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Harassment Of Sikhs At Polish Airports


Jun 1, 2004
September 6, 2010: PRESENT POSITION — Last month the NSO has received the following terse plea from Shaminder Puri, a Gursikh Scientist, Secretary General of an international science organisation[1] and working as the UNESCO and the EU’s environmental policy Expert in Poland & Eastern Europe.

In a harsh and questionable interpretation by Poland of a European Union Directive on airport security, Sikhs are being forced to remove their turbans and place them on the conveyor like hand luggage for examination before being permitted on their onward travel.

Such an uncompromising demand is being made even though Sikhs pass through the passenger scanners with no alarm going off. This is clearly an insult to all Sikhs. The hope was that this total lack of sensitivity, which goes well beyond the needs of security, was simply a result of ignorance. On the advice of the NSO, every effort has been made for nearly a year to engage the Polish Border Guard in discussions to explain the unique significance of the turban to Sikhs in a series of letters and face to face meetings[2]. We emphasised that we understood and accepted the need for security and were willing to submit to all available methods of checks with hand held detectors and hand pat downs, and, if there was still reason for concern that the wearer was carrying any one of the forty or so forbidden items that are listed in the EC Regulation, to removal and examination of the turban in a private area. Sadly, the Polish authorities have proved totally insensitive to Sikh concerns and it has now become necessary to look to alternative ways to protect our rights.


Following detailed discussions between the NSO, Shaminder Puri and other Sikhs in Poland and with advice from Human Rights Lawyers, Bindman and Partners, it has been decided not to approach the European Court of Human Rights direct, but through a Court in Poland where the chances of success are considered good. Following success in Poland, it will be much easier for us to ask the European Court of Human Rights to make the Polish decision binding on all European countries. [NOTE - Sikhs travelling to Spain are suffering the same sort of treatment as in Poland]. A well qualified Polish legal team have been engaged, and a Case is to be lodged by 6<sup>th</sup> September at the tiem that the Polish PM will visit the Indian PM for trade talks.

The Polish Trade Delegation to India, led by Poland’s Prime Minister Mr Donald Tusk will be leaving for India on 5<sup>th</sup> September to Bangalore for a Trade Forum, and then will travel to New Delhi, meeting Prime Minister S Manmohan Singh on 7<sup>th</sup> September to discuss Indo-Polish trade & investment. It is important that we urge the Indian PM to make members of the Polish delegation aware of the insensitive and unnecessarily insulting treatment of Sikhs at airports in Poland. Trade & investment between the countries should also include mutual respect for religion & culture. A sample letter is attached. This should also be sent to Indian Minister of External Affairs Preneet Kaur, requesting her to kindly bring this issue to the notice of S Manmohan Singh at the time of the summit of the two PM’s, so that the PM may express the serous concerns of Sikhs to Mr Tusk. We should be ready for immediate legal action if diplomatic attempts fail.


This is a fight we must win and to do so we need careful preparation and action. Much of the initial court action will be borne by the Helsinki Foundation, a human rights NGO active on in Europe, with Polish lawyers acting on a pro bono basis. However associated costs of securing suitable experts fluent in Polish to give evidence, mobilise Polish and Indian public opinion, a subsequent approach to the European Court of Human Rights etc. could amount to some ten to fifteen thousands of pounds. Help is urgently required, not in a few weeks but now.. . Donations should be made to the NSO who will be responsible for claiming tax on donations and fully accounting for donations received and spent.


This is an issue of fundamental significance that affects every Sikh in the Diaspora. It is a challenge that we must win, and with your help, we will.

Dr Indarjit Singh

Director Network of Sikh Organisations.UK
Circulated by Hardeep Singh Press Secretary NSO
For further information please contact Dr Indarjit Singh at + 44 208 540 4148

FROM OCT 2009 to SEP 2010

in an effort to inform the Polish Border Guard about the insult to Sikh turban through their insensitivity:

  • The Polish Ambassador in India has written to his Ministry noting that the airport security practices are most insulting to Sikhs (December 2009) and that the issue should be borne in mind when the Polish PM visits S Manmohan Singh in New Delhi
(NOTE the Polish Ambassador has given a gift to Amitabh Bachchan of Ganesh ji, carved from salt from the famous salt mines of Wieliczka, in recognition of good Indo Polish relations)

  • The Polish Under Secretary of State has written to his Interior Ministry stating that Sikhs travelling to a international science Congress in Poland (Sep 2010) may feel highly insulted if current security practices are applied in their case (February 2010)

  • Two Sikhs, with regular business and personal contacts, with Poland over the last forty years, have written a series of letter to the Komandent of the airport security service (exchange of ten letters between December, 2009 through to June 2010)

  • The President of the Sikh Gurudwara in Poland, an officially registered body, has written and held face to face meetings with the Border Guard representatives (Jun 2010)

  • While passing through security check Sikhs have been targeted and harassed, including Gyanis, who belong to the Warsaw Gurudwara, even though they have offered themselves to very means of non intrusive checks (May 2010 onwards)

  • The Helsinki Foundation has written letters questioning the practices adopted by the Border Guard in relation to demand for removal of Sikh turbans (June 2010 to present).

  • The Indian Ambassador in Poland has made representations to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has included this issue in the ‘talking points’ for the attention of India’s PM, S Manmohan Singh.

  • Prominent Sikhs in the UK have written to the Polish Ambassador in the UK (Dec 200)

  • Sikh Gurudwaras in New Delhi have written to the Polish Ambassador in India (Jan 2010)
<hr size="1">[1] International Association of Hydrogeologists (www.iah.org/isarm) [2] The list of actions taken over from Oct 2009 to present are listed at the end of this press release


Nov 5, 2009
Bangalore, India
Respected Aman Singhji,
It is very sadenning to see that Sikh Brothers are paying the price for terror threats caused by inhuman fanatics. Ignorance about Sikhism is one of the major causes. In my opinion, a Sikh officer may be posted at the checking gates of the airports who can carry out the security check without violating Sikh norms as an immediate relief step. For a long term solution, we need to send a representation to the EU authorities demanding to send out special instructions to the airports in Europe for carrying out security checks on Sikh passengers without violating the norms of Sikhism.



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