Re-Establishment of Vice and Virtue Department Poses Risk to Afghan Hindus 

Washington, D.C. (July 18, 2006) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed deep concern over a proposal by the Afghan government to reestablish the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The proposal was passed by the cabinet of President Hamid Karzai and will soon be considered by the Afghan Parliament.

Under Taliban rule, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice gained notoriety for its stern and often brutal enforcement of the ultra-conservative Islamic Sharia law. Men were beaten for trimming their beards, and women were publicly punished for wearing partially transparent socks, exposing their wrists, hands, or ankles, and when not accompanied in public by a close male relative.

Most alarmingly for Hindus, the same Ministry, under the Taliban, required Hindus to wear specific identification tags and prohibited the building and maintenance of Hindu temples. Hindu women were also forced to wear conservative Islamic garb covering themselves completely.

In a recently released report on Hindu human rights, “Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights (2005)”, HAF stated that many Hindus currently do not send their children to school fearing persecution and ridicule. Human Rights Watch warned that the re-establishment of the Vice and Virtue department may further limit access to educational institutions for vulnerable groups, especially women.

“Hindus in Afghanistan are already facing discrimination at many levels,” said Pawan Deshpande, member of the HAF Executive Council. “Rather than focusing on building a more open society, the proposed moral policing can only make the current situation even worse.”