Unsafe Haven

by Michelle

The Hollow Spaces of Buddha....photograph by Abdul Karim

The Hollow Spaces of Buddha....photograph by Abdul Karim

Abdul Karim is Hazara refugee who fled Afghanistan in 2001 after persecution of Hazaras by the Taliban, the Pashtun and Tajik ethnic groups in his home country. (That was the year the Taliban detonated explosives which destroyed the Bamian Buddhas, which for 1500 years had watched over Silk Road traders, missionaries, Mongols, merchants, herdsmen and farmers.

Abdul was one of 170 refugees crammed into a boat, which almost sank on the voyage from Indonesia to Australia before being intercepted by the navy hear Ashmore reef. Before that he’d spent time in asylum in Pakistan. For five months he lived in Curtin detention centre in Western Australia and then lived for over three years under Temporary Protection Visa. Abdul’s extensive research on Hazara refugees in Australia includes an honours thesis – Refugee Diaspora; the Hazara Experience.

Last year he returned to Afghanistan to photograph the suffering of the Hazara, for whom Taliban atrocities remain vivid. Centuries of Pashtun expansionism in Afghanistan has fuelled Sunni prejudices against the Shi’i Moslems. Driven into central Afghanistan, they have lived economically compromised and geographically isolated for decades. This exhibition at UTS documents the daily struggles of ordinary Hazaras rebuilding their villages, their children playing in ashes and ruins, their old men mourning mass graves, their families being homeless, nomadic, the fear, intimidation and hope of a rigged election.

With heart-rending portraits and landscape documentation this is a very worthwhile perspective into the terror and persecution that drives Hazara refugees towards the dangerous journey of so-called ‘unlawful’ asylum.

Unsafe Haven
by Abdul Karim
UTS Tower Building
September 5-October 7