By Danielle Kutchel and Gabriella Payne
The south eastern Hazara community came together over the weekend to show solidarity with their loved ones in Pakistan following a spate of murders in the country.
More than 100 people joined in a candlelight vigil at Bunjil Place on Saturday 9 January, many holding aloft signs calling for justice for the Hazara people.
It follows the brutal murders of 11 Hazara coal miners in Quetta, Pakistan, on Sunday 3 January.
The miners were bound hand and foot and taken into the nearby hills where some were beheaded and others had their throats slit.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which set off a wave of protests among the Hazara community in Pakistan, calling for the killers to be brought to justice.
The families of those killed refused to bury their dead until the Prime Minister of Pakistan visited and offered them protection from ongoing attacks.
A spokesperson for Shia Hazara of Melbourne, which organised the vigil, said the event aimed to raise awareness amongst the Australian community of the persecution faced by the Hazara minority in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“In the past 22 years there have been 16 bomb blasts on our people,” the spokesperson said.
“There is threat everywhere. At the start it was targeted killing, then bomb blasts, and now we are being slaughtered.”
He said many of the Hazara people now living in the south east had come to Australia to escape the threat in their homeland.
Reja, a young Hazara from Dandenong, arrived in Australia in July 2018 from Afghanistan, escaping that persecution.
“Back in Afghanistan … if they know you’re a Hazara, they won’t give you your rights. They see you from another perspective,” he explained.
He said news of the killings in Quetta had been “heartbreaking”.
“It’s not the first time and sadly it won’t be the last time. Hazara people have been targeted and faced genocide for a long time.
“If you see the history of Hazara people over the last two centuries, the conflict started like 100 or 200 years ago. So I don’t know if these protests will work, because as I told you it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time for us Hazara people to be targeted.
“Because every time it happens, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the government just send a social media message condemning the attack and they will send their condolences – but that’s it. That’s the only thing they do, as a reaction.”
The spokesperson for Shia Hazara of Melbourne echoed Reja’s sentiment.
“What we are demanding is, we don’t want you just saying you’ll do it, we want action. Don’t just say it, actually do it,” he said.
Reja said the vigil would help remember those who had been lost to violence.
“It’s important for our community to honour our sisters and brothers back in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to have a candlelight vigil to let them know that we are with them no matter how far away we are and no matter where we live. We will remember them in any situation and share our feelings.”