For immediate release – 10 October 2022
A terrorist attack at a learning centre in Kabul has left more than 170 students, mostly girls, dead and injured last month, painfully illustrating the danger faced by people in Afghanistan, particularly members of the Hazara ethnic community who were targeted in the attack.
JRS Australia calls on the Australian government to move with urgency in issuing Special Humanitarian Visas to applicants from Afghanistan, transitioning TPV and SHEV visa holders from Afghanistan to permanency, and establishing expedited pathways for reunification with their families.
“Australia should consider any and all options to scale and hasten its response to the emergency situation in Afghanistan,” said Tamara Domicelj, JRS Australia Country Director.
Since the forceful takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, Australia has received thousands of applications for the Special Humanitarian Program, including by Australian citizens with family in Afghanistan. Very few, if any, have been issued, leaving at-risk people in Afghanistan and countries in the region exposed to violence, persecution, and destitution.
Among those facing such risk are families of TPV and SHEV visa holders from Afghanistan who have suffered over 10 years of enforced family separation because of punitive government policies. The current Australian government has promised to grant them permanent visas and pathways for reunification with their families. But it has not yet announced a plan for implementing these welcome measures nor indicated when a plan might be announced.
“Australia did not need another bloody reminder to illustrate the dangers of delayed action,” said Shuja Jamal, head of Policy, Advocacy and Communications at JRS. “The attack in Kabul is a wake-up call for Australia to act in keeping with the real, overwhelming and present danger faced by the people of Afghanistan, particularly the Hazaras.”
The attack on Kaaj Learning Centre is the latest in a series of deadly terrorist attacks targeting Hazaras at their places of worship, sporting facilities, hospitals, schools and on roads. Under the Taliban, who have a well document history of mass atrocity against the Hazaras, these attacks have given rise to fears of genocide of the Hazaras.
Australian citizens, including Hazaras, joined global rallies last weekend calling on Australia to #StopHazaraGenocide and allocate 20,000 additional places in the humanitarian program for Afghanistan.
Kaaj prepares students to take the Kankor, the national university entrance exam. The students killed in the attack were among the last cohorts of girls to aspire to go to university in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned girls’ secondary education last year. With no high school graduations, no women will enter Afghan universities in the future. The systemic violations of women’s and girl’s rights in Afghanistan have been widely condemned by the international community.