Who are Hazara?
Hazara people are indigenous to Afghanistan. They are a minority in Afghanistan making up around 10 – 20% of the general population in Afghanistan. The majority ethnicity is Pashtun. Hazara are thought to have Turkic, Uzbek or Iranian ancestors. This heritage gives them distinctly ‘Asian’ appearance. Most Hazara are Shi’a Muslims. As they are so easily identified by their facial features, they are targeted and persecuted by extremist Sunni groups, like the Taliban and Al Qaida, who believe that Hazara are ‘Kafir’ (infidels) and that they must be eradicated.
In the late 19th century, millions of Hazara were massacred in Afghanistan. Almost 60% of the Hazara people were either brutally murdered, expelled from their homelands or enslaved.
The Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni sect, took control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Targeting of Hazara people has never stopped and now that the Taliban is in power, the focused killings of Hazara people has once again escalated.
The latest massacre
On 30 September 2022, the latest in a series of murderous attacks, a suicide bomber targeted a girls’ school in West Kabul, where many Hazara are located.
35 girls died and more than 82 people were injured. The girls had been sitting a practice university exam.
Australia to the rescue?
We know that we, Australia, can act quickly in humanitarian disasters and war. We saw this in the action Australia took to rescue people from Ukraine.
So where is the Australian assistance for Hazara? Where is the mobilisation to rescue Hazara?
A handful of people were given sanctuary before the Taliban closed the airport in 2021 but nothing has been done by the Australian government since.
We have Afghan Hazara clients who lodged and paid for family visas for their family – wives, husbands, children – and have been waiting for contact from the Department of Home Affairs for over FOUR YEARS.
One client, Maryam*, is a Hazara woman who lodged a partner visa for her husband and five children almost FIVE YEARS AGO. Due to her trauma and worry for her family, she does not eat, does not sleep. She calls us every week, sobbing. She goes to politicians and throws herself at their feet – literally – and begs them to get her family out of Afghanistan.
I wrote to the Department of Home Affairs in May this year asking for information for Maryam. I let the Department know that my client’s mental health had deteriorated badly.
I said that “…[i]t is inhumane that this has been going on for so long and in these circumstances. They are Hazara people stuck in Afghanistan in Jaghori province for over four years now, and the only reason this family is not here is because of the cruel policies of the previous Australian government to perpetually punish people that fled persecution and arrived here by boat.”
We received a response from the Department on 5 October 2022, where Maryam was advised to “…consider seeking help from a counselling service during this difficult time. The following are two avenues she may wish to contact:
- http://www.lifeline.org.au/ Ph: 13 11 14
- https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ Ph: 1300 22 4636”
You’re kidding, right?
The letter stuck to a rigid view of the criteria for a partner visa (which have all been fulfilled by us and by Maryam, by the way) and completely ignored the desperate situation of this Hazara family trapped in Afghanistan.
This is just not good enough. Not for Maryam. Not for any Hazara here is Australia who is desperate to get their loved ones to safety.
What can you do?
Show your support:
- Attend demonstrations and stand by Hazara people.
- Stay informed. Follow social media accounts who are telling the truth about what is happening to Hazara (such as Al Jazeera and Amnesty International).
- Go and speak to your local Federal Member. Let them know that the slow (or negligible) response of the Australian government to the Hazara crisis is unacceptable and that you expect more.
What Kerdo Legal is doing
We have many Hazara clients, and we are doing everything we can to assist to get their families out of Afghanistan (and Quetta in Pakistan). Unfortunately, we are limited in what we can do because the Department is not acting, nor are they giving us any direct contact with case officers. We don’t even have any direct emails to the Department of Home Affairs!
Despite this, we are continuing to do our best to push the Department Of Home Affairs and the Australian Government to act. We continue to advocate for our clients in every way we can.
If you are Hazara and need help with your case, please call us on +61 3 9416 7767 or email us on [email protected]. We will give you the most up to date information we have, and help you as much as we can. We will ALWAYS listen to your story and be honest with you.
Principal Solicitor and Founder at Kerdo Legal
( * Not her real name)