Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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Afghanistan – Australia, we can do more

I am an Australian Muslim woman with an Afghan heritage. I have lived most of my life in Australia. It has been very difficult watching the scenes unfold from Afghanistan. The helplessness and hopelessness felt by my family and me is also felt by the many Afghan Australians and other diaspora communities around the world who are currently reliving the horrors of war, displacement and terror that they themselves experienced.

It is absolutely horrifying to witness once again the desperate scenes of displaced Afghans, including women and children (80 per cent of the current total displaced Afghans internally) trying to evade the vicious cycle of war and violence that has already left hundreds killed, including children and civilians. I am especially saddened for the ones who were promised that they could leave but continue to remain behind. Millions of Afghans who have gone through decades of war are now left alone to fend for themselves.

The disparity in our approach towards what constitutes a human life worth saving is also disappointing. I am not going to comment here about the political culpability of the parties involved, but the post evacuation trail of disaster haunts all involved. I am all for self-determination for the Afghan people, but the foreseeability of that is close to nought if this newly erupted cycle of violence does not end. It needs the urgent attention of global leaders, including Australia, to restore peace and ensure the stability of the nation continues in this new “norm”.

The withdrawal of the USA and the coalition, including Australian soldiers from Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, marked Australia’s longest war in history. Yet, neither the initial purpose nor the end result was of any avail to either of the two countries. Even if we put aside the political blunders of this war, we cannot be blind to the humanitarian crisis unfolding before us. It is disappointing to see the slow response of global leaders in taking action to assist the millions of displaced Afghans and those already abroad, desperately trying to seek asylum in hope of a better future.

Wars create refugees and displacement. Twenty-seven years ago, it was as a result of war and violence and also with that same hope that my family came to Australia – a country that has become our home. Australia’s history of refugee and asylum seeker intake includes the post-war periods, and under both the Fraser and Hawke governments saw record numbers of refugees – 72,000 and 50,000 respectively – matching or surpassing global standards.

Unfortunately, under our current government, there has been no commitment to accepting additional refugees. Australia needs to increase this or at least match the international standards. Though we may have wrapped up our mission in Afghanistan, there is still time to offer greater compassion and hospitality for Afghans seeking our assistance. After 20 years of being in their country, and not always with a good track record, we definitely owe it to the people to do more.

There are 5,000 refugees from Afghanistan right now that live on temporary visas in Australia. There are also countless others. The government can take urgent action to give more aid and assist with providing a safe passage and asylum to save more lives.

Mahsheed Ansari is Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Centre of Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University.

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