A Plea for Refugees Rights in Australia

Persecution, injustice, discrimination, displacement, killings and violations of human rights continue as dozens of innocent lives are lost, homes destroyed, families torn apart, thousands displaced and telecommunications cut off after Taliban attacks in Uruzgan province and Jaghuri and Malistan districts of Ghazni, Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has neglected to secure peace, equality, and stability for its citizens. It forgets, however, the citizens on whom the perfidies are perpetrated.

Hazaras, amongst others, are clear victims of these atrocities in Uruzgan and Jaghuri. They
are forced to flee their bleeding land and seek refuge. After harrowing land journeys, they cram onto tiny fishing boats to make further dangerous water journey to places like Australia. This needs to be clear: this is not done on whim, not done for the adventure
of a new shiny-bright country and our government needs to stop pretending otherwise.
I, as a child, also fled war-torn Afghanistan, where there are few signs left of justice, humanity and freedom. People like me who are born in one of the most persecuted ethnic groups, the Hazaras, are historically subjected to discrimination and oppression at the hands of the Afghan tribal state and non-state actors.

Most Hazaras belong to the Shi’ite branch of Islam. The Taliban, are Sunni and largely ethnic Pashtuns.

My family and I, unlike so many others, are fortunate enough to have been given a second chance at life by a generous Australian government. Given all that we had endured, grateful is an understatement when it comes to describing how we felt when we first arrived over a decade ago. We finally had a home, a home we could adopt as our own. A home that would allow us to escape the horrors
of the past.

When I reflect on my humble beginnings, it is still unbelievable to think that I arrived in Australia as a shy 8-year-old girl, who couldnt speak a word of English. I have been afforded with the greatest gift of all knowledge and education. I have just finished my undergraduate studies in International Relations and Human Rights from Monash University. In less than 2 months, I will
be departing for another challenging, but this time joyful, journey. Just months ago, I was awarded one of two prestigious University of Oxford Scholarships for 2019.

I am truly honoured, humbled and delighted. Coming from a disadvantaged background, Oxford was never on my radar. I was born in a society where women and girls were told that they were second-class, they didn’t have rights and they didnt need an education, because it was assumed that as girls grew up, they would naturally adapt to the standard domestic’ role. I only realized how lucky I was 12 years ago when I went to school for the first time in my life. 

I am grateful for all the opportunities and privileges afforded to me, and I know that being able to call Australia my home has been instrumental in enabling me to become the woman I am today and will become, and for that privilege, I will be eternally grateful.

Living in a comfortable Western society and commenting on the situation of Afghanistan and its people is kind of inconvenient. Sometimes, I even feel I may be insulting the people of my origins, by commenting on their situation. But to be honest, I can’t be indifferent, either. I need to take a stance. There is an immense emotional connection that
forces me to react. However, it is a
delicate situation which needs nuanced navigation. I can not remain quiet. I can not be harsh and vocal either, but maintaining silence is not an option. The situation just draws me in. There are girls and women just like me, caught in this dastardly net. The Hazaras are victims of the silent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Fears and concerns are growing amongst the Australian Hazara community over families and relatives, where telecommunications have been destroyed, making it almost impossible for loved ones to get in touch with victims of the attacks. Some have already disappeared, with any trace yet to be found.
Many who flee precarious situations for their survival have to go somewhere; they are compelled to become people who seek asylum in places like Australia. Ironically, though, seeking help from a place supposedly free, they are restricted in their freedom of movement, separated from their families, deprived of their agency and subjected to indefinite detention in facilities that are highly regulated and securitized, places which resemble a combination of a prison and military camp.

I urge the Australian government and public to be more curious and open. We need to treat refugees and people seeking asylum fairly and kindly.

They are merely people who seek freedom, a right granted by Australia and the United Nations. We need to be understanding of people and their circumstances. We need to be broadminded, accepting and inclusive with
empathy. I am one of their faces a freedom loving Australian. I truly believe Australia is compassionate and has boundless plains to share. It has given me a dream life. I believe it has the capability to open its arm to give many more Sitarahs a second
chance at life. I believe in us. I ask you to continue believing.

Sitarah Mohammadi is a Human Rights Activist with an emphasis on the rights of refugees in Australia. She holds a BA in Human Rights and International Relations, and is the recipient of the 2019 Oxford University Provost’s Scholarship to pursue further studies.