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Special Interest Matter - Launceston Hazara Afghan Community

Tuesday 21 September 2021

[11.20 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, today I speak about the incredible Hazara community in Launceston and the vibrant, wonderful people who are part of it. I wrote an opinion editorial about this issue for The Examiner recently and the importance of it bears repeating in this place. We have all been touched in the past weeks and months by the tragedies that have unfolded in Afghanistan.

Following the withdrawal of American military forces, the Taliban swiftly took over in a matter of weeks, undoing many of the social and political advances that had been made in the past two decades. Very few of us were not touched by images of families attempting to flee from Hamid Karzai Airport, crammed into or clinging to aeroplanes, and Afghans handing their children to any soldiers who could take them. Heartbreaking does not begin to describe the desperation these people must be feeling.

Going back decades, one of the most oppressed groups in Afghanistan are the Hazaras, who hail from Hazarajat in the mountainous region of central Afghanistan. The Hazaras comprise the third‑largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with an estimated nine million Hazara out of the approximately 33 million-strong population of the country. Since 2001, a significant number of Hazara Afghans now call Launceston home.

Over 50 families granted humanitarian visas live, work and go to school here. This wonderful, vibrant and close‑knit community has obviously been significantly affected by the developments in Afghanistan. The rights many of us here take for granted, the freedom to assemble, to free speech, to education, health care and justice are now not available to many Afghans, Hazaras in particular.

The President of Launceston's Hazara Association, Yousef Mohammadi, has a grandmother in Afghanistan in an area under Taliban control. Yousef's family, who fled Afghanistan when he and his brother Yasin were very young, know what life is like under Taliban rule. People's hands were cut off in the street as a form of cruel, retributive justice, often for crimes committed as acts of desperation and caused to begin with by the inhumane policies of the Taliban.

Yousef and Yasin's family made their way through Afghanistan and Pakistan to eventually receive some semblance of safety in Iran. Eventually, the family was resettled to Tasmania through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees resettlement program and were able to experience a life of safety and security for the first time. To learn English, go to school and do normal teenage things like joining a soccer team became a reality.

Whilst extraordinary stories like these are not uncommon amongst the Hazara community in Launceston, there are people like Hosein Mohseni, who has family who remain in Taliban‑controlled Afghanistan and believes any time he talks to a family member at home it could be the last time. Unreliable communications infrastructure combined with the types of uncertainty and cruelty that characterise Taliban rule causes a great deal of distress for Hosein and many other members of the Hazara community in Launceston.

Seeing how the Hazara community in Launceston has grown over the past few years has been inspiring, with an active Facebook page, community events held in the city and a Hazara market in Elizabeth Street which provides a little taste of home. In early September, I joined with the Hazara community, my local, state and federal colleagues and other Launcestonians to stand in solidarity and show support to those who are suffering and in need of support in Afghanistan. To see the effect of Taliban policies on those suffering has been absolutely heartbreaking.

For the Hazara families who now call Launceston home, each one has a story. Each family still has ties to Afghanistan and are connected through their shared beliefs, customs, adversities and triumphs. We are very lucky to have them as part of our community and we are made stronger and richer for them being here with us. I am sure I stand with everyone in the community who support Hazara Afghans and along with my local, state and federal counterparts commit to doing whatever I can to welcome them and alleviate their suffering here and at home.


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