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Australian government shuts their doors on Afghan-Hazara refugees as minorities and women in Afghanistan face persecution by the Taliban

Australian government shuts their doors on Afghan-Hazara refugees as minorities and women in Afghanistan face persecution by the Taliban

Over a thousand refugee people protested for resettlement outside the UNHCR in Jakarta

On 15 August, Taliban militants entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and seized power without any resistance. This signaled the resumption of the brutal, destructive Taliban ideology. In that single day, Afghanistan regressed twenty years. Beauty, happiness and all expressions of art began emigrating from the country. 

The young people who had worked for the past twenty years to establish a progressive, independent and civilized Afghanistan left their achievements and identity behind, along with their sense belonging and love of this suffering land, and set off for an unknown destination, and an uncertain future. 

Men and women who are human rights activists, artist, writers, journalists, and those who served alongside the NATO forces could not countenance the prospect of living under the harshness of Sharia-law in a Taliban regime. Women know that from now on they will have to be clad from head to toe, and that they risk being publicly flogged just for trying to live their dreams and exercise their fundamental human rights. 

The Taliban announced a general amnesty. This was an attempt to portray themselves in a positive light to gain international legitimacy, and no longer be classified as a terrorist organization responsible for countless savage crimes. Nobody believes their claim to have changed their approach. As soon as they have fully formalized their Islamic government, the Taliban’s primary targets will remain the ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Hazaras who look different and have different religious beliefs. One clear example of their dark intention to continue the mass killing of the Hazara people took place last week in Malistan, a district in the province of Ghazni, where the Taliban shot dead more than ten civilians. Amnesty International condemned this massacre and warned the world about the genocide of Hazaras in Afghanistan. 

The horrific return of Taliban to power left the Afghan-Hazara refugees living in Indonesia in a dire situation, consumed by shock and grief. I live in an International Organization for Migration (IOM) refugee shelter in the city of Batam, Indonesia.  Every single day, my fellow refugee brothers and I worry about our families back in Afghanistan. We are restless and exhausted, but unable to sleep. Our reddened eyes, haunted expressions and distracted behaviour betrays the sadness and devastation that grips our lives. Our feet are cut off from the earth, and our hands from the sky. We are left helpless, without options in this land of waiting. Indonesia did not sign the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and has no legal responsibility for refugees. 

In this extreme situation, we cannot remain silent and tolerate watching our families being murdered by the Taliban.  So all the Afghan-Hazara refugees from across Indonesia, who have been living in obscurity and hopelessness in Indonesian camps for nearly a decade, had an online meeting in which everyone agreed to hold a peaceful protest outside the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) office in Jakarta.

On 24 August, 2021, over a thousand of men, women and children stormed the streets of Jakarta to gather in front of the UNHCR building, asking them to accelerate the small pace of our applications for resettlement in third countries where we can work and study, and focus on saving our families from danger in Afghanistan. 

We are left on our own. We have nothing but hearts full of pain and minds crowded with horror and fear. The world seems indifferent to the humanitarian crisis rapidly unfolding in Afghanistan. The refugee-taking countries including Australia feign compassion as they watch, with cold indifference, videos of desperate people clinging to the sides of planes, and mothers with newborn babies trying to make it to the airport to board an evacuation plane and flee the Taliban’s fighters.

It’s time for the Australian government, which halted the passage of nearly 14,000 refugees registered with UNHCR – including the Afghan-Hazara refugees who make up more than half the refugee population in Indonesia – to show some humanity and increase its annual intake of refugees from Indonesia. 

“In the past few years, we’ve held a number of peaceful protests calling on third countries to hear our cry for resettlement, but our peaceful demonstrations have not been met with more resettlement,” said Ali, a twenty-three year old Afghan-Hazara refugee. He continued, “ Whenever we hold peaceful protest in front of the UNHCR building, the officials tell us, ‘We didn’t send you an invitation to come to Jakarta. If you’re not happy with the situation, you can go back where you came from.’”

“We sincerely ask the kind and easy-going people of Indonesia to be our voice and ask their government to give more rights to refugee people stranded in Indonesia for several years. We expect the Indonesian police to provide security and calmness for us. Instead of answering our peaceful protest  with anger and violence” said Mahdi, another Afghan-Hazara refugee living in Bogor.

“We grapple with gradual death every moment. We can do nothing but watch the nightmare unfold, knowing our families can’t breathe freely under Taliban rule,” added Mahdi. “We are frantic with anxiety about what will happen to our loved ones in the coming days. So we have taken a bold decision. This time, the number of refugees coming to protest will be much greater, and our demand is clear. We ask the people of Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand to demand more resettlement places from their countries for the Afghan-Hazara Refugees stranded in Indonesia.” 


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