By Lara van Raay

Roxana, front, and her sister Fatemeh, refugees from Afganistan, at their home in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Taylor

Roxana, front, and her sister Fatemeh, refugees from Afganistan, at their home in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Taylor

THERE are many thousands of refugees in Australia who have come from Afghanistan, which is in the Middle East.

Most are from a group called Hazaras who have been discriminated against for many years by warlords and the Taliban, an extreme religious and military movement.

Hazaras have been hurt and even killed because of who they are.

Sometimes they are attacked because they practise a type of Islam called Shi’a and most people living in Afghanistan practise Sunni Islam.

Sometimes they are attacked because they look different, dress differently and speak a different language.

Roxana, 13, a refugee from Afganistan, at her home in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Taylor

Roxana, 13, a refugee from Afganistan, at her home in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Taylor

Fleeing to safety

What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who has had to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, and can’t go back.

It has become very unsafe for Hazaras in their home country and many have fled into the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran. From there, some have been able to come to Australia as refugees.

Crinkling News asked four sisters what life is like for a refugee in Australia.

Roxana is 13, Fatemeh is 18, Masoumeh is 20, and Tahereh just turned 21. They have been in Australia for about four years.

Why did you come to Australia?

Fatemeh: For a better education. I couldn’t study in Iran. Iranian people don’t accept Afghani people … in their country, so it’s not a good life.

Do you like it here?

Tahereh: Yes I do love Australia because I can study. I have freedom to do anything that I want, especially as a girl. I just moved to Tasmania and … it’s really green and [there are] lots of beaches and it’s full of welcoming and friendly people. I like it even though it’s cold.

What was the hardest thing to get used to?

Masoumeh: Language was the hardest thing. It was very hard to find the food that I used to eat in Iran at first, and was hard to get used to Australian culture, like girls and boys in the same school, and socialising … I had to build my self-confidence to be in the same class as boys.

Do you cover your hair with a scarf (often known in Australia as wearing a hijab)?

Masoumeh: Yes, because I like wearing it. I like to keep some of my culture so I just wear a scarf and then Australian clothes so that I can combine my culture with Australian culture together.

Tahereh in Tasmania. Photo: Lara van Raay

Tahereh in Tasmania. Photo: Lara van Raay

Tahereh: I did wear hijab until I was 20, but recently I decided to not wear a scarf because it’s more comfortable to match yourself with Australian people. When you wear it everyone is looking at you; when you don’t wear it everything is just normal. I had over 50 scarves to wear as hijab but now I use them to keep me warm around my neck!

What is your favourite food?

Roxana: Fries, chicken noodles [and] chicken nuggets.

Tahereh: I really love qabuli palaw, an Afghani dish with lamb, walnuts and rice. I am really into food … but especially Afghani and Iranian food. And also Australian food has started to become tasty for me. I like a burger [but] I don’t like fish. I like hot spicy Indian as well – the hotter the better. Eat and cry – makes me happy.

What is your favourite band/music?

Roxana: Ciao Adios by Anne Marie.

Fatemeh: I love Korean pop and my favourite boy band is EXO … I am completely obsessed with them.

What do you want to do when you get older?

Roxana: I want to go to university and get a job.

Fatemeh: I want to study in university and become a lawyer. I want to be an international lawyer so that I can work in different countries …

Masoumeh: I want to be an architect …

Tahereh: I want to be a manager of my own hotel.

What are the three most important things to you?

Roxana: My family, my friends and my education.

Fatemeh: Family. Education. Health …

Masoumeh: Family. My dreams. Health …

Tahereh: Keep loving my family. My health. Being kind and helpful to others.

Tahereh and Masoumeh going to a Year 12 formal in 2016 in Canberra. Photo: supplied

Tahereh and Masoumeh going to a Year 12 formal in 2016 in Canberra. Photo: supplied

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