"Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain. If you've no sympathy for human pain, the name of human you cannot retain." Poet Saadi.
As a Tampa refugee I think of those words when l think of the plight and dangers facing people today in the land of my birth, Afghanistan.
I am humbly appealing to the Government of New Zealand to once again stand up and show the same kindness you showed to me and my fellow Afghan refugees 20 years ago.
As l write this opinion piece people are being killed, girls are being excluded from any future in education, sport or employment and Kiwi families with relatives still in Afghanistan are traumatised with fear about the safety of their relatives.
Canada and the UK have each agreed to take an additional 20,000 Afghan refugees. The
Biden Administration has promised 50,000 places in the US for Afghans identified as either supporting the US in Afghanistan or being at risk from the new Taliban regime. Australia has already taken more than 3000.
The New Zealand Government has remained silent so far about any additional places in our country for Afghans.
No one chooses to be a refugee. No one chooses to leave their homeland. My story started many many years ago. It is a story bound up with the bigger story of the Hazara people.
My people, the Hazara, are an ethnic group in Afghanistan who have suffered centuries of exploitation and deprivation in the land of my birth. Most of the Afghans on the Tampa were Hazara. Most Afghans living in New Zealand are from the Hazara ethnic group. Hazara suffered the most under the previous Taliban regime.
On August 26, 2001, 438 refugees heading to Australia were stuck in the middle of
the Indian Ocean with our small fishing boat broken and we felt fear and despair. The
Norwegian ship Tampa rescued us but then we were told no port would accept us.
We were rejected. We did not know where to go next. No one wanted us.
The New Zealand Labour Government, under the leadership of Helen Clark, felt our pain and sorrow and showed us that humanity was still alive.
The decision was made, it couldn't have been sweeter news for us: 133 were given the opportunity to come to New Zealand, the families and those under the age of 18 years.
Twenty years on, those same refugees are now doctors, lawyers, police officers, nurses, architects, civil engineers and business owners. They have become hard-working citizens of this country.
The Tampa refugee intake is nearing its 20th anniversary in New Zealand. What could better honour that anniversary than an announcement by our Government that New Zealand too is prepared to take more Afghan refugees facing oppression and injustice from the Taliban?
I appeal for the Government to make a decision and bring our extended families who are left behind and also find a place of safety for some of the many people in Afghanistan from all ethnic groups who face a real prospect of harm from the Taliban, where their future is uncertain.
Please, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, follow the example of Prime Minister Helen Clark and offer a safe sanctuary to Afghans at risk, especially Afghans with family already in New Zealand.
• Zakaria Hazaranejad is a former president of the Hazara Afghan Association of New Zealand and a Tampa refugee.