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Afghan community calls on Australia to rescue refugees from Taliban

17 August 20210 comments

Australia’s Afghan community has called on the federal government to immediately offer humanitarian visas to 20,000 refugees from vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, including women and minorities. 

Thousands of Afghans across Australia hold grave fears for family members and love ones in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country over the past few days

Hazara community leader Barat Ali Batoor said that Australia should immediately arrange 20,000 humanitarian visas for Afghanis at risk of Taliban retribution.

“There are thousands of people are at dire risk of being persecuted by the Taliban,” Mr Batoor said.

“They include religious minorities such as Hazaras, Sikhs, Hindus and Shias; and also members of civil society,” he said.

“They also include and children, whose human rights are under threat from the Taliban, journalists, people who worked with international organisations like the UN and people from the LGBTQ community. They all need urgent help.

“Apart from this, there are thousands of Hazaras in Australia who are citizens or permanent residents who have family members trapped in Afghanistan.

“We would like to see a mechanism to evacuate and process these people to reunite them with their families on an urgent basis,” said Mr Batoor, who is a photojournalist and filmmaker.

The Australian government closed its embassy in Kabul in late May, and the last Australian troops left the country in June after almost 20 years of military intervention alongside the United States.

Now, members of the Afghan diaspora and refugee advocates are calling on Australia to offer humanitarian protection to refugees. 

The Taliban has said it will respect women’s and minorities’ rights and freedom of expression within Sharia law.

But Mr Batoor says Hazaras have a deep distrust of the Taliban.

“The Taliban’s version of Sharia law is ambiguous and unpredictable,” he said.

“There are even people within their own Sunni sect who don’t agree with them. And for Shia Muslims, living under the Taliban’s Sharia law is effectively a punishment.

“And the Taliban do not even recognise Shias as Muslims. As Hazaras we remember the massacre at Mazar-I-Sharif in 1998 when thousands of Hazaras were killed.

“We have no reason to believe anything has changed. What is happening in Afghanistan is the calm before the storm,” Mr Batoor said.

Akram Yusofi, head of the Hazara Shamama Association in south-east Melbourne, said his community was “terrified”.

“I think it’s really been very painful for our community,” he said. 

Refugee Council of Australia Afghan representative Shukufa Tahiri said the past 20 years had given Afghans a glimpse of freedom.

“People were given a glimpse of peace and hope, and they were suddenly robbed of it,” Ms Tahiri said. 

“People say that they are being fed to the wolves. That’s the level of betrayal. People feel like 20 years of promises were just a lie.”

She said Australia should follow Canada which has said it will resettle 20,000 people targeted by the Taliban. 

Ms Tahiri urged Australia not to recognise the Taliban regime.

“We lost hope in humanity. Every country has turned a blind eye to Afghanistan, when we needed their support the most,” she said.