The photographs of a former refugee make a powerful point about Australia's asylum seeker policy in Unsafe Haven, an exhibition opening next week in the foyer gallery of the UTS Tower building.
Artist and UTS graduate, Abdul Karim Hekmat, came to Australia from Afghanistan as a refugee in 2001. Unsafe Haven documents his return last year and what he discovered about the daily life and continuing persecution of the Hazara people.
Put together with the UTS Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, (CSS) Amnesty international and the Australian Refugee Council, the exhibition is intended to give insight into the plight of the Hazara and to challenge the view that Afghan asylum seekers are no longer in need of protection.
Mr Hekmat said he hoped the exhibition would encourage the public to see asylum seekers in a different light by informing them about the conditions they, and especially the Hazara people in Afghanistan, face.
"When I returned home I found people had lost their livestock, homes, villages and lives from constant attacks by the Kuchi people with the backing of the Taliban," he said.
"There is no compensation paid and no development in the Hazara areas. The Hazara people are angry their government is unable to protect them and the world has abandoned them, they want to be heard.
"We often see and hear about the condition of asylum seekers in detention centres in the Australian media, we don’t often hear about the conditions in the countries they have fled from."
CCS Co-Director Associate Professor James Goodman said the exhibition puts a human face on the violence in Afghanistan.
"By putting you in the situation of asylum seekers it forces you to empathise with their struggles," he said.
"The Australian Government has made a political decision that it is safe for refugees to return to Afghanistan and has begun to deny refugee status on the grounds that they are not in need of protection.
"Since 2006 the security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan. It is not safe for anyone, and especially not for Hazara people, who are under attack from neighbouring Taliban-controlled areas and from rival ethnic groups.
"The photographs in this exhibition provide evidence of continued persecution and violence. They force us to ask why the Government insists Afghans should be forced to return."
The exhibition will open at 11am on Monday (5 September) with speakers including the artist Abdul Karim Hekmat, Associate Professor Goodman and CEO of the Australian Refugee Council Paul Power.
For further information visit: http://cosmopolitancivilsocieties.com/