On May 30, big protests were held in most Australian capital cities against recent killings in the Afghan province of Behsud. Fifteen hundred people rallied in Sydney and up to 400 in Melbourne.
Initially, the protest was to demand the Australian government stop deporting Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan, because the situation is not safe for the Hazara ethnic minority.
However, when news broke that some Hazara had been massacred by Afghan Pashtun nomads in the province of Behsud, the protest’s focus shifted to calling for international support for the Hazara.
The Hazara, mostly Shia Muslims, live in central Afghanistan. Most Pashtun nomads are Sunni Muslims. The word "Kuchi" means "nomad". As pastoralist nomads, they bring their flocks to graze in the Hazara areas of Behsud every summer.
After decades of war, good grazing lands are hard to come by and are sometimes strewn with landmines.
Hazara civilians have faced massacres and have had their houses burned and looted. Many have had to flee their homes. Recently, a dozen Hazara were killed and hundreds of homes burnt down.
After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Hazara believed they would be protected and surrendered their weapons in an act of good faith.
But the Afghan government and US forces have provided inadequate security, if any.
As the nomads’ access to grazing lands has been restricted by 30 years of war, theyi have been manipulated by the Taliban and the Karzai government, leading to the massacre of Hazara at Behsud.
At the rally, they expressed their fury with the US puppet government of Hamid Karzai for not protecting them, and for his open support for the Taliban.
The protest was called by the newly-formed Australia Hazara Council. All the Hazara associations in Australia have united under the one banner for the first time. In the context of Australia’s two big parties attacking refugees, this is an important step forward for the oppressed minority group.
The protest demanded the United Nations recognise the Hazara people and their land; condemned the killings in Behsud; called on the Afghan government to order the immediate withdrawal of the nomad farmers from Behsud; and protested against the Australian government's freeze on the processing of Afghan asylum seekers.