KABUL -- Afghans are standing against terrorist attacks on the nation's ethnic minorities less than a month after a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Kabul.
The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) on June 18 claimed responsibility for an attack a day prior on a Sikh temple in Kabul, saying it was retaliation for insults against the Prophet Muhammad.
In a message posted on its Amaq propaganda site, ISIS said the attack targeted Hindus and Sikhs and the "apostates" who protected them in "an act of support for the Messenger of Allah".
Two were killed and at least seven others wounded in the raid.
"There is no future for us here. I have lost all hope," Ragbir Singh, who was wounded, told AFP in June after the slaughter.
"Everywhere we are under threat."
The Sikh community has long been a target for ISIS.
In March 2020, at least 25 people were killed when gunmen stormed a different temple in Kabul.
And in 2018 at least 19 people, most of them Sikhs, were killed by a suicide bombing in Jalalabad.
Both attacks were claimed by ISIS, which regularly targets members of Afghanistan's minority communities -- including Shia and Sufis.
'We can't be careless'
The number of Sikhs and Hindus living in Afghanistan had dwindled to about 200 by late last year, compared with about half a million in the 1970s.
Most of those who remained were traders involved in selling herbal medicines and electronic goods brought from India and Pakistan.
For Manmohan Singh Sethi, who was born in Afghanistan, the temple was not just a place of worship but home to the entire Sikh community.
"This used to be the main gurdwara (Sikh temple) where we all used to meet as a family," Sethi, who is in his 70s, told AFP in June.
The attack came days after a delegation from New Delhi visited Kabul to discuss the possibility of reopening the Indian embassy.
Indian government sources told AFP in New Delhi that emergency visas had been given to about 100 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, but Sethi said none in the frightened community was aware of the offer.
The community was now unsure where even to pray for its future, he said.
"If we all gather to perform rituals at a specific place, we might face another such incident," he said.
"We have been attacked thrice already... We can't be careless."
"The latest incident has impacted us in a big way," said Sethi.
"Afghanistan is my homeland, and I never wanted to leave... but now I am leaving."
"In the past, despite all the cultural and security challenges that we faced ... we stayed in Afghanistan and tolerated everything because we loved our country," Charender Singh, a Sikh resident of Kabul who spoke under a pseudonym, told Salaam Times.
"But unfortunately, after the latest attack in Kabul, we felt that we can no longer live in Afghanistan because we have no safety and security. And no one heeded our security concerns and complaints in recent months," Singh said.
Counter to Islam
Attacks on minorities run counter to the principles of Islam and humanity and to the interests and history of Afghanistan, say Afghans.
Hindus and Sikhs are indigenous and original inhabitants of Afghanistan, and their absence will be a major blow to the history and culture of the country, said Khalil Raoufi, a civic activist in Kabul.
"Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment started against them in Kabul in the 1990s when the mujahideen took over," Raoufi said.
"This group of our compatriots was also unfortunately targeted by the ISIS terrorist group and has been forced over time to leave Afghanistan. Only about 70 to 100 families are left in the country," he said, while condemning the recent ISIS massacre.
"Our religious, political, cultural and professional elites, our generals and doctors are unfortunately being targeted [by ISIS]," Asadullah Nadim, an Afghan military analyst, said.
"The objective of these attacks is to harm ... Afghanistan and disrupt social order," he said.
"ISIS is a terrorist group -- it cares neither about public reaction nor about the implications of its actions since it is not a political group," Nadim said.