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Australian Hazaras plead with Kabul over kidnappings, demand action

Hazaras in Australia are calling on the Afghan government to chase down the kidnappers of 31 of their people outside Kabul earlier this year.

Words and images by Daniel Horsley
 
Local Hazaras gathered in Federation Square to put their case for action. PIC: Daniel Horsley

Local Hazaras gathered in Federation Square to put their case for action. PIC: Daniel Horsley

Thousands of Hazaras have been openly protesting across Australia, including in Melbourne’s Federation Square, demanding more action by the Kabul government to find the missing Afghan citizens.

An organiser of the protests, Kamela Rezaie, said the protesters were also asking the Australian government to put pressure on the Afghanistan authorities to take action.

“Afghan Hazaras have always been targeted,” said Ms Rezaie, who accused the government of having done next-to-nothing in response to the frequent ethnically-motivated attacks.

“We are standing here in solidarity with our families, with our little children, with a mother who has two sons [among] the kidnapped people. These are the human atrocities…in Afghanistan.” — campaigner Zakia Baig

In the latest major incident, two buses travelling through the Zabul province south-west to Kandahar were stopped by “unknown militants” on February 22, when the men, women and children were kidnapped.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Citizen that the incident was of concern, adding that the government remained committed to the protection of human rights.

The Australian government would “continue to reinforce this commitment through our engagement with the Afghan government”.

However, a spokeswoman for Greens Senator Janet Rice told the Melbourne protest that Canberra’s policies on asylum seekers were “cruel and uncaring.”

Citing the latest Hazara abductions, she said the Federal Government’s policies on asylum seekers risked “sending people back to kidnapping, torture and their deaths”.

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Prominent Hazara campaigner Zakia Baig, who fled Afghanistan after founding a women’s centre, told last month’s protest: “We are standing here in solidarity with our families, with our little children, with a mother who has two sons [among] the kidnapped people. These are the human atrocities increasing in Afghanistan.”

Ms Baig added: “They will not be found, we know that.”

Many of those present said they viewed the Afghan government’s lack of action as suspicious.

Ms Rezaie said that Hazaras felt this way because the government’s past inaction. “Whatever we did, we protested, we asked for our rights,” she added. “We basically did whatever we could as civilians and nothing happened.”

Hazaras are an ethnic minority, who are mostly from Afghanistan, but have fled the country and neighbouring Pakistan due to persecution. An estimated 10,000-plus Hazaras live in Australia, many of whom travelled via Malaysia and Indonesia, seeking asylum.

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