Category Archives: Hazara Persecution

Afghan Kidnappers Prey on Hazaras | New York Times

November 23, 2015 | New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A campaign of kidnappings against the Hazara ethnic group intensified on Saturday as gunmen stopped a number of buses along Afghanistan’s main highway and separated out the Hazara passengers, officials said.

By morning, between 14 and 30 Hazara passengers had been seized along a stretch of Highway 1 in Zabul Province, in the south of the country, and taken away, three security officials said, each citing a different number of kidnapped people.

There have been numerous episodes this year involving Hazara motorists and bus passengers. While some of those kidnapped have been released after negotiations, others have been killed: This month, militants affiliated with the Islamic State are believed to have beheaded seven Hazara captives, among them a 9-year-old girl.

The government’s powerlessness to stop kidnappings along the country’s main highway — or to return the captives to safety — presents a growing political crisis to the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, just over a year old. After the seven captives were killed this month, thousands of mostly Hazara protesters carried the coffins to the presidential palace, in what was the largest political demonstration in Kabul in years. Guards shot and wounded as many as 10 protesters as some of them scaled walls to enter a palace parking lot.

It was not known whether the Islamic State or the Taliban were behind the kidnappings on Saturday. Both organizations have targeted Hazaras in the past.

“Security forces are investigating the case and will find out who kidnapped them,” Assadullah Kakar, a member of Zabul’s provincial council, said on Saturday.

A driver of one of the buses that were stopped, who gave his name as Shawali, said that six or seven militants climbed aboard and began pulling Hazara passengers out of their seats.

“They were very angry and treating passengers like animals,” he said. “They were telling passengers not to talk as they eagerly looked for Hazara people.”

Just last month, the top American general in Afghanistan, John F. Campbell, testified to a House committee about the state of security in Afghanistan and claimed that Afghans “continue to have, as I said, freedom of movement on Highway 1.”

But for Hazaras, bus trips down that highway are a source of dread. This year alone, as many as 31 Hazaras were abducted in a single episode, said Hassan Raza Yusufi, a Hazara member of the provincial council in Ghazni, which sits along Highway 1. Mr. Yusufi said there had been at least five other kidnappings of Hazaras along the portion of Highway 1 between Kabul and Kandahar this year.

“We blame the government for not taking enough security measures on the highways to protect its people,” Mr. Yusufi said.

The government’s poor record of securing the release of kidnapped Hazaras is another sign of its limited — and receding — authority in parts of the country. This month, the fate of the seven beheaded Hazara victims was discovered not by government forces but by the Taliban fighters who were advancing into a part of Zabul Province held by militants loyal to the Islamic State. Taliban fighters arranged for a truck driver to take the bodies to a government hospital.

Hazaras, historically Afghanistan’s most persecuted ethnic group, account for perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the country’s population, although statistics on demographics here are often based on estimates or guesswork. Hazaras are mostly Shiite in an overwhelmingly Sunni country, and Afghans of other ethnicities have long pilloried them as outsiders, possibly descendants of the Mongol invaders who once swept through the region. They faced persecution and campaigns of murder during years of Taliban rule.

This latest wave of violence against them comes after a decade of upward mobility. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Hazaras have become well represented in the country’s universities and have obtained a degree of political power that has historically eluded them.

But the rise in kidnappings may be leading many Hazaras to question their future in Afghanistan. As Afghans have joined the migrant trail to Europe, Hazaras are said to be leaving at a disproportionate rate, although statistical evidence is nonexistent.



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As millions march in Kabul, Australian Hazaras take action

November 12, 2015 | Media Release

Australian Hazaras will hold a peaceful demonstration in Sydney (November 14) and candlelight vigils in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide (Friday November 13) in solidarity with a million Afghans who marched in Kabul on November 11, demanding justice for seven innocent Hazaras, beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan.

The Hazara community in Australia stands in solidarity with tens of thousands of Afghans who protested at the presidential palace in Kabul and calls on the world leaders, including Australia, to protect Hazaras from the onslaught of the Taliban and Daesh and to pressure Afghan government to bring those perpetrators to face justice.

“Our community is in mourning today as those beheaded by terrorists were known to many of us here in Australia,” event organizer in Sydney Abdul Alizada said “A community member lost his brother and another lost his mother in this vicious and coward atrocity”

“We condemn the beheading of innocent Hazara women and children in Afghanistan and we want the murderers brought to justice, and I echo the words of the UN’s special representative, Nickolas Hayson who labelled the Zabul massacre a ‘war crime’.” said Mr Ali Khan, another organizer of the event in Perth.

“It is clear Hazaras are being targeted attacked in Afghanistan solely because of their ethnicity. The world knows it. Yet, our government in Australia has not acted to recognize the suffering of Hazaras in this country. Hundreds of Hazaras languish in camps and survive in the community with no certainty, and our people are constantly under pressure to be returned. The situation in Afghanistan is very volatile and especially for Hazaras and that is why our people seek safety and protection in Australia.”

“The protestors also call on the world leaders, the United Nations and human rights groups to stop the Taliban and Daesh slaughtering Hazaras in Afghanistan. The world should not witness another atrocity like Yazidi’s or Kobani to act, they should act immediately,’ another organizer, Rohullah Rahimi, said.

Many of the people taking part in the demonstration have fled the Taliban atrocity and some are still going through their refugee determination process.

[Editor’s edit: There are at least two Australian Hazaras whose immediate family member and relative are amongst those beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan].

We urge the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to acknowledge the dangers Hazaras face in Afghanistan and speed up processing asylum claims of Hazara asylum seekers

Relatives of those beheaded in this latest attack that spurred the million strong protest, are available for interview.

Media contact persons: Abdul Alizada 0425350144 and Mohammad Veja 0457000566

Details of protest and candlelight vigils;


The protest will be held on Saturday, November 14, 12pm to 2 pm at Town Hall Station, Sydney. For more information, please contact details contact Ali Ali 0403675327


Candlelight vigil will be held on Friday November 13 from 7 pm at Elders Park, Adelaide. For more information about this event contact Dave Gulzari on or Rahimi 0425229391


Candlelight vigil in Langley Park, Riverside Drive, Perth from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. For more information, please contact, Ali Khan on 0432241555


Candlelight vigil on November 14, 5pm at Federation Square. For more information, please contact Rohullah Rahimi on 0422559117 or Ali Rahimi 0409530140

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Afghan Fighters Loyal to ISIS Beheaded 7 Hostages, Officials Say

November 09, 2015 | New York Times

The bodies of Hazara civilians, reportedly killed by Islamic State militants in Zabul, Afghanistan, were brought to their hometown in Ghazni. CreditSayed Mustafa/European Pressphoto Agency 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State were found to have beheaded seven ethnic Hazara civilians who had been abducted in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, officials said on Monday, as infighting among Taliban splinter factions intensified.

The Taliban had sent hundreds of extra fighters to the area to battle the Islamic State breakaways and another splinter group there, according to local and security officials. They said the bodies of the Hazaras were found on Saturday after the Taliban had pushed back the Islamic State militants and a group of allied former Taliban dissidents.

Rather than illustrating any major weakening of the Taliban, however, security officials say the splinter groups’ expansion has mostly raised the danger for Afghan civilians and pointed out the increased weakness of the Afghan government and its security forces. Even as the insurgent infighting has intensified, the main Taliban group has seized new territory from the government, particularly in the country’s north and south.

The beheaded Hazara hostages belonged to one of several groups of travelers captured by Islamic State militants more than a month ago and were being held in the Arghandab district in Zabul Province. After their bodies were discovered by the Taliban, local elders helped mediate their transfer to a hospital in government territory on Sunday, the officials said.

Two children were among the seven beheaded hostages, local officials said.

“Their throats had been cut with metal wire,” said Hajji Atta Jan, the head of the Zabul provincial council.

Afghanistan’s Hazara minority has long faced persecution, especially by the Taliban, and there has been an upswing in abductions and violence against them this year. At least 19 more Hazaras are thought to still be held by militants in Zabul, said Abdul Qayoum Sajjadi, a lawmaker who recently traveled to the province to try to broker the Hazaras’ release.

President Ashraf Ghani, describing the beheadings as “heartless killing of innocent individuals,” ordered his security officials to pursue the attackers. But it was clear that the order meant little on the ground; Afghan forces were nowhere in the vicinity of the district where the beheadings happened, officials said.

Family members of the victims, who were all from neighboring Ghazni Province and were abducted while they were traveling, said they planned to bring the bodies to Kabul to protest what they saw as the government’s lack of response to a problem that was becoming chronic.

Officials in Zabul Province said the local cell of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had recently allied with another breakaway Taliban faction that is challenging the Taliban’s new supreme leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour.

Just last week, the breakaway Taliban faction formally announced in a gathering in Farah Province that it did not accept Mullah Mansour as the successor to Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose death two years ago was revealed in July.

The group said it was rallying around a new leader, Mullah Muhammad Rasool, a former member of the Taliban movement’s ruling council. His deputy, Mullah Mansour Dadullah, has been operating out of the Khak-e-Afghan district in Zabul.

“The reason we split from Mansour’s self-proclaimed kingdom was that he is the real murderer of Mullah Omar and some high-ranking Taliban during the 14 years of struggle,” Mullah Rasool said in a phone interview. His faction believes that Mullah Omar did not die a natural death, as the group announced, but was killed by Mullah Mansour. “We will bring Mansour before justice soon.”

In response, Mullah Mansour sent as many as 450 fighters to crush the dissident Mullah Dadullah as well as the Islamic State elements in Zabul, according to Afghan security officials and local officials.

“Fighting between Mullah Mansour and Mullah Dadullah is ongoing in three districts of Zabul,” said Hajji Momand Nasratyar, the district governor of Arghandab. “Mansour is beating Dadullah and I.S. very hard — around 86 of I.S. and Dadullah’s men have been killed, and 26 of Mansour’s.”

The Taliban were also reported to have killed several of the Islamic State militants said to be responsible for the beheadings, according to a local official, though that account could not be confirmed more broadly.

Hajji Atta Jan, the Zabul provincial council chief, said the offensive by Mullah Mansour’s fighters was so intense that by late Monday at least three Islamic State commanders, all of them ethnic Uzbeks, had surrendered and were asking their fighters to do the same. The condition the Uzbek commanders had agreed on with Mullah Mansour, according to Mr. Jan, was that they would not be handed over to Pakistan, where they had been based before Pakistani military operations pushed them into Afghan territory.

Despite Mullah Mansour’s swift action against dissent, the announcement of the breakaway faction seems to have rekindled doubts over his leadership that most thought had been quelled by his delivering the Taliban their biggest victory in 14 years, the capture of the northern city of Kunduz in September.

Still, the dissent has not deterred Taliban fighters from making deep inroads against the government in the south as well, where intense fighting has continued in Helmand Province. The Taliban have made gains in the districts of Nad Ali and Greshk, according to Muhammad Karim Attal, the head of the Helmand provincial council.

The Taliban have also overrun police and army bases in the Marja district, one of the centers of President Obama’s 2010 troop surge, and were closing in on the district governor’s compound. Airstrikes had to be called in on Saturday to break the siege of security forces there, officials said.


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Two Hazaras shot dead in Quetta

November 08, 2015 | DAWN

QUETTA: Armed assailants on Saturday evening killed two members of the Hazara community in the provincial capital.

“Armed assailants opened fire at a vehicle on Spini road and killed two members of the Hazara community,” said a police official.

The police official added that one person died at the spot of the attack while the other succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

“The two individuals belonged to the Hazara community and were residents of Hazara Town,” stated the police official.

The unknown assailants managed to flee the spot of the incident.

A contingent of police and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the site of the incident and commenced initial investigation.

“It was act of target killing,” stated the police official.

There was no claim of responsibility for the incident.

In a separate incident, two bodies were recovered from Khuzdar district in the province.

“The dead bodies were found in Naal tehsil of Khuzdar district,” said a Levies official.

He added that the identity of the victims could not be immediately ascertained and both had received multiple bullet injuries.

Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked militants also operate in the region.

The province shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.


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One killed in shooting incident in Quetta

November 03, 2015  | Dunya News

QUETTA (Dunya News) –  At least one person was killed in recent firing incident  in Balochistan s Quetta today (Tuesday).

As police sources, some unidentified armed bikers opened fire at Hazara Town’s resident Muhammad Sadiq when he arrived at a garage at Jan Muhammad Road, killing him on the spot.

The officers told that attackers fled the scene however, directives have been issued to nab the culprits as early as possible.

According to doctors, eight bullets were found from deceased’s head and back whereas the security personnel stated that 9 mm pistol was used in the incident.


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Desperate journeys: Persecuted Hazara flee Afghanistan

November 01, 2015 | Aljazeera

Facing discrimination and a lack of opportunity, ethnic Hazara are among those landing on the Greek island of Lesbos.

At least 16 people drowned and dozens went missing last week after overcrowded boats sank [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

Lesbos, Greece – The smuggler camp where Milad was waiting is ideally situated as a launching point to the Greek island of Lesbos. The island spreads out invitingly on the horizon with nothing between the camp and the Greek shore but 10km of open sea – seemingly within arm’s reach on a clear day.

Smugglers loaded inflatable black dinghies, three per hour, with refugees far beyond any recommended capacity and sped across the straits under the cover of darkness. This year alone, more than 450,000 refugees have landed in Greece in this manner, with thousands arriving on Lesbos each day.

The journey is often deadly. Last Wednesday at least 16 people drowned and dozens went missing after their overcrowded vessels sank. More than 100 people have died this year attempting the Turkey-to-Greece sea voyage.

On this particular day, there were only a few people preparing to make the final lunge to Europe. An hour before, the Turkish gendarmerie and coastguard coordinated a raid on the camp, detaining those who didn’t run in time.

What few boats remained had been slashed by the Turkish authorities to prevent anyone from making an attempt. Life jackets were piled up under trees by the dozens; they too had been slashed during the raid.

“When they came, we ran and hid. The border police boat came from over there,” Milad said, motioning to the narrow stretch of open beach.

Life vests damaged during a coastguard raid lie discarded under a tree at the refugee launching point on the Turkish coast [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

The people who had managed to avoid detention – the Palestinian, Syrian, and Afghan refugees – were all scared, exhausted, and uncertain about what to do next. But despite the risk, the refugees eventually returned “to find something to eat”.

Despite his warm demeanour and eagerness to practise his nearly impeccable English, Milad, a 19-year-old Hazara refugee from Afghanistan, was hesitant to reveal any information about himself – who he is, where he came from.

Standing in a hillside olive grove-turned-smuggler camp in Turkey’s northwest in the cool stillness of the late afternoon, Milad finally opened up about his experiences that had made him so reluctant to even reveal his name.

His story is complex. The Hazara are a Persian-speaking Shia ethnic group who live predominantly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They are a widely persecuted community because of their religion and ethnic differences. Even among other Shia groups their Asian features are often used as a pretext to deny them rights as “Mongol” invaders.

They face violence not only from the Taliban and the Islamic State  of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but also institutional hostility from other ethnic groups and decades of discriminatory practises  in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Until the 1970s, Afghan law barred Hazara  from holding office, entering university, or holding any position of national authority. Laws were little better under the Taliban.

Under former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration – and by extension the new Ashraf Ghani-led government – the Hazara found an ally who promulgated an end to sectarian and ethnic discrimination.

In the 2010 elections, they achieved disproportionately large gains – in Afghanistan’s lower house, they earned 20 percent of seats  despite being an estimated nine percent of the population, and saw their ethnicity well-represented in Karzai’s administrative appointments.

With an unparalleled voting rate of about 85  percent and an emphasis on the importance of education, the Hazara have become a political force in Afghanistan punching well above their weight.

But those successes have been seen as coming at the expense of other groups – notably the more numerous and powerful ethnic Pashtun and Tajik – and have had a part in inviting a renewed cycle of violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The community began to fear that whatever legal protections the Hazara enjoyed are collapsing with the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. 

This has led hundreds of thousands of Hazara to make the treacherous journey from their homeland to seek refuge in Europe.

Young Hazara refugees often travel to Europe alone to escape persecution and help support families left behind [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

Educated, smart, and driven, Milad typifies the Hazara along the smuggler routes in Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans.

Many are fleeing the crushing poverty that accompanies the extreme persecution they face at home. But, almost universally, the Hazara making the journey to Europe are all young, single men seeking an education.

An ethnic quota on the government, army, and school systems that was meant to more evenly distribute appointments in universities and government has instead made the Hazara victims of their own success.

Despite doing well academically, Milad said no school would take him past grade 11. “The places are for Pashtuns and Tajiks only,” he said.

For many Hazara, leaving Afghanistan is a family decision. The poverty endemic to the Hazara means there is usually only enough money available in a family to send one family member – the one most likely to succeed in the journey to Europe – usually the eldest son.

At the port of Lesbos, Mohammed Reza reflected on the difficulties he had overcome to successfully arrive on European soil. “All of my family agreed I should come here,” said the 18-year-old.

His family, living as refugees in Iran, face continuous discrimination both from the government and other refugees and decided to send him to Europe for everyone’s eventual benefit.

Immaculately dressed in a smart button-down and Ray-Bans, 18-year-old Reza, recounted his ordeal that is typical for refugees who arrive on Lesbos.

Muhamad Reza said his family urged him to migrate to Europe [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

“From Tehran to the Iran-Turkey border, we came with a pick-up truck. The capacity of this car is 10 – and it is for sheep or animals, but we were 25 or 26 people,” Reza recalled. The group then climbed for 20 hours over a mountain to arrive in Turkey where smugglers arranged for the boat.

“The capacity of that boat was 25 to 30 people. We were 49 in that boat… Our ship filled with water. We lost our engine [when] the water and fuel mixed together,” Reza explained.

The Turkish police saw their stranded boat but did not rescue them as they were already in Greek waters.

“We waved flags, shined lights, made noise, but they didn’t care,” said Reza. The people eventually decided to row with their hands and, luckily, were able to reach land after several hours.

Ali, another young Hazara who arrived on Lesbos, explained why he had taken the dangerous journey to Europe.

“My family doesn’t know that I’m here… I told them that I was going to another province for one month. They don’t know that I’m in Europe now. When I get to my final country, I’ll call them and tell them,” Ali said.

Ali said he wanted to leave because of the entrenched hatred towards his people. “It’s all politics. They can’t accept our humanity. They think that the Hazara aren’t Muslim. This isn’t true. When a person achieves his or her goal, they try to slander them by calling them Hazara.”

In a country where their very name is a slur, few Hazara see a future for themselves or their children in Afghanistan.

And, despite having crossed the threshold into the European Union, few of the Hazara expressed elation, but simply relief – and even then, it is often quickly put into check with the acknowledgement that their journey is not yet over.

Ali and his companions feel lucky to have arrived in Lesbos [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

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The death of Khodayar Amini

October 24, 2015 | Abdul Hekmat for the saturday paper

In the three years before his suicide, Hazara asylum seeker Khodayar Amini says he was twice assaulted by police and was the victim of continual harassment.

Khodayar Amini

Khodayar Amini

On Thursday night, October 15, Khodayar Amini was preparing to cook for his five roommates in a suburb of Western Sydney. The phone rang, and he listened to his friend on the other end of the line. Australian Border Force had just raided his old address, about 10 kilometres away. Six officers had blocked the doors and windows and searched every room, checking the identity of the four people inside. They said they were looking for Amini’s new address.

The news shook him. He had already provided the immigration department with his new address but his encounters with Border Force made him nervous. Fearing that immigration officers would come and take him back to detention, the Hazara asylum seeker walked out into the night, leaving his belongings behind. “I don’t have other option. I have to run. I don’t want to go back in detention centre. I have suffered a lot there,” he told his friend. “They killed my best friend, Nasim Najafi.”

Amini fled the state, reaching Dandenong in south-east Melbourne, where he hid out in nearby bushland. Within three days he would be dead. He made a final phone call to two refugee advocates and while talking to them set himself alight. When police found his body, it was in a circle of scorched earth the size of a small room. He was 30.

The day before he died Amini had written in Farsi to one of the refugee advocates, Michelle Bui. Again he mentioned his friend Mohammad Nasim Najafi, who died in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre outside Perth in July, and two others who had committed suicide. Amini had shared a room with Najafi at Yongah Hill.

“I, Khodayar Amini, write the following few sentences with my blood for those apathetic so called human beings,” he wrote. “Yes they did this to me, with slogans of humanity, sentenced me to death. My crime was that I was a refugee. They tortured me for 37 months and during all these times they treated me in the most cruel and inhumane way. They violated my basic human right and took away my human dignity with their false and so called humane slogans. They killed me as well as many of my friends such as: Nasim Najafi, Reza Rezayee and Ahmad Ali Jaffari. They were my friends and their crime was that they had sought asylum in Australia.

“I write this statement with my blood for those who call themselves human beings, I ask you to stand up for the rights of refugees and stop people being killed just because they have become refugees. Humanity is not a slogan; every human being has the right to live. Living shouldn’t be a crime anymore. Red Cross, Immigration and the Police killed me with their slogans of humanity and cruel treatments.”

Feared for his life

Khodayar Amini made the journey to Australia by boat in September 2012. He was one of 86 asylum seekers on a tiny vessel whose engine quit working, and was rescued by the navy after hours floundering in the ocean. Thirty-one of the asylum seekers were taken to Nauru but Amini was taken to Christmas Island and then to a detention centre in Darwin. After five months, he was released into the community on a bridging visa without rights to work, travel or study. The Red Cross was put in charge of his care.

The story Amini tells from here is one of confusion and mistreatment. Twice, he says, he was beaten by police officers. Once so badly that the pain of his injuries persisted for two years. He says he was harassed by police and immigration officials. In early 2014, he was returned to detention for 11 months after an argument with the Department of Transport, Travel and Motoring in South Australia over a small licence fee refund, but was released after a court found him innocent of misconduct. The uncertainty of his visa, the fear of being deported back to Afghanistan, wore away at his mental health. He felt unrepresented and helpless. He became convinced he would die.

“Asylum seekers might be in the community but it’s virtually impossible to recover and to feel safe,” says Louise Newman, a professor of psychiatry at Monash University. “When people have the ongoing fear – whether it’s fear of being sent home or fear of being re-detained and lack of certainty about their future – their trauma persists. They don’t know what awaits them. And they become fearful every day, and it could affect their daily life, like they can’t eat or they can’t sleep. And they become agitated. People in that state are much afraid. They feel that they have no escape from the things that are tormenting them.”

She continues: “One of the most appalling things about the Australian government response to the needs of asylum seekers is that it allows this to happen. We allow it to happen and I am saying it quite strongly: that we don’t do anything to prevent it, which is preventable.”

In the last two months of his life, Amini started writing accounts of his treatment. The notes are appeals for justice, but they are laced with fear of the system to which he appeals.

“I am scared they plan to kill me with any wrong accusation,” he wrote in one. “I feel that the police come to my house at night and have a plan to kill me. I can’t sleep at night because I fear the police would kill me. I am extremely scared. I feel every moment they would kill me. What in 2013, they hit me so hard that still feel the pain from that time.”

His three-page handwritten letter was in a mixture of formal Farsi and Hazaragi dialect. At the end of the last page, he added a note.

“Translation of this will be hard because I don’t have adequate literacy and no one has helped me. If there is any place, the translator did not understand, call me and I will explain verbally.” He copied out his mobile number, and signed in a script that is earnest and hopeful: “Khodayar Amini.”

Untreated health issues

After being released from his second stint in detention, again on a bridging visa, Amini moved to Adelaide and then to Sydney. He set up in a house with other asylum seekers, including a friend who had travelled to Australia on the same boat as him.

His friends noted changes in his physical and mental health. He developed a persistent cough, for which he was hospitalised several times. The cough continued through the night and in order not to wake his roommates he would wrap himself with blankets and sit up all night in the lounge room.

It seems his medical condition was not properly diagnosed, nor his mental health. Three months ago, he called the Red Cross, which is contracted by the government to provide assistance to asylum seekers in the community. His insistence that he receive medical assistance got him into an argument over the phone with a staff member. The incident was referred to police and he was charged with making threatening comments.

“Four officers came to my home,” he wrote in an account of what followed. “They said that they were trying to search the house. They did not search and asked if you have a gun. I asked them ‘What you are saying?’ They pointed to their pistol and I said ‘No.’ They handcuffed me. They searched my body. They searched two times my shoes. Then they moved to police station. When we’re going down through elevator, I coughed and they said ‘alcohol?’ I said ‘no’. I told them that I was sick and it is not in my hands. They punched with fist and knee and took me inside police station. They tortured me. I was there for about 5 and 6 hours. They forced me to give interview.”

At time of press, New South Wales Police had not responded to Amini’s claims of brutality.

Amini’s solicitor, Besmellah Rezaee, said Amini had no intention to kill or threaten anybody. Amini was planning to appear in court on November 10 and believed he would win the case. “He told me words to the effect, ‘They kill with cotton’, and stated that he used this expression out of frustration and extreme depression and this was interpreted as having made a threat to kill,” Rezaee said. “He went on to say, ‘How on earth would a helpless and despairing person like me make such a threat against person of authority and power? I fled killing and am seeking protection to save my life – how can I intend to take someone else’s life?’ ” The expression “kill with cotton” is a Hazaragi phrase; it means to kill someone slowly.

“My heart ached”

The Saturday Paper has spoken to Amini’s friends and roommates, some of whom had known him for three years. They described him as “a good guy” with no threatening behaviours, and said he was getting along with everyone very well. He was deeply frustrated by the claims made against him.

Increasingly, Amini had become reserved with personal information. His roommates say he was guarded, staying mostly at home, not going out with them; he was awake all night and frequently listened to melancholic songs of Ahmad Zahir, a popular Afghan singer. He gave up his belief in God. “I don’t believe in God,” he said. “I think Tony Abbot [is] God for refugee. [He] killed my best friend. Why? Why?”

Before leaving Sydney for Dandenong, Amini went to a Hazara community centre in Sydney asking for advice and help. “Can you stop the immigration for taking me back to detention centre?” Amini asked Abdul Alizada, from the Kateb Hazara Association. “They were behind my door, wanting to take to detention centre. I am too scared to go there. I don’t want to be deported back to Afghanistan.”

Alizada told him that it was beyond his power to stop immigration but he could write a support letter stating that he was of good character. “I can’t stop immigration from taking you nor I can hide you,” Alizada said, “but I can support by writing a letter.” They talked for about 45 minutes. Alizada said he saw no sign of depression or distress and found Amini “very elaborate”.

On Monday, when Alizada learnt Amini had set himself on fire, he was devastated. “I have a bad feeling that I can’t express it in words,” he said, his voice quivering. “I failed to help him.”

His friends feel the same: “He was a very nice guy. My heart ached when I heard about him. I have not slept for few nights.”

Amini recently launched a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against mistreatment by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. A letter was sent to him on October 15, but it was already too late. “In order to progress your complaint,” it read, “please sign and return the Authority to Release Information and/or document form by Thursday October 22, 2015.”

What’s our crime?”

No one knows why Amini took his life. The notes he wrote in the last months of his life show a man persecuted by a system of uncertainty, terrified he would be deported, deeply mistrusting of authority. They show a man lost and uncertain where to find help.

“Are there rule of law, social justice and human dignity in this country?” he wrote in one. “If there is, why your behaviour is in contradictory to human rights? In 2014, the Adelaide police mistreated me because I was asking for the refund of my $32 [from Transport, Travel and Motoring]. Then, I was harassed, incarcerated, taken to court, tortured for 11 months inside immigration detention centre. What was my crime? How your treatment is different from the treatment of the Taliban and Daesh? For three years, you have tortured me in every way. What do you want from us? What’s our crime? In your view, we are not human beings.”

When he left the house for the last time, he told no one where he was going. A day before his self-immolation, he called his friends in the house and told them that he was still looking for a place but had found none. They heard nothing more.

On the night Amini left home, he sent Michelle Bui a text message: “Hi Michelle, are you free now. I want to talk to you. Very important.”

Bui spoke to Amini on the phone and he told her he was in a car hiding in the bush but did not disclose his whereabouts. He said he feared going back to detention.

On Saturday, Amini switched off his mobile phone. “The police and immigration check my mobile phone,” he said. “I think it’s off better.”

On Sunday morning, about 10am, Bui received a text message from Amini. It read: “I want to cut my life.” Bui tried to dissuade him and enlisted the help of another advocate from the Refugee Rights Action Network, Sarah Ross. Ross had experience in suicide prevention.

Bui and Ross called Amini on Facebook video chat. Amini showed them a petrol container. He poured it over himself. Again, they heard him repeating that immigration was trying to kill him. “We pleaded with him not to do it,” Bui said. “We then heard the lighter flick and saw flames. Sarah threw the phone on the ground so we didn’t see it. Obviously at this stage we both got very emotional. We heard the flames but we didn’t hear any screams or sounds from him.”

It was Monday before his friends heard of the death. Amini’s roommates were awake for nights, mourning him. They missed him, and his cooking. “He was a good cook.” A friend who used to sleep in the same bedroom as Amini said: “I did not believe he died when I heard about him on the news. All night, I lay in my bed in one side and tilted my head towards his empty bed, hoping he would walk every minute to sleep on his bed as usual. But he never did.”


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Filed under Asylum Policy, Detention Centers, Hazara Persecution