On August 23, hundreds of Afghans who live in India took to the streets to demand refugee status when fear has engulfed them after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Afghans in India flocked outside the UN agency’s office in New Delhi and demanded justice, especially for Afghan children and women.
“We were victims of war, and now we are the victims of an unclear future,” read one poster.
According to many Afghans protesting outside the UN Office, they fled to India over 10 years ago. However, they are yet to be recognized as refugees.
India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
The UN refugee agency says that Afghans accounted for about a third of around 40,000 refugees registered in India as of 2019 – a figure that excludes people who are not registered with the UN.
48-year-old Ahmad Zia Ghani, an Afghan refugee who came to India about ten 10 years back, claimed that not being recognized as a refugee for all these years has led to him not getting access to even the “basic facilities”.
“We’ve received nothing,” Ghani was quoted as saying. “Now we are requesting (refugee status) since Afghans don’t have any chance of returning to war-torn Afghanistan under this Taliban regime.”
On August 23, there was another protest in Delhi where dozens of Indian activists and Afghans came together to denounce the Taliban and demand asylum for Afghans fleeing the country amid the tense situation.
India continues to evacuate its nationals from Afghanistan. In one of its latest evacuations, India on Tuesday brought back 78 people, including 25 Indian nationals and many Afghan Sikhs and Hindus from Dushanbe. This comes a day after they were evacuated from Kabul to the Tajik city.
When the Taliban ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they forced many, especially women, to lead a sequestered life. Women were not allowed to enter school, work, and step out of their homes without a male relative to escort them. They were forced to keep their faces covered at all times.
As the Taliban have seized control of Afghanistan now, they have offered hope that the country would not have to return to the hard-line regime. However, their claims of letting everyone live peacefully have not convinced several people.
“They (the Taliban) are making promises that this time, they won’t do any wrong to us,” said 34-year-old Tahmina Zaki, who was protesting outside the UN office. “We don’t believe that.”