Lest we Forget as the Caravan Moves on

by Julie Macken

A few weeks ago, the entire Catholics for Refugees community signed on to a letter addressed to every MP and Senator in the Federal government. Our reasons for doing so are known by all of us. The people of Afghanistan were again at the mercy of the Taliban and a nation totally destabilised by twenty years of war – a war we were engaged with for every one of those twenty years. 

This is a report from a person who remains in Kabul, trying to survive this new reality. Obviously we will not identify the person writing this. Suffice to say they are a person who has worked incredibly hard to bring a new Afghanistan into being after a war that really never ends.

The person writes on the 15th of September 2021.

My friend who lives in PD (Police District) 3 (in Kabul), told me that he had witnessed a house search adjacent to his home last night. I had heard the rumour of a lot of searches happening last night, so I went to the far west of Kabul to avoid this.

At about 8pm this evening, the Taliban have installed additional check points in the Hazara neighbourhood around Faiz Mohammad Katib Road. They were not there this afternoon. My wife and I were yelled at to stop there, but when they saw a lady in the car, they let us go.

Prices are going up and keep going up, almost on a weekly basis. Pre-Taliban a 16kg container of cooking oil was 1,600 Afghanis and now it is 2,200 or 2,250 Afghanis. The same applies to almost every grocery and general item.

On the night of 12 September, I received a call from my in-law’s, to say that my mother-in-law was not feeling well. It was around 9pm when I drove to their house, using back streets to avoid the Taliban check posts. We stayed there until 11pm and then headed back home, this time I took a short-cut and drove along a more main road. There appeared to be nothing or no-one on the road, when suddenly I heard shots fired and yelling. I was as shocked as my wife, though our baby kept sleeping. Two men (one older with a white beard and white turban, and other a young man around 18-20 years old) headed straight towards me as I stopped the vehicle, despite my wife yelling at me to drive away fast!

The young man was furious and wanted me to drive the car to the other side of road. He was asking why was I trying to escape? I replied politely in Pashto that I was not trying to escape, but that I hadn’t seen them. I told them that I was with my family and we were returning home from visiting someone who was sick. The older man allowed us to continue on our way but said that we should be careful as they could have shot us instead of just firing warning shots! This was horrible and I promised myself never to drive again at night.

This afternoon, I also witnessed a Taliban truck carrying 3 young boys (who seemed to be Hazara) whose hands were cuffed behind their backs. They were taking them somewhere, and I wanted to take a video, but I could not as my wife and daughter were with me and it would have been too dangerous.

There are a number of other reports coming to many working with the Hazaran community in Sydney and they all describe a situation of grinding poverty, fear and displacement. 

We finished out letter to Federal MP’s and Senators saying…

“As the Taliban tightens its grip on the nation, these achievements are being laid to waste in plain view of the watching world. This is a not a moment for wishful thinking or wringing of hands; this is a moment for action to protect those to whom we made promises and those who aspired for more.

“To that end we are calling on you as our elected representatives to take three clear actions to bring about a different outcome from the one we are all witnessing right now.

  1. To work with other countries to ensure that people who wish to leave Afghanistan remain free to do so.  There is little point in increasing the nation’s intake if those who would come cannot leave or are killed waiting for sanctuary.
  2. Australia commit to taking 20,000 people in danger in addition to  the existing humanitarian intake. 
  3. Grant permanent residency to those living here on temporary protection visas and fast track family reunion. The truth is they will never be able to return to their home country. Today we need to deal with these realities and not be held hostage to past ideologies and scapegoating.

“The Catholic community across Australia stands ready to work with you to support all those who come to us seeking protection and a safe life. We have the resources of health, education, welfare and love to hold those who need this support now. We commit our resources to this endeavour.

“We ask only that you take immediate action to evacuate our friends and families from Afghanistan and into our communities where we will care for them.”

Until the Federal government relents on their draconian hard-line ideology of mandatory and arbitrary detention, until they stop the cruelty and contradiction in terms, temporary protection, we need to keep making over voices heard. Together.