Tag Archives: hazaras in australia

Australia helping Pakistan stop Hazara asylum seekers from leaving: report

December 20, 2012

Children from the ethnic Hazara minority play in front of their cave home in Afghanistan

Children from the ethnic Hazara minority play in front of their cave home in the central town of Bamiyan some 240km north-west of Kabul, April 13, 2007. (Reuters)

Australia’s reported cooperation with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to stop Hazara asylum seekers from leaving the country is “questionable and sordid”, Amnesty International says.

It follows an investigation by the Global Mail which quoted Pakistani officials confirming that Australian Federal Police had encouraged a policy of racially profiling people from the Hazara community, suspected of preparing to flee the country.

Hazaras are Shia Muslims and often face persecution from Sunni death squads in Pakistan. Their distinctive East Asian facial features make them an easy target.

“In getting involved with the intelligence agencies in Pakistan, Australia is involving itself in a very sordid and questionable environment, in which these Hazaras are facing really shocking threats, and are literally being killed every week,” Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistan researcher with Amnesty International, told Radio Australia.

Mr Qadri said it was known that Australia was providing financial and other assistance to Pakistani intelligence agencies to stop a range of racketeering in the country, including people smuggling.

“The Australian authorities are trying to disrupt the smuggling but in the process effectively supporting elements involved in a range of very sordid things,” he said.

“What we also see on the ground is that Australian authorities are trying to stop people from coming to Australia by saying that they won’t get asylum in Australia, that it’s on a very arduous journey … this is PR against that.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-20/an-australia-helping-pakistan-stop-hazara-asylum-seekers-from-l/4439262

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I am HAZARA | a special series by dawn.com

November 21, 2012

Photo Credit: dawn.com

Close to 1,000 Hazaras have been killed in targeted attacks and shootings in the capital of Pakistan’s largest province. The indifference towards the atrocities has forced this shrinking community to take escape routes and gamble between life at the promised land and death at the ocean.

Why would someone kill a Hazara? The question elicited different responses from social scientists, politicians, religious leaders and economists. Apart from the analytical reasons, there are others too: The organised graveyards, well-managed colonies, self-sufficient introvert people, and children who take art seriously and life lightly are among the distinguishing factors of these people. Hazaras, probably, are too refined for us to mourn their deaths, feel their loss and protest their killings. Their existence is the sole ray of light that challenges the darkness, which we have come to we love.

We have also conveniently chosen to look the other way because we are not Hazaras and our kids will never be killed because of their facial features, dialects and faith. The perception prevails that this persecution is for Hazaras only – but the areas of Sola-acre, Nasirabad, Syedabad and Nauabad remind us that these were once safe places too.

Legend has it that the title Hazara is derived from their grouping into battalions of 1,000 men which fought Genghiz Khan. Now, with the killing of close to one thousand Hazaras, this title has been redefined.
Read the full series here in Urdu: http://urdu.dawn.com/kon-hazara/

Read the full series in English here: http://dawn.com/i-am-hazara/


Filed under Analysis, Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, Boat Tragedy, Deportation, Detention Centers, HAS Exclusive, Other, People Smugglers, Talented Asylum Seekers

Hazaras in Pakistan Caught Between Persecution and the High Seas

September 07, 2012

Funeral in the Hazara graveyard in Quetta for victims of gunmen. Credit: Altaf Safdari/IPSFuneral in the Hazara graveyard in Quetta for victims of gunmen. Credit: Altaf Safdari/IPS

KARACHI, Pakistan, Sep 6 2012 (IPS) – It will be no less than a miracle if Nadir Ali makes it to Australia, where he planned to seek asylum. But with each passing day, since his boat went missing over two months ago, hopes are dimming.

Ali, a 45-year-old Shia Hazara daily wage earner from Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, had reached Indonesia and boarded the boat from Jakarta on May 22, along with 24 others, most of them from the same community. But the boat lost contact soon after it hit the high seas, and has been missing for over two months.

“We were told that the sea was rough and the boat was too small,” said Qadir Nayel, Ali’s younger brother speaking to IPS over the phone from Quetta. “But because there is no news of them having drowned, we are hoping against hope.” Nayel said his brother paid over 10,000 dollars for the passage.

But why are Hazaras fleeing the country?

In what looks like a rerun of history, the Hazara Shias, with a population of around 956,000 (nearly 600,000 of whom live in Quetta alone), are being persecuted again in Pakistan because of their ethnicity and their history of conflict with Sunni Muslims.

Most of the world’s 3.4 million Hazara people, easily recognisable by their Mongol-like features, live in Afghanistan. But some 120 years ago, many fled that country, where they were being persecuted by the dominant Sunni Pashtun tribes. In Pakistan they were well received, and some rose to important positions in the government.

Another 350,000 Hazara live in Iran.

Shias of all ethnicities account for about 20 percent of Pakistan’s Sunni-majority population of 180 million.

Hussain (name changed on request) lost five members of his family, including a maternal uncle, a widowed sister-in-law and her three children, when the boat they were travelling in was shipwrecked in high waters in the Indian Ocean in 2009.

“The last time my uncle spoke to me was before boarding the ship from Jakarta,” Hussain said. “He sounded very disturbed with the arrangement. He said if he’d known, he would never have ventured out in the first place. By morning we got the news that their ship had gone under and all of them had perished.”

In recent years, scores of Hazara Shias have fled Balochistan in southwest Pakistan. There are significant communities of Hazara in Europe, Turkey and Australia.

While official statistics are hard to come by and people are afraid to give information, the exodus has been fuelled by the rise in target killings of members of this community.

According to Abdul Khaliq, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, over 25,000 Hazaras have left Pakistan in the last decade, the vast majority of them in the last three years. “I’d say over 1,000 people have perished while making the perilous journey,” he told IPS over the phone from Quetta.

He was referring to the most common route followed by the fleeing Hazara, who go to Indonesia legally and then try to sneak into Australia illegally.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch, told IPS that the Hazara have been reduced to a “ghetto existence in Quetta.”

“They can only go about their daily business at the risk of their lives. It is hardly surprising that members of the Hazara community are seeking political asylum in large numbers, and it would be a very cruel host state indeed that would deny them the same,” he added.

For his part, Hussain said “Nobody wants to leave their country willingly; who would want to leave family and friends and take on a journey we all know is fraught with danger, but we have been pushed to the wall.”

Since the beginning of the year, 47 Shia Hazaras have been killed in 21 separate incidents of violence, according to the South Asia Terrorist Portal (SATP). In 2011, 203 Shias were killed, including 27 Hazaras.

Lately, they have been identified, forced out of buses and vans, and killed. Ambreen Agha, a researcher with the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, which manages the SATP, terms the killing of Hazaras a “sectarian issue.”

“Their Shia identity has posed a threat to their existence in a society that is marred by religious intolerance, the existence of extremist formations, and subsequent impunity that sectarian ‘murderers’ enjoy within the legal and political framework of Pakistan,” she told IPS by email. “Sectarianism adds to the chaotic spirit of Islamabad.”

This was corroborated by HRW’s Hasan. “Hazaras are being targeted as part of a broader exercise in targeting all Pakistani Shias, but it is equally true that the Hazara suffer from double jeopardy – being ethnically distinct in addition to being Shia.”

HRW’s research indicates that the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is behind the killings. “It claims responsibility for these attacks,” said Hasan.

In June 2011, LeJ warned the Hazaras: “…now jihad against the Shia Hazara has become our duty. We will rest only after hoisting the flag of true Islam on the land of the pure – Pakistan.”

To Agha it means a “total failure or collusion” of the state machinery with these militant organisations.

Hasan said “The state may or may not be complicit in the LeJ’s murderous actions, but independent observers believe that law enforcement and intelligence agencies are, at the very least, turning a blind eye.”

Agha, who has been researching Hazara issues since 2010, complained that the Pakistani state has never “mounted any effective resistance” or carried out a “sustained effort to dismantle the hard-core sectarian militant outfits” that have linkages with both the religious parties and the Pakistani establishment.

“Unless Islamabad abandons its policy of tolerance towards the sectarian religious parties and their militant counterparts, there is little hope that Hazara Shias will continue to live in peace within the poisoned territorial boundaries of Pakistan,” she maintained.

Meanwhile, thousands of asylum-seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, many of whom belong to the Hazara community, have been trying to reach Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean – Australia’s closest point to Indonesia – in rickety, overcrowded vessels. Since late 2009, more than 600 people have died in the attempt to make it to the island.

In August, the Australian parliament tried to make changes in its immigration policy to deter asylum-seekers by deporting them to offshore detention centres. The move met with strong criticism from rights groups.

“It’s a big ocean; it’s a dangerous ocean,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “We’ve seen too many people lose their lives trying to make the journey to Australia.” She had proposed sending asylum-seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by Australia’s highest court.

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/hazaras-in-pakistan-caught-between-persecution-and-the-high-seas/

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Why The Hazaras Are Fleeing

September 07, 2012

Thousands of Hazaras attending funeral of victims of atrocious target killing (Source: Google)

Hazaras are the largest ethnic group coming to Australia by boat. They’re escaping sectarian massacres that may get worse after the end of the Afghan War, writes former refugee Hadi Zaher

Pakistan’s ethnic Hazaras, a community who are easily distinguishable because of their Asiatic appearance, have for over a decade born the brunt of ferocious massacres at the hands of religious extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They also constitute the largest segment of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

Although the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is a consistent source of bad news, very little of the everyday mass murder of the Hazaras and other minority communities makes its way into the Australian news.

Members of the community are the target of execution style killings and massacres by Taliban and Al-Qaida affiliated militants who have vowed to rid Pakistan of the presence of minorities such as Hazaras. The frequency of these attacks has gone from a few attacks a month to multiple attacks per week.

The first victims of the attacks were lawyers, doctors, teachers, and public servants. Today, it’s the vegetable vendors, taxi drivers and passengers, students, laborers and the ordinary men, women and children who bear the brunt of the latest atrocities. In light of the recent changes to Australia’s offshore immigration regime and the mass following of SBS’s Go Back to Where You Come From, it is essential for Australian politicians and the wider community to know what the so-called boat people are fleeing and the circumstances that force people to flee their ancestral lands, leave behind their families and board rickety boats not knowing if they will ever make to our shores.

On the morning of 20 September 2011 a passenger bus carrying more than 60 people left the Pakistan city of Quetta, headed for the Iranian border. Among those on board were men of various backgrounds and ages. Some were pilgrims travelling to Iran to visit the shrines of various Shi’a saints. Most were traders and labourers hoping to perform manual jobs in Iran and provide for their families back home.

Some were teenagers and young men in their 20s who were fleeing the growing spate of killings and insecurity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Men who hoped to go to Iran and eventually make their way to Europe and seek asylum. At around midday, some 30 kilometres south of Quetta, their buses were stopped by masked men armed with rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs.

Hazara passengers were forced off the buses at gunpoint, lined up and then shot. The wounded were then shot again and again as they lay bleeding on the ground, breathing their last breath, not knowing the crime for which they were being killed. The masked men then chanted, “Allah is great’ Shi’as are infidels”.

Mere hours later, as distraught relatives of the victims rushed to the scene of the incident, two further Hazaras were killed when masked men sprayed their car with bullets. The perpetrators filmed the massacre of the 26 Hazara men and later distributed the video through online news services and YouTube.

This massacre in Mastung was only one in a chain of targeted attacks against Pakistan’s minority communities, in particular members of the Hazara community who follow the Shi’a sect of Islam. In the year following the attacks, hundreds more Hazaras fell victim to discriminate attacks by the Taliban affiliated Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e Jhangvi. The events in the last few days alone are a testimony to the ferocity and frequency of this gradual genocide in the making:

On 27 August, three Hazara men were killed and two injured when their taxi was attacked in broad day light on Quetta’s Spini Road, a few hundred metres from a checkpoint manned by Pakistani security forces.

On the morning of 30 August, a Shia judge along with his bodyguard and driver were killed as they made their way to the district courts.

On 1 September, seven Hazaras were killed in two coordinated attacks in the Hazaraganji area. Five of the victims were vegetable vendors who had arrived at the local vegetable market to purchase vegetables while two of the victims were waiting to board a bus to travel to Iran for work. While these attacks are discriminate in that they target Hazaras and Shias, Hazaras of all backgrounds are targeted indiscriminately.

The Pakistani state has consistently failed to apprehend the perpetrators of these attacks or clamp down on the extremist religious groups who openly and unabatedly preach hatred against the country’s minority Shi’as, Ahmedis, Christians and Hindus.

It continues to turn a blind eye to the presence of thousands of Islamic madrassas and Taliban training centres across the country. These centres are funded by petro-billionaires from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, and supervised by Pakistani security agencies that use these centres for the pursuit of larger geo-strategic goals such as proxy warfare in Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir.

The Pakistani military maintains a distinction between the good extremists and the bad extremists, depending on how useful they happen to be at the time. The courts are reluctant to punish militants, and often release men known to have been involved in multiple sectarian murders, facilitators of suicide bombers and clerics involved in preaching hate.

Last year, the Pakistan Supreme Court freed Malik Ishaq, the founder of the Lashkar-e Jhangvi. Ishaq had previously been detained in connection with 70 sectarian murders. Upon release, he was received and hailed as a hero by a crowd of tens of thousands. The organisation Ishaq founded continues to claim responsibility for attacks against Hazaras and Shi’as across Pakistan. Ishaq himself continues to attend political and religious rallies where he urges followers to teach the Shi’as a lesson.

The Hazaras are disappointed with apathy of the international community, in particular the inaction of the United Nations. In both Afghanistan and Pakistan, they continue to be victimised by militants who enjoy support from powerful elements within the government. They cannot turn to Pakistani security agencies in hope of protection and have for too long appealed to the international community to come to their aid — all to no avail.

Hazaras hold grave concerns about the implications of the planned US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. The withdrawal, they suspect, will bring the Taliban back into power and mass murder will turn to full-scale genocide.

Desperate and fearful, some Hazaras make to it our shores in search of asylum. As such, Hazaras and other ethnic and religious minorities are in desperate need of full support and protection of the international community, including Australia.

The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached @ChaiSabz

This news article was originally published here: http://newmatilda.com/2012/09/07/what-hazaras-are-fleeing

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