Photographs document Afghanistan's unsafe haven

In summary: 
  • Unsafe Haven, an exhibition of photos of the Hazara people in Afghanistan taken by former refugee Abdul Hekmat will open on Monday 5 September in the UTS Tower foyer gallery
  • 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

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. 

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Culture and Sport

Thanks to all who managed this exhibition. I think you should mention about Hazara’s condition in Pakistan or arrange another exhibition in the future year.

This is a great exhibition, which truly marks the adversity faced by the Hazara people.

This photographic evidence reminds us all that refugees risk their lives to escape these appalling conditions because they have no choice. We need to reach out and help rather than lose our humanity through fear.

It's not just hazara people unsafe in that country, all afghans are in danger of Taliban and plz stop blaming other ethnic groups to settle in this country.

As an afghan, i can honestly say that hazaras are treated and live as equals in afghanistan. All afghans are suffering after decades of war, not just hazaras.

this looks like an interesting series of photographs.
We have the same unsolidarity problems in Europe among the European states... (Denmark, my home country is among the worst) here are some images from Calais where many refugees from Afghanistan and Northern African countries end up in hope of crossing the channel to Britain to find work. Many of them try to hide on the ferries and under lorries, and many die in the attempt. The French authorities can't throw them out, neither can they support them as they take a lot in so they get some food once in a while from aid organisations to handle the rough life on the street.

It's awesome, looking forward to see it.

@Afg, my beloved country man/woman, I agree with you that Afghans has suffered during the war but it is the Hazaras that has suffered the most and still suffering till today. You should be well aware of Khochi (nomads) attacks in 'Nahor' this year and Behsud and Diamirdad last year. They burned down more than 1200 homes weeks ago. Do you still call that security? do you still call that equal protection? do you think the corrupt Afghan government provide then security? And still people call it equal living and security standard. I've not been biased, it is the reality. Hoping one day Afghanistanis open their eyes and minds and accept each others differences.

I'm student at UTS from Mongolia, want to contact hazara people in Australia, please remind me other events. thanks.

Although all Afghans are suffering after decades of war, not all are being attacked like the Hazara's in Behsud, Diamirdad and Quetta due to their race.

To Mangolian student:

I'm Hazara and i'm student at UTS as well. You can contact me by this e-mail:

many minorities are persecuted throughout the world, not just the hazara. this is simpy the fate of minorities. do minorities in backward countries really expect to be treated like everyone else?! look at europe before the victory of democracy- even the jewish people who contributed so much to society were persecuted; and much worse than the hazara. the hazara's have alot of baggage to their race in the afghan psyche. they are seen as the descendents of the mongol armies who destroyed much of the muslim civilisation- and not completely untrue. plus they are seen as adopting a religion that is the anti-thesis of the majority of afghans. thus they will never be accepted in afghan society without western protection. otherwise they can migrate to live with their brethren in iran- who just happen to be persecuting the sunni's of iran. but people choose to focus on what they like.