Many Ahmadi Muslims are threatened with deportation from Germany. But other countries have recognized the need for protection of the minority that is often persecuted in Pakistan.
The Ahmad family lives in uncertainty. They have no German residency permit. The father, a qualified engineer, is not allowed to work in Germany.
They live in a refugee shelter but they can expect a deportation order any day. They have recently learned that the next collective deportation to Pakistan will take place on March 17 — and they are afraid they will be on that flight.
Back in Pakistan, they say, their lives would be in danger.
Second-class citizens in Pakistan
The Ahmad family are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim religious community, a movement that originated in British India in the 19th century.
The adherents of the movement referred to as Ahmadis, follow the Islamic scriptures. But they also believe their movement's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a messiah. Many Muslims, therefore, regard the Ahmadiyya teachings as heresy.
"The exclusion of Ahmadis is even enshrined in the constitution [of Pakistan]," explained Mohammad Suleman Malik, spokesman for the Ahmadi community in the German states of Thuringia and Saxony.
Ahmadis have been forbidden to call themselves Muslims in Pakistan since 1974. They are also not allowed to call their houses of prayer "mosques," and the adhan, or call to prayer, is forbidden.
In a country with some of the strictest blasphemy laws in the world, an "As-salaam-alaikum" greeting by Ahmadis could result in the death penalty. As non-Muslims, Ahmadis are second-class citizens.
UNHCR and Amnesty see the need for protection
Ahmad and his wife Sahar Kalsoom have also experienced severe hostility. Kalsoom says she had to change schools and has been called a "kafir," an infidel. She did not finish her education.
When her cousin was murdered, the entire family had to flee their home village of Khureyanwala. After she married Ahmad and the couple had children, they decided to go to Germany to give their daughters a better future.
According to Amnesty International, Pakistani authorities have long downplayed violence against Ahmadis, even supporting it in some cases. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says Ahmadis in Pakistan represent a persecuted minority and should be entitled to protection.
For this reason, Ahmadis in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands have not been deported for a long time. This is not the case in Germany.
Germany: 'Cases are examined individually'
Some 535 Ahmadis are currently being threatened with deportation in Germany. A spokesperson for the interior ministry told DW that merely belonging to this religious community is not sanctioned under criminal law in Pakistan. This is why "cases are examined individually on the basis of the individual circumstances."
German administrative courts often point to safe places for Ahmadis in Pakistan — for example, to Rabwah, the seat of the largest Ahmadi community in the country
Spokesman Malik was skeptical about this. "Ahmadis in Pakistan are not safe anywhere," he said. "Ahmadis are also regularly murdered in Rabwah."
For Malik and the Saxony Refugee Council, the deportations, which are now becoming more frequent, are politically motivated. After the pandemic put them on hold temporarily, the council claims that the German government wanted to make their mark with a tough migration policy in this important election year.
"I think there is a lack of knowledge or political will. This, unfortunately, comes at the detriment of the persecuted people who live here and are now being deported in droves," Malik said, shaking his head.
"It's a matter of life and death for these people," he added.
'Where can we go?'
The Ahmad family is not optimistic about their prospects.
"Germans live in freedom, they may not understand — but when you come here from Pakistan and leave everything behind, you carry a pain with you," said Sahar Kalsoon, the mother, struggling through tears.
"It's not easy to leave a country and leave everything behind. And now that we're here, we're told we can't stay here. But where can we go?"
Her husband fears there will be repercussions if they return, as happened to his uncle who returned from the UK in 2005. A rumor circulated in the village that he, an Ahmadi, was a foreign spy. He was lynched by a mob.
The family has long since exhausted all legal possibilities. A petition by Malik to the state of Saxony was also rejected. They can only wait for the deportation notice. The walk in the wind is one last moment of normality.
This article was translated from German.
Author: Luisa von Richthofen
First published: March 16, 2021
Copyright DW - All rights reserved
DW is not responsible for the content of external websites