Family settling into town
CHANCE TO REBUILD IN SAFE PLACE
To mark Refugee Week from June 18 to 24, The News is running a series of stories on immigrants now living in Shepparton to celebrate their contribution.
Today, we tell the story of Abdullah Naveed.
It was from the Ghazni Province near Kabul where Abdullah Naveed set off on foot through mountains and freezing temperatures as fighter planes bombed from above.
Only a young man when he left Afghanistan, it was already a country which had been on the receiving end of so much violence it was a miracle it continued to fight.
Mr Naveed and his people, the Hazaras, often felt the worst of the violence, considered outsiders and marginalised in their own country even before the Soviet invasion which sparked ongoing trauma.
It was an attempt to find stability and safety that led the young Afghan to Pakistan, where he met his wife Shakilla, also an Afghan, and started a family.
But Pakistan sat at a knife’s edge, becoming another country which spawned intolerance for an ethnic minority that had never been accepted.
Mr Naveed said the Hazara’s Asiatic features and language set them apart from other Afghans and their Shia faith had been a central cause of dissent within some political parties and extremists.
Mr Naveed’s four children have spent most of their lives in Pakistan, only living in Kabul for five months this year, before they were reunited with their father in Australia, after being separated for three years.
It has been three weeks since Mr Naveed was reunited with his family in Shepparton, where they are now worlds away from two countries where they could never feel safe.
‘‘Every day for three years I feared for my children and wife’s life,’’ Mr Naveed said.
‘‘I was most worried when they were in Kabul. I was calling them not to go out, to stay inside the house because now you can’t go out on the street, it is not safe.’’
In Afghanistan today, religious extremist groups have gained ground, the Haqqani network is responsible for attacks in major cities, and Daesh (ISIS) has claimed a series of attacks targeting Shia muslims.
The number of armed conflicts last year reached the highest level in 10 years, according to the United Nations, with civilians suffering the most.
In Pakistan, tensions last year increased and thousands of Afghans were forced to f lee in the middle of violence and harassment.
Mr Naveed had little hope for his home country, with many turning to crime through brainwashing or a need to survive.
‘‘For the last 40 years in Afghanistan people have been killed, they have been destructed, and it’s easy to not be enthusiastic about its future,’’ Mr Naveed said.
‘‘If a family member leaves the house over there, there is no knowing if they will come back, or if you send your child to school, will they come home safe? Every day people are praying.’’
Since arriving in Australia three weeks ago, the family is settling in and waiting to attend school.
The three oldest — Batool Fizza, Ali Farhad and Zahra Manahil — all want to be doctors, mirroring a profession their father once excelled in.
In the quiet, peaceful streets of Shepparton, it is easy for the family to feel anything is possible.
‘‘My children have been severed from their family, from their city and from their education, and our family has suffered too much,’’ Mr Naveed said.
‘‘Now I wish for them to continue their studies, I want for them to be well educated, and I wish one day we can do something for this country, as it has done for me and my family.’’
Family reunited: Ali Farhad Naveed, 17, Batool Fizza Naveed, 18, Ali Fayyaz Naveed, 12, Abdullah Naveed, Shakilla Naveed and Zahra Manahil Naveed, 16, are ready to start their new life in Australia.
Horrible: Afghan security men and NATO soldiers at the scene of a militant attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.