Hazara day of protest

It was always going to be a challenging day for Melbourne based Hazara. Not only did they have the weather to contend with, but much of the country, and Victoria in particular, would be focused on the AFL Grand Final.

Today, the 1st of October, saw the international protest against the targeted killing of Hazaras in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

We, the Hazara People in different parts of the world, strongly condemn the genocide and ongoing massacres of our people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Throughout history our people have tried to live as honest and sincere civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have always relied on the state authorities in those countries to provide us with security, regrettably despite their promises they have contradicted themselves in practice by sponsoring and supporting the terrorist and extremist groups. We will not, however, lose hope in our civil and humane struggles of campaigning for our human rights, and protesting for violation of our right to live.
FromThe Resolution of October 1.

In Melbourne, Hazara gathered on the steps of the State Library. As I arrived they were expecting more to come, another train and at least two more bus loads. There were already a good 200 people enduring the rain. They were expecting up to a couple of thousand. Plenty of cameras among them, so I chose not to shoot any video, but apart from a representative of GreenLeft Weekly trying to solicit subscriptions, I didn’t see any other media present. I should hope there would be by the time the protest would be disbanded.

Hazara gather on the steps of the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Hazara gather on the steps of the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Why is this an issue that Australian’s should care about? Writing in New Matilda, Afghan-Australian Hadi Zaher sums up the appalling narrative being trotted out by the Australian Government and the core of the issue that continues to be over-looked:

An old Persian saying goes like this: as the lamb worries about its life, the butcher worries about the fat and meat. As the federal Government and the Opposition worry about destroying the people smugglers’ business model and stopping the boats, asylum seekers and the communities they hail from are worried about their lives.

People come here because they are desperate. They see Australians as compassionate and Australia, though risky and difficult to reach, far from the horrors they have left behind.

Four months ago I knew nothing about the Hazara. I’d first heard of them through the La Trobe Refugee Research Centre, and only then by name, origin and how many of them arrived in Australia. I’m by no means ignorant and ill-informed, but in this instance I had been. It goes to show, if one doesn’t dig beneath the dispassionate rhetoric dished out by our government and the majority of the media, Hazara will remain faceless asylum seekers, and many of us will pass them by, knowing not why they gathered beneath the rain, in solidarity with their kin the world over, to seek an end to the genocide.

Ask your family and friends, who are these people, what had they fled from and why are they not protected in their home lands? It beggars belief that we have come to this, that we have, in spite of our achievements as a species, that many more of us do not recognise each other as such – the same, one species, humanity. Who are we if we are not all human? Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis, describes “the kind of creature that we are in the many ways we are divided.”

We were shaped by individual selection to be selfish creatures who struggle for resources, pleasure, and prestige, and we were shaped by group selection to be hive creatures who long to lose ourselves in something larger. We are social creatures who need love and attachments, we are industrious creatures with needs for effectance, able to enter a state of vital engagement with our work… Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the relationships right between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.

If only it were so simple. The fact of the matter, from my personal experience, is that it is. It’s simple. There’s just so much muck between ourselves and many of us believe in it, make it real and trott it out. I’ve met a people, much like the many I have known in this country’s first peoples, much like those I have met in Sarawak’s forests and the mountains of Styria, who do not pity themselves nor fear their future. They are an ancient community with values that pre-date the civilisations many other Australians have sought asylum from. And they are here, amongst us, and we can do well to know them.

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