This country’s attitude towards asylum seekers is embarrassing and shameful. How many Iranian/Afghani/Pakistani families fleeing persecution for the chance of a new and free life in Australia have to drown in overcrowded fishing boats before we get over our ingrained racism and xenophobia, and show some compassion and humanity. Last time I checked, the second verse of our national anthem had the lyrics “For those who’ve come across the seas / We’ve boundless plains to share”.
Cue refugee survivor guilt. It’s so sad that even in 2011 (2012!) that these kind of human right atrocities are so prevalent. Quick summary of what’s going on from the Global Post:
The Australian government’s tough stance on asylum seekers has been linked to the sinking of boat carrying more than 200 people — mainly from Iran and Afghanistan — traveling from Indonesia.
Indonesian fishermen and local authorities have reportedly rescued survivors, though head counts vary from 33 to 87.
According to Agence France-Presse, the boat had a capacity of 100 but was overloaded with about 250 people when it sank on Saturday 40 nautical miles off eastern Java” in 16-foot waves and in shark-infested waters.
Some reports even appeared to suggest that the Australian government knew about the ship’s presence before it sank and did nothing.
A week ago today, I was hunched over and weeping in a cemetery. At the time, I was surrounded by a couple hundred people who traveled thousands of miles to pay their respects to my grandfather: a humanitarian, popular surgeon, and former Dean of the medical school in Kabul when it was in it’s prime several decades ago.
I opened my eyes and noticed that the grass on the ground through my glasses was blurry, and the shadows of other women began to huddle around me. Soon their hands were rubbing my back and I heard whispers of “It’s OK” and “Breathe”. To be a polite host, I took a dozen shallow breathes to muster together some composure, stood back up, and properly greeted them. They were sisters who were around my age, fashionably dressed, and shared a story with me that they said they heard over and over when they were growing up.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, their father at the time was a single guy who ended up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Following an injury, he had been bleeding for 22 hours straight, and out of hope, believed he was surely on his last day. That was all until my grandfather found him just in time, gave him the operation he needed, and once he recovered sent him on his way. The patient went on to live a full and happy life, with four kids and nine grandchildren. The sisters said they were raised with stories of “the great Dr. Arsalla” and soon we all had tears in our eyes again, but this time out of gratitude. Grateful that we knew such a kind, caring person.
Without exaggeration, this is just one of hundreds of stories from an amazing life. What a legacy!
— Khan Aga, an Afghan entrepreneur, visited Winter Park last week as a guest of Bajalia International as part of an entrepreneurship program sponsored by the State Department and Business Council for Peace. (source)