Victims remembered

Co-organiser Hayat Rahimi at the candlelight vigil.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Families from the City of Casey and Greater Dandenong came together at Dandenong’s Harmony Square on Sunday 24 April to mourn the victims of the recent atrocities in Afghanistan.

In a candlelight vigil, they grieved for more than 100 – many of them children – killed in recent terrorist attacks at two schools in Kabul on 19 April, followed by further deadly attacks on two mosques.

The murders were labelled as part of a continuing genocide of Hazara and Shia Muslim minorities under a “terrorist” Taliban regime.

Co-organiser Hayat Rahimi called for the Australian Government to recognise the “Hazara genocide” as many loved ones remain trapped in Afghanistan.

“Attacks on our schools, hospitals, mosques and individuals have been constant, targeted and systematic.

“Unfortunately, under the previous governments and now under the Taliban rule, we have been discriminated against.”

Mr Rahimi called for the Australian Government to speed up processing partner and family visas for evacuees, and to grant permanent residency for Hazara asylum seekers in Australia.

Many are languishing for years on temporary protection visas, restricted from work, income and family reunions.

“Members of our community are hardworking, many of them have set up their own businesses, and contribute to the social, economic, and culture of the Australian society.”

In support were speakers including Afghanistan and refugee advocates, Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti and federal election candidates. Councillors Tim Dark and Rhonda Garad also attended.

Bruce Labor MP Julian Hill condemned the “blatant” targeted attacks on minorities by “extreme, radical elements”.

“They have not been condemned by the Taliban – the purported government,” he noted.

“These (acts) are not political statements, they are targeted and systemic acts of murder.

“It’s even more appalling that it’s been done in the name of religion.”

He read an email from a man trapped in Afghanistan, who feared for his and his family’s life.

He had been sponsored for a partner visa to join his fiancé in Dandenong. The Australian Government had not responded to his application for a humanitarian visa, Mr Hill said.

Bruce Greens candidate Matthew Kirwan said he stood in “solidarity” with the audience.

“This murderous attack this week is unfortunately but another sad chapter in the continued genocide of the Hazara people over the last century and a half”.

He told of buying a painting from an exhibition of Hazara student artists.

“(It is) a reminder of the unjust world we live in but also a reminder that Australia has failed you as a good global citizen and is neither speaking up strongly enough against this continual genocide nor welcoming with open arms the Hazara people that seek refuge here.”

But it also reminded him of the Hazara community’s “strength, courage and resilience”.

In an audio message, Bruce Liberal candidate James Moody criticised the “most cowardly and dastardly attacks” that claimed “the most innocent amongst us – our children”.

“Please stay together tonight, please remember the fallen and may God bless you all.”