Sikh and Hindu refugees fleeing Afghan persecution arrive in Surrey

Shamsheer said he’s looking forward to going to school — something he was not able to do while growing up in Afghanistan...

On the steps of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Tirath Singh Khalsa, 11, and his sister, Jasmeet Kaur, 8, waved small Canadian flags and smiled as dozens of members of Surrey’s Sikh community surrounded them.

The children, along with siblings Zorawer, 6, Fathe, 3, and parents Havinder Kaur Khalsa, 30, and Shamsheer Singh Khalsa, 40, had just arrived from India, part of a group of Afghan-Sikh refugees privately sponsored by the local community.

Their family had been part of the very small Punjabi Sikh and Hindu community living as a persecuted minority in northeastern Afghanistan. Shamsheer said the family lived in fear of Isis and the Taliban, and resisted threats to change their religion to Islam. Khalsa had been a shopkeeper, but said that because he wouldn’t convert to Islam, he was considered “an infidel.”...

...“The kids can’t go to school, because they would have to cut their hair and remove their turbans. The women would have to wear burkas, otherwise they are not safe at all, they are stoned. It’s very difficult and very challenging,” Vinning said.

Shamsheer said locals were warned by the Taliban not to patronize his shop: “Our business stopped.”

He said the family is very grateful to Canada for the welcome...

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