Campaining for Afghan women’s rights: Hava Rezaie

04 August 2021

Related: Advocacy, Australia

Hava Rezaie is a mother, Hazara community leader, refugee women’s rights advocate, student, and member of the Advisory Committee member at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia’s Finding Safety project. Hava is speaking at this year’s Refugee Alternatives Conference 2021 on a plenary panel called ‘Centering Community Organising and Grassroots Work in the Refugee Sector.’

“I was born Hazara in Afghanistan. It is a place where my people suffer constant persecution and discrimination, and additionally, where women are considered second-class citizens. When I was two years old, my parents fled Afghanistan. We first arrived in Iraq and were subsequently given refugee status in Iran. Despite the challenges of growing up a foreigner in Iran, I completed my teaching degree, and also qualified to be a lawyer.

When a new government came to power in Afghanistan in 2001, I returned in 2003 to register the schools for Afghan refugees which I had established in Iran. Despite the change in government, the Taliban still had significant influence in many parts of the country. Domestic violence was common, but if women complained about their problems, it fell on deaf ears…

At the height of the pandemic, when the Prime Minister told temporary migrants to return home, many Hazaras asked, ‘where can we go? We have no home outside of Australia. Australia is home.’

I feel very passionate about supporting my community members, and so many others in need to feel welcome, to feel safe, and to thrive in Australia. I have worked closely with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, the Sydney Alliance, Settlement Services International (SSI), and others to advocate for all recognised refugees to have access to permanent protection, and for the Government to ensure that Hazaras fearing for their safety in Afghanistan not to be returned. Australia also should not forget us, as it prepares to depart Afghanistan.

My deepest passion lies with furthering women’s rights. I have had the opportunity to contribute positively to the public policy debates on these issues through organisations such as JRS Australia. It is important that women from my communities and other emerging diasporas have platforms and voices that speak directly to decision-makers and power brokers in Australia. Civil society can help us access those platforms…”

This reflection is an excerpt from a longer piece featured in Eureka Street (June 22 2021) as part of  Refugee Week 2021. You can read Hava’s full story here.