Protecting the Remaining Sikh Population in Afghanistan Brianna Nassiri, Nicole Posner, Stephanie Pronco, and Claire Walker

Meet the Team

Brianna Nassiri: Junior Intelligence Analysis major with a minor in GIS
Nicole Posner: Junior International Affairs major with a minor in Public Policy and Administration
Stephanie Pronco: Senior International Affairs major with a minor in Arabic 
Claire Walker: Senior International Affairs major with a double minor in Cultural Anthropology and Middle Eastern Communities and Migrations

Our Goal

To develop a comprehensive security strategy in order to adequately protect the Sikh population in Afghanistan that are often victims of terrorist attacks and religious persecution. This strategy may include a combination of foreign policy, advocacy efforts, political engagement, and direct assistance to at-risk populations. Our focus is on building a strategy that can be easily and quickly implemented by the United Sikhs as evidence shows that in the past decade the Sikh population in Afghanistan has dwindled from over 100,000 to roughly 700 due to forced emigration or casualties.

About Our Sponsor: United Sikhs

The United Sikhs is a U.N. affiliated, international non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy organization that seeks to protect vulnerable populations globally. They have 10 chapters across the globe, and have served for 20 years in assistance for over 60 disasters. In their current Afghan campaign, most funds are directed towards humanitarian aid, resettlement efforts, and COVID relief. Funds are collected through GoFundMe donations and wired to the Afghan Sikh population.

Our Proposed Solutions

In the short term, we see monetary aid and private security as solutions that can prolong the stay of the remaining Sikh populations. In Survey of the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs by Ehsan Shayegan, Mahdi Frough, and Sayed Masood Sadat, the factors associated with desire to stay in Afghanistan include being Afghan or having grown up in Afghanistan, liking Afghanistan or thinking it is a nice place, or for conditional reasons like if there were peace or employment. A small amount of survey respondents also posited that they did not have enough funds to leave even if they wanted to.

Keeping these factors in mind, it is not within our interests to encourage the remaining Afghan Sikhs to migrate or repopulate elsewhere. The 700 Sikhs remaining have had numerous opportunities to migrate, thus it is in the United Sikhs' interest to facilitate a safe and healthy living environment for them. In the long term, advocacy and representation in Afghan government are the most plausible ways for United Sikhs to assist the Sikhs. Advocacy would include informing the general public in order to garner governmental support and working with the Afghan Sikh diaspora to maintain relationships between these global communities. We've outlined what kind of Congressional support the United Sikhs could pursue in order to advocate for the Sikhs in peace negotiations between the Taliban and the United States.

We have provided a link to our final report, which includes a summary of our research, final conclusions, and a sample one-page brief the United Sikhs could use to reach more stakeholders. The second link is our ArcGIS StoryMap that outlines more of our research, and can be used as a visual tool to convince stakeholders of the importance of this pressing issue. Finally, we've explained our proposed plans for private security and increased aid.

Weekly Summary

Week Seven

During Week Seven, we presented our first draft of our deliverable to our professors and peers. Before this presentation, we were able to interview Jeff Buchanan and Dr. Timothy LaPira for insight on US military ability in Afghanistan and congressional lobbying possibilities respectively. We developed a first draft of our ArcGIS StoryMap that included summarizing points on our solutions, historical context, and further evidence why the problems facing the Afghan Sikhs are in need of immediate response. Below is a week summary, interview summaries, and the link to our first draft presentation.

Week Six

During Week Six we focused on defining our deliverable and refining our short and long term solutions (Aid, Advocacy, Representation in Government, and Private Security). We decided upon ArcGIS StoryMap as a method for our sponsor to share information with future stakeholders, and explored information sharing options but ultimately decided against that as a possible solution. We re-interviewed our project sponsor, Jason Keller, to ensure our work was headed in the right direction and to confirm what kind of report he wanted to see at the end of this course. Below is a week summary, interview summary, and link to our presentation on our solutions.

Week Five

This week we worked to develop potential solutions to the problem outlined by our project sponsor, and therefore developed the following the mindmap of said solutions and the research or interviews that coincided with those choices. We met with another expert who explained the relationship of the Afghan Sikh diaspora with those who still remain. Dr. Marsden helped us prioritize what actions may encourage assistance from these diaspora populations. Below includes a research summary, interview summary, and a copy of our mindmap of solutions.

Week Four

During this week, we worked to interview more experts and those who had experience living or working in Afghanistan. Through these meetings, we received recommendations to research the micro finance industry in Afghanistan and how this could be focused to the remaining Sikh community, and to explore the ways in which the Afghan Sikh diaspora community could provide support. Our online research included these points and more information on the Kuchi tribe, a nomadic group that has experienced various forms of discrimination as a semi-settled population. Below is our weekly report and interview summaries.

Week Three

This week, we continued with our research and performed two interviews with an senior expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace and a veteran who led a platoon in Afghanistan for a period. We focused our research on the ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and the United States, and the Taliban and the Afghan government. Through our interviews, we learned that Sikh representation or advocacy at such negotiations would greatly improve their safety. Below is our weekly report and interview summaries.

Week Two

Our second week, we spoke with our project sponsor at United Sikhs, Jason Keller, to learn more about the organization, his expectations of us, and to establish a basic understanding of what has already been possible for Sikhs in Afghanistan. This led us to explore additional information about what is included in a comprehensive security and further explore the origins of long-standing tribal tensions. Below is a brief report, interview summary, and a link to our presentation on our discoveries.

Week One

This was our first week with our project assignment "Protecting the Sikh Population of Afghanistan." Our assignment was to perform background research and collect 10 valuable sources. We used these sources in a STEEPLE analysis to examine which areas of STEEPLE we could easily cover (Social, Economic, Political, Legal, and Ethical), and which we needed to dive deeper for (Technology and Environment). Below is a brief report of our findings and a link to our presentation on the STEEPLE analysis.


Before beginning our research and interviews, we performed our Pre-Mortem Presentation that outlined the potential successes and failures we anticipated before beginning our project.