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‘Enough Was Enough’, Says Pioneer Of Respect To Sikh Turban Campaign


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
‘Enough was Enough’, Says Pioneer of Respect to Sikh Turban Campaign

By: Gurpreet Kaur

See interview video at this link

When injustice was committed by a small group of ignorant people within a seemingly archaic organization, as it happened with Sikhs in Poland by Board Guards, it was time to decide ‘enough was enough,’ says Shaminder Singh Puri, who launched the campaign looking to tackle the issue focussing particularly on airport security checks.

Puri, a Scientist and Secretary General of an international science organization alleged that the Polish airport authorities persistently harassed him, as well as many other Sikhs by making it mandatory to remove the turban and place on the conveyor belt like hand luggage for examination. Polish security staff stubbornly refused to first utilize other routinely available check procedures, such as hand held security devices, pat down of the turbans, and puffer.

He claimed that there was a total lack of sensitivity, which was simply a result of ignorance.

Respect to Sikh Turban Campaign:

The campaign, with a worldwide following is aimed to gain recognition about the significance of the Sikh Turban or ‘Dastar’ to Sikhs, And to ensure Sikh turban or Dastar does not receive abusive or undignified treatment at airports, as it is a sign of faith and identity.

This campaign is addressed to all reasonable travelling people, to the Border Guards of EU Countries, to the Government agencies that regulate their Border Guard services and to Airport Authorities.

The Background & the Issue of the Campaign- At its website, Puri, a frequent traveller to Poland writes that:

The root cause of the campaign goes back to mid 2009. At that time the EU Commission dealing with airport safety introduced new regulations on security checks. While these checks were generally very sensible and necessary, one aspect of the rules affected Sikhs.

There was a requirement (though not compulsory) that head gear (hats, caps, baseball caps and other similar items) had to be passed through the scanners. While this does not affect most people it does affect Sikhs, especially those that are the citizens and residents of EU Countries.

Border Guards in some EU Countries took this regulation literally. They demanded that Sikhs remove their turbans, place them on the tray for hand baggage and pass them through the scanner, despite no indication of any alarm signal.

From Aug 2009 to Sept 2010 the Sikh Community made many attempts to have a dialogue with the Polish Border Guard suggesting that we provide them with information about Sikh Turbans, about Sikh values, about the possibility of non intrusive checks – and only then, by intrusive checks if some prohibited item was suspected in the Turban.

We even went to the length of agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, albeit with some junior staff of the Border Guard, all to no avail. “

Precedent setting case against the authorities:

Puri, a geologist from Dorchester upon Thames, Oxfordshire decided to compile a Case Document and submitted it to Poland’s Helsinki Foundation, a human rights NGO active in Europe, whose review concluded that there was a clear breach and violations of the dignity and human rights.

The Court action claiming that his human rights have been violated was launched in Sept 2010 against Border Guard.

“In a lower court, the Judge acknowledged the claim that Border Guards have engaged in human right abuses when checking Sikhs passing through Polish airports, but ruled that this was within the law. The ruling was thought to be very unbalanced, and was even thought to be defective by the lawyers of the Helsinki Foundation, as well as the pro bono firm that is prosecuting the Case,” stated the press release.

An appeal was launched on March 2012. The hearing of the Appeal against the ruling of a lower Court in the case against the Polish Border Guard has been postponed till the 12th Feb 2013.

“This is a fight we must win. It will avoid future harassment of Sikhs for wearing their turbans. If this Court action in Poland is successful, it will be much easier to ask European Court of Human Rights to make the ruling applicable in all the rest of the EU Member States.” said Puri.

Full details of a Campaign for Respect to Sikh Turban is on http://respectsikhturbans.webs.com