Class Ellis: Killing Hazaras, 2010

We continue to mourn the Balibo Five but we have not, thus far, much mourned the Uruzgan Six.

Though both groups were said to have been killed in crossfire the second group is felt to be less important for we do not know the names, ages or genders of the dead.

Though it is 19 months after their deaths we now don’t see reports of Samira, 2, Fatima, 4, Farzad, 5, Montezar, 7, Niki, 9, Rashida, 32, and Omar, 34, (in the absence of information let’s imagine that these are their names and ages) or accounts of what nice little people they were and how sad their cousins were to see them blown to bits. We do not even know if the ‘Taliban insurgent’ we were looking to kill was a relative of theirs or if some of them, indeed, were his children.

We know remarkably little, nineteenth months on, of this killing by Australians of innocent children compared with, say, the victims of Martin Bryant at Port Arthur three days after it happened. We do not see their photos, or hear their relatives’ words of grief translated on the radio. We know a lot about Port Arthur, the media told us lots.

Why, then, such a blackout of information from Uruzgan? Can it be racism, I wonder? Perish the thought.

But a species of colonial racism informs every part, it seems, of our presence there. We are in Uruzgan, we are told, to ‘train’ the inhabitants how to recognise and kill their cousins, or such cousins who hold the wrong religious faith, a faith whose wrongness we have designated. At no point in the last eight years did we think we had ‘trained’ enough of them to leave them and let them ‘train’ some more in the way they should go. Not in eight years, longer than the training of a specialist doctor.

Of course not. They were heathen savages. Sorry, they were ‘not yet ready to take full responsibility for their own security’. Of course they weren’t. How could they be?

Racism, I fear, informs everything we do there. ‘These people’ are not capable of defending or educating themselves. We must take the lead for, oh, twenty years or so and show them the way to the light at the end of the tunnel. ‘These people’ are like sheep, and we must lead them.

Hamid Karzai is in tears at how bad the war is going. Yet we think it’s going well enough to send Hazaras back into the thick of it.

Hazaras are the people the Taliban want to kill. The Taliban are the people Karzai wants to form a government with. And the Taliban are the people we are killing innocent children in mistake for.

If we knew a little more about these dead children (Their names? Their ages? Their genders?) we would be less likely, I think, to send Hazara children back, or any children back, to home villages where they might be massacred.

This is why we choose not to know anything much about them. Why we saw no newsreels of their funerals on SBS.

I ask the Gillard government not to send back children, Hazara or otherwise, to a country Hamid Karzai says is too dangerous to be in, so dangerous he fears his son will leave it when he can. I ask Julia Gillard to prove she is not (as I think) a racist, and to save these children from slaughter if she is in the mood.

If this plea seems to you to be based on an exaggeration you should read the DFAT Travel Guidelines for this month which say,

‘We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, and the very high risk of terrorist attack. If you are in Afghanistan you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should ensure that they have personal security measures in place. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment. Terrorist attacks and political violence may increase in the period surrounding the 18 September parliamentary elections. All major hotels continue to be attractive targets for terrorists…Due to the dangerous security situation in the provinces surrounding Kabul you should only travel in secure transport using reputable local drivers and guides. You should consider permanent armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety…Unexploded land mines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.’

It is hard to see why Hazara children, Hazara women or Hazara men, or any Afghan children, women or men should be sent back there. It is hard to see why we would even consider it if we were not racists, or culturists, or fundamentalist Christians fanatics, or we did not think ‘these people’ inferior to us and not worth saving.

It is clear the Gillard government is considering, at least considering, a racist policy of sending back into deadly danger what they feel to be a lesser breed of person peculiarly unfit to live in Australia. It is hard to read it in any other way.

I ask the Prime Minister to show she is not at least some fraction of a racist xenophobe and admit all ‘these people’ in, as Howard did with nearly all of the people on the Tampa. They were mostly Hazaras, and in danger if they went back, so even Howard let them in.

Or I ask her to explain why Australians should not go there, and ‘these people’ should.

And to say why she is the right sort of migrant, and they are not.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Bob Carr is happy to make dirty deals with Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and any other brutal regime he can find to force people back home to prison or death and Gillard is quite happy in her racist bubble to let him.

    This week 97 Rohingya died after Thailand disabled their boat and pushed them out to sea because they wanted to go to Malaysia and follow their brethren.

    IT was reported they wanted to come here but no-one bothered to ask if it was true as Brendan O’Connor started prattling about human trading to Malaysia and not one media outlet questioned him about his babble.

    Gillard has no interest in anyone who is not rich and skilled.

  2. No, Marilyn, Gillard is afraid. Afraid of what she thinks is public opinion. That is one reason why she cannot be a great prime minister.

    • No Reader, she is racist, I know from personal experience that is the case.

    • I think it is what she KNOWS is public opinion. On the ABC Drum you get the cross section of Oz opinion. For every Marilyn and Helvi, for asylum seekers, there are two hundred against.

      They will rape our women, take our jobs and houses…so depressing I don’t even read them anymore, let alone comment

      • “Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God. Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
        Mark Twain

        ( nor did it welcome with open arms desperate asylum seekers arriving to our shores in leaking boats.)

  3. Agree with all of above, which seems contradictory, but there you go.
    R2 and Marilyn come from opposite trajectories. I think R2′s view is closer to mine, but who has not got frustrated with Labor’s timidity over asylum seekers, environment and some aspects of social policy.
    They are captured too much by the neo liberal, social Darwinist economics ideology and not concerned enough with their mission; many seem to have forgotten who they are, their heritage, where they’ve come from and what their actual goals should be.

    • Paul, if the majority of Australians do not want more asylum seekers to come to Australia now that we have a Labor leader, do you think that it will be any better with Liberals in power.
      Both Labor and Liberals are listening to what the majority of Aussies want. They want more ‘border protection’ whatever that is… Sad, but true, we could take heaps more.

      • We are a social species, we don’t have our opinions in isolation.

        And people see the problems the usual arguments for accepting more refugees coming from “left” and liberal quarters. Universal compassion alone is not an effective basis for policy and people see that. If an issue is posed as heart versus head Australians, at least, will go for head.

        The ALP could turn opinion around, enough, if it could fight the refugee issue on the basis of practical arguments (such as that refugees make good immigrants) and coherent principle (our responsibility as a democratic nation towards people who have stood up for human rights and their families, our special responsibility to refugees from countries where we have meddled).

        And then talk compassion, sure, but get the practical and principled arguments out first.

  4. Jeremy, Helvi:
    I understand the points perfectly and have made them numerous times myself.
    One of the many things that offends me about the Coalition is that precisely when constructive opposition could have helped ease the asylum seeker issue, they came out with such Hansonism that an already timid government gave up on it virtually straightaway.
    I do think open slather wouldn’t work, there simply hasn’t been the work done yet as to enviro and planning (or any sign of this happening, quite the opposite!)and a part of my grumble is that those who start the wars and consequent refugee trails and numbers ought to be doing more (like ending unnecessary wars), rather than passing off responsibility onto working class people here and elsewhere.
    Still, as my asylum seeker friends say, a) the suffering being inflicted on asylum seekers is wrong, b) white people are beneficiaries (complicit with?) of a global system that is itself emerged from history as arguably racist and grossly unfair.

    • And, paul, your asylum seeker friends are dead right eh what.

      Not that I’m prone to white guilt about it. The Europeans just got in first; I wouldm’t have preferred Shaka Zulu (etc) to have conquered the world.

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