Young asylum seeker ‘fighting’ for peace
An eighteen year old Afghan asylum seeker has been winning Muay Thai martial arts competitions throughout the country since arriving in Australia two years ago.
As a member of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority, Suliaman Hashemi was forced to flee his home country after being targeted by extremist militias. But he has found solace in martial arts and competition.
The teenager is a star member of the Dandenong Muay Thai Club, having won a series of interstate professional level competitions.
Suliaman has participated in seven competitions, taking first place in all but one of them and winning the World Boxing Council Muay Thai Victorian title in February.
The martial art champion is in Year 11 at Dandenong High School and manages to balance study and Muay Thai by training after school five days a week.
He is extremely eager to turn his passion into a career and travel the world to become an international champion.
“When I get my permanent visa I want to represent Australia internationally, but at the moment I can’t fight outside of the country,” said Suliaman.
He started practicing Muay Thai in Afghanistan at the age of 15, but wasn’t able to fight professionally like he is able to do in Australia.
Having always been a martial arts fan Suliaman has tried other combat sports including Taekwondo.
“Muay Thai is my favourite because it uses all of your body.”
“I like to fight for peace,” said Suliaman.
He has been practicing Muay Thai in Australia since arriving here in mid-2013, when he moved in with his uncle in Dandenong.
Of Hazara origin, Suliaman was forced to flee Afghanistan and leave his mother, brother and three sisters behind in Kabul.
“There was lots of war, everyone killing Hazara people, it wasn’t safe there,” said Suliaman.
The Hazara are an ethnic minority that are overwhelmingly Shia rather than Sunni Muslim, which makes up the majority of Afghanistan.
Being sectarian as well as an ethnic minority has historically put them in great risk, Hazara people are usually the first to be targeted when ethnic tensions escalate into conflict.
Suliaman has managed to overcome great adversity; escaping serious danger and leaving his loved ones and home behind, to then excel in both the classroom and in the ring.
Sam Melville, who works for migrant settlement agency AMES Australia as Suliaman’s Case Manager, says that school and being active is what’s most important to him.
“He is a bright young man that’s quite independent and gets on with things,” said Sam.
“Sport is what really motivates him.”
AMES Australia Staff Writer