Apr 24, 2022

Western Union Employees in Pakistan ask for Religious Orientation

In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a lot of Afghanistanis* fled to Pakistan. Among the them were the Hazaras who escaped the Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups who are systematically targeting them. I have been in touch with a few people in Islamabad who are SIV applicants. Some of the individuals have been facing challenges especially with receiving funds from overseas. They told me that the Western Union employees in different Pakistani banks in Islamabad have asked them whether they are Christians because people with Christian names from overseas wired money to them. They told me that they assured the employees that they are Muslims, but they were still rejected on the grounds that Christian believers from Europe and America are sending money to convert them. This incident occurred at least for three individuals who are Hazaras.

When I heard it, I was totally flabbergasted and didn't know how to react. My advice to them was to ask their Pakistani landlords or the guesthouse owners to get the money. It worked for them but obviously, this was not a single incident until I came upon a blog post and a Facebook post about a similar issue. It appears that the Pakistani employees of Western Union in Islamabad have been interrogating other refugees as well, mostly Hazaras refugees, because they stand out due to their Asiatic look. 

Here is the blog post by William Harvey, a music teacher who taught violin at Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) from 2010 to 2014. and I copy and paste part of it here with block quote, but if you want to check out the original post, click here.

I am furious to learn that Western Union employees are illegally imposing religious tests in order to release funds that have been normally sent through your service. 
On April 6, 2022, I received an email from Mr. I. He is an Afghan resident in Pakistan and is one of 326 of a list of Afghan musicians that my nonprofit organization, Cultures in Harmony, is helping find freedom and security following the takeover of Afghanistan by the violently anti-music Taliban on August 15, 2021. In Mr. I's April 6 email, he writes: "up to now, I haven’t picked it up [the Western Union transfer Cultures in Harmony sent him]. They told me. If this money transferred from an Islamic country. We can pay you. But not Christian country."
This seemed so outlandish that I was inclined to dismiss it as a fabrication. However, today via WhatsApp, Mr. H, another Afghan on that list, informed me the following: "I went to a bank offering Western Union they didn’t give me the money. I went out of green zone to a red zone for Hazaras. There is one main office of Western Union, kept me there for hours interrogating that why the sender is a foreigner. He must be a Muslim. According to Pakistan’s rule a foreigner(Foreign Name) can not send money to a Muslim! ( they think something is fishy fishy)."

*Afghanistani is someone from Afghanistan vs Afghan that is a tribe name for Pashtuns. 


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