April 3, 2017
Hundreds of Afghans in Australia have staged a rally in protest at Kabul’s discriminatory policies, as Afghanistan’s president is visiting the capital Canberra.
The peaceful protesters gathered outside the Government House on Monday, calling on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government to end discrimination against the Hazara ethnic minority and to refuse accepting the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Australia who have been rejected by Canberra.
The Afghan government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Canberra in 2011 to accept the repatriation of Afghan refugees whose asylum requests have been turned down by Australia.
“We are seeking that our President Ghani take practical, concrete steps to protect the rights of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan, including the Hazaras,” said protest organizer Najeeba Wadzefost.
Wadzefost also urged Canberra not to grant financial aid to the current Afghan government, saying the money would end up in the hands of militant war lords.
Wahid Akbary, an Afghan refugee living in Australia since 2008, who had driven 300 kilometers from Sydney to Canberra to take part in the protest, said the Taliban militants in Afghanistan were being allowed to kill Hazaras with impunity.
Hazara protester Barat Ali Batoor said the security situation in Afghanistan for members of the Hazara community was so bad that it would be dangerous if refugees from the community were returned to Afghanistan.
“There needs to be a moratorium on any more forced repatriations,” Batoor said.
Meanwhile, inside the Government House, President Ghani, who arrived in Canberra late Sunday to review security and development cooperation between the two countries, met with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, Australia’s figurehead leader.
Later in the day, the Afghan president, who will be leaving on Wednesday, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull said earlier in a statement that the Afghan leader’s visit to Australia reflected a strong bond between the two countries.
“During this visit, discussions will focus on our ongoing security and development cooperation to help Afghanistan in its efforts to become more prosperous, secure, and self-reliant,” Turnbull said.
“In particular, we will seek to enhance partnership between our nations in a number of fields including women’s and girls’ empowerment, public sector capacity building, and agricultural productivity,” he added.
Ghani is the first Afghan president to visit Australia, which has military forces stationed in the Asian country.
Australia is part of the US-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime in 2001. Australia has lost 41 troops in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion began.