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Hazara refugees speak up for their community in Iran | The Examiner (www.examiner.com.au)

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The Hazara community in Launceston gathered in Civic Square at the weekend to support their friends and family suffering in the Middle East. Speaker Fatemeh Ebrahimi said the vigil was inspired by the global wave of protests against police brutality, that started after the death of George Floyd in America. The Hazara community saw parallels with the way their people are treated in Iran. “We are here to be the voice of the refugees … who have been subject to injustice and abuse for more than four decades,” Ms Ebrahimi said. “We have gathered here to voice our protest against the racist and discriminatory actions that are being perpetrated against Afghan refugees in Iran.” IN OTHER NEWS: Hazaras are a cultural and ethnic minority from Afghanistan, who have long been persecuted in their homeland. They are believed to be descendants of Genghis Khan and the Mongol army, who conquered the region in the 13th century. Hazaras follow a different religion to the majority in Afghanistan and were historically murdered, denied access to services and trafficked as slaves. Ms Ebrahimi said Hazaras had been targets for brutality from police and security forces in Iran as well as in Afghanistan. Many fled to the neighbouring country seeking safety during the war in Afghanistan started by the US, Britain, Australia, and Europe. There are more than 500,000 Hazara refugees in Iran, and several high-profile recent incidents have thrown their treatment into sharp relief. In May, there were reports dozens of Hazara refugees were forced into a torrential river at gunpoint by Iranian border guards, with about 45 drowning. Last month, video footage of Iranian soldiers shooting at a car of Hazara refugees went viral on social media. The car caught fire and three of the four inhabitants died. Iran disputes elements of both reported incidents. “What has forced us to raise our voice in protest is no longer the lack of basic human rights,” Ms Ebrahimi said. “It is no longer that Afghan children born in Iran are not allowed to attend school. “It is no longer that after living in Iran for two generations, Afghan refugees still have no identity, and there is no permit for them to travel, use medical services, or drive. “We are protesting the killing of Afghan refugees.” Organiser Sara Aftkhar said the Hazaras in Launceston wanted to use their freedoms to support their community in the Middle East. “The Afghans in Iran are one of us,” she said. “But they can not gather like this in Iran.” “[Holding a vigil] is the least that we can do for them. I wish they were here, because here it is safer than Iran and Afghanistan. “I feel so bad for them, I am always praying for them to be safe.” People at the vigil wrote messages of support, which will be sent from Launceston to Iran. Speaker Jeff McKinnon of the City Baptist Church said the Hazara community added “so much to our beautiful city.” “We think it’s wonderful that you’re here,” he said.

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