and Dari, you do not meet and are not considered equal citizens”, Says Sardar Gurbachan.