DESPERATE PLEA FOR SAFETY
“Now the Taliban are in power, they have control of everything and they want to find her and kill her — because of me.”
Shepparton painter Ali Alizada is a long way from the troubles in Afghanistan but he lives in fear for his wife and three-year-old daughter who have been unable to escape and are now moving from house to house to avoid Taliban reprisals.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban regime has left thousands of Australian Afghans desperate to help stranded loved ones now facing repression or worse. The News’ John Lewis spoke to one Shepparton man who is living a waking nightmare knowing his wife and child are alone in Kabul.
There’s not much to look at over a face mask.
Just the eyes.
In Ali Alizada’s case, the eyes are enough to know you are looking at a man in pain.
Ali’s eyes are bloodshot and distant from sleepless nights and mental anguish knowing that his wife and three-year-old daughter are living alone in Kabul under threat of death from the Taliban regime.
His anguish is made worse by knowing the cause of his wife and child’s desperate situation is because she married a man already under a Taliban death sentence.
‘‘Now the Taliban are in power, they have control of everything and they want to find her and kill her — because of me,’’ Ali says.
‘‘Most nights I have nightmares. I dream the Taliban is coming, catching me and torturing me.’’
Ali and his wife are from the Hazara ethnic group, people long persecuted by the ruling powers of Afghanistan.
A simple journey to buy a car was enough to put Ali on the Taliban’s death list.
In the early 2000s Ali’s brother set off with the son of a Hezb-e Islami Taliban alliance member to travel across their home province of Resmi to buy a car.
When the pair disappeared, the alliance member’s father blamed Ali saying if his son did not return he would kill Ali.
In 2005, Ali fled with his mother, a surviving brother and a sister to neighbouring Pakistan where they lived for the next seven years with no legal documents, certainty of work or hope of any future.
When Ali became engaged in 2012, he decided to try and improve his situation by making the perilous journey to Australia.
On a forged passport he flew from Karachi in Pakistan to Indonesia and from there he paid a smuggler to join a boat sailing 350 km across the Indian Ocean to Christmas Island.
Ali said the six-day crossing was so rough a fellow refugee fell overboard and disappeared.
After 10 days in detention on Christmas Island and three months in Darwin, Ali was released to begin his new life in Australia.
In 2016, Ali was granted a Temporary Protection Visa which has allowed him to find work in Shepparton as a house painter, travel to Afghanistan to marry and to visit his wife and baby daughter.
The last time he saw his wife was a month before she gave birth in 2019.
In early August, Taliban forces surged across Afghanistan re-establishing their power in the wake of the withdrawal of coalition troops.
Ali’s life has now changed from a dream of hope to a nightmare of desperation.
His wife and child are alone in Kabul, moving from house to house to avoid detection.
Ali says he and his wife talked on the phone about trying to get her on a plane during the final days of the allies’ emergency evacuation, but they decided it was just too dangerous and she had no means of travelling to Kabul airport.
WHEN I GO TO WORK IN THE DAY I AM NOT MYSELF. I AM THINKING ABOUT MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER . . . PHYSICALLY WE ARE ALIVE, BUT MENTALLY WE ARE DYING EVERY DAY. — ALI ALIZADA
Now his hopes are reduced to nightly phone conversations, which interrupt his sleep.
‘‘When I go to work in the day I am not myself. I am thinking about my wife and daughter. It is a very painful life. Physically we are alive, but mentally we are dying every day,’’ he says.
He pleads with the Australian Government for help.
‘‘All my time in Australia I have worked — on the farm and now painting. I have paid my taxes and never been in trouble,’’ he says.
‘‘If I continue to live in this situation I am worried I will lose my mind, and become disabled and be a burden on the Australian community.
‘‘Now I have a request from the government of Australia to give me a permanent visa to save my wife and daughter’s lives — because they are absolutely under threat.’’
Ali recounts a particularly painful phone conversation with his daughter.
‘‘She asked me — Dad will the Taliban allow me to come to you or will they kill me?’’
Over his face mask — Ali’s eyes blink as he fights to keep his emotions under control.
‘‘When a person dies once that’s okay. But we are dying every hour, every minute.’’