Canberra’s Afghan community ‘shocked and distressed’ by Taliban takeover

Genevieve Jacobs 19 August 2021 6
Australian soldiers on foot patrol in Tarin Kowt

Australian soldiers on foot patrol with the International Security Assistance Force mission in Tarin Kowt. Photo: File.

Canberra’s Afghan community, many of whom are refugees from the Hazara minority, are watching with horror as the resurgent Taliban conquers their homeland.

There have been chaotic scenes at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport after Taliban forces swept through the national capital in a matter of days following US troop withdrawals. An urgent and highly risky Australian Defence Force mission is underway to evacuate Australians and Afghans.

Region Media spoke to a local Hazara who has been in Australia since 2012 but asked not to be named, given his refugee status and the risks for family and friends in Afghanistan.

There are about 300 Afghan families in Canberra, most with family members still in the country. Around a quarter are Hazaras, a frequently oppressed minority in the Pashtun-dominant nation. Many arrived in Australia after fleeing persecution by the Taliban and are settled here on temporary protection visas.

“Afghanistan is no longer a safe place, but it was not safe for the past 20 years after various Western invasions. This has proved that there is no fight against the Taliban you could win. It was only a matter of time”, he said.


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Canberra’s Afghan population are highly anxious, the source says, and particularly distressed at the decision to withdraw US and Australian troops before the safety of local staff working alongside the ADF could be assured.

“They should have been more careful what they do. They should know what the effects will be for people living there who have helped Australia. People feel like they have been left behind by the government, and their efforts were not appreciated.

“You could help someone for 20 years throughout their mission, but in a matter of time, they leave you behind. What do you have? Do you have the resources to fight against the Taliban? It’s overwhelming and frustrating and so distressing.”

There’s also doubt over whether the Taliban’s efforts to differentiate themselves from the past are genuine.

“I think that’s just politics, allowing women to go outside and study. If you’re allowing them to do that, why won’t you let women hold positions of power within the Taliban?” the local source asks.

“How many women are there in the Taliban in leadership roles?

“If you’re allowing women to study, why not let them wear whatever they like? It’s for show, for Western countries to see they are not the same as 20 years ago. The Taliban are not stupid. But that more modern image is not true, in reality.”


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Thousand of Afghans are in Australia on temporary protection visas. If these are not renewed on a three-yearly basis, the visa holders can, theoretically at least, be returned to their country of origin.

“[Local Afghan refugees] have no sense of hope,” the source says. “They have been here for nine years, and the process takes far too long for people who are escaping persecution and have proved they are refugees.

“They have no certainty about their future. If they were permanent residents or citizens, they could have brought their families out, and they wouldn’t be dealing with the Taliban.”

A combination of deep uncertainty about their migration status, fear about their families in Afghanistan and employment vulnerability due to the pandemic have created immense stress for many in the local community. COVID-19 is also raging through Afghanistan, although locals say most people are more worried in the short term about being killed by the Taliban than dying of the virus

Companion House provides counselling, medical and immigration services to people who have sought asylum after escaping war zones. Find out more about their work here.


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6 Responses to Canberra’s Afghan community ‘shocked and distressed’ by Taliban takeover
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Futureproof Futureproof 5:23 am 20 Aug 21

The US capitulation happened so fast, that even their citizens left in Afghanistan are on their own

    Spiral Spiral 9:12 am 20 Aug 21

    The real capitulation was by the Afghan people.

    The Taliban only has success when supported by the people.

    Yes the Western forces could have done better.
    Without a doubt the Afghan government was corrupt and inept.

    But it is no secret how the Taliban will act. They were in power before. The Afghan people are fully aware of what life under them will be like. They know what a Taliban future holds for their women and minorities.

    They were the ones who knew who the Taliban were and where they were located.

    They had the option of helping to destroy them.

    Of course there were many who did try, but ultimately when given the choice, too many Afghans choose to support a barbaric regime.

    I’m sure many of you are now preparing to reply with righteous fury.
    So I ask you, if we had the Taliban here in Australia. Would you support them?

    Those of you who are female, or have sisters, wives, daughters, mothers etc. Under what conditions would you not resist a group like the Taliban?

    If we had the US or Britain etc here helping destroy out Taliban, would you turn a blind eye, or would you do everything you could to help destroy them?

    There is a very important lesson to be learnt from this. We naively assume that everyone is like us and wants the same things. This clearly demonstrates the error of that thought. Given a choice, some groups of people will choose life under regimes such as the Taliban. They choose oppression.

    It is sad, but true.

    tim_c tim_c 11:13 am 20 Aug 21

    I’d believe much of that… there are a lot of people in our own country who think socialism is a good idea
    “They choose oppression.
    It is sad, but true.”

    liberalsocialist liberalsocialist 7:25 pm 20 Aug 21

    Not disagreeing with a lot of what you say. However, the problem lies in your last paragraph. “They choose oppression”. No human does – and it’s this thinking that will never have us truely learn. We sit back and think how silly they are for ‘choosing oppression’.

    They choose the Taliban to support and assist over the past 20 years. Now find out why, and target that. Was it because its the only system of Governance they have had as a ‘nation’ that truely governed the entire population? Was it because for the first time, this system was Afghan-built, by Afgans and not forced on them? Was it because they remembered every other Western nation coming and – ultimately – going, and so weren’t sure of our persistence? Was it because we promised them we’d always be there, so perhaps have a culture of trust and reliance that we don’t quite grasp?

    As you allude to (I think), we went in there with our Western ideologies thinking everyone must be better off. We failed to understand the country or the population. At first – did we even need to? We went in to topple AQ and the Taliban from Government, not nation-build.

    They (a significant number) chose to not give away the Taliban. They didn’t choose oppression.

    And remember, we’re not talking a large number here. Just look at everyone fleeing.

    Spiral Spiral 7:21 am 22 Aug 21

    By choosing not to give away the Taliban they chose oppression. They know what life will be like under them.

    Not giving away the Taliban means they could continue to hide amongst the population.

    Choosing to not help defeat them resulted in a predictable disaster for women’s rights.

    It is indeed a pity their desire for freedom and a better life for their women wasn’t strong enough to override their racism.

    There is plenty of blame to go around, but the majority lies with the Afghan people. They had their chance and threw it away.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:16 pm 19 Aug 21

But not surprised?

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