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  • I am a Hazara,

  • and the homeland of my people is Afghanistan.

  • Like hundreds of thousands of other Hazara kids,

  • I was born in exile.

  • The ongoing persecution and operation against the Hazaras

  • forced my parents to leave Afghanistan.

  • This persecution has had a long history going back to the late 1800s,

  • and the rule of King Abdur Rahman.

  • He killed 63 percent of the Hazara population.

  • He built minarets with their heads.

  • Many Hazaras were sold into slavery,

  • and many others fled the country for neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

  • My parents also fled to Pakistan,

  • and settled in Quetta, where I was born.

  • After the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers,

  • I got a chance to go to Afghanistan

  • for the first time, with foreign journalists.

  • I was only 18, and I got a job working as an interpreter.

  • After four years,

  • I felt it was safe enough to move to Afghanistan permanently,

  • and I was working there as a documentary photographer,

  • and I worked on many stories.

  • One of the most important stories that I did

  • was the dancing boys of Afghanistan.

  • It is a tragic story about an appalling tradition.

  • It involves young kids dancing for warlords

  • and powerful men in the society.

  • These boys are often abducted or bought from their poor parents,

  • and they are put to work as sex slaves.

  • This is Shukur.

  • He was kidnapped from Kabul by a warlord.

  • He was taken to another province,

  • where he was forced to work as a sex slave for the warlord and his friends.

  • When this story was published in the Washington Post,

  • I started receiving death threats,

  • and I was forced to leave Afghanistan,

  • as my parents were.

  • Along with my family, I returned back to Quetta.

  • The situation in Quetta had changed dramatically since I left in 2005.

  • Once a peaceful haven for the Hazaras,

  • it had now turned into the most dangerous city in Pakistan.

  • Hazaras are confined into two small areas,

  • and they are marginalized socially, educationally, and financially.

  • This is Nadir.

  • I had known him since my childhood.

  • He was injured when his van was ambushed by terrorists in Quetta.

  • He later died of his injuries.

  • Around 1,600 Hazara members

  • had been killed in various attacks,

  • and around 3,000 of them were injured,

  • and many of them permanently disabled.

  • The attacks on the Hazara community would only get worse,

  • so it was not surprising that many wanted to flee.

  • After Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan,

  • Australia is home to the fourth largest population of Hazaras in the world.

  • When it came time to leave Pakistan,

  • Australia seemed the obvious choice.

  • Financially, only one of us could leave,

  • and it was decided that I would go,

  • in the hope that if I arrived at my destination safely,

  • I could work to get the rest of my family to join me later.

  • We all knew about the risks,

  • and how terrifying the journey is,

  • and I met many people who lost loved ones at sea.

  • It was a desperate decision to take, to leave everything behind,

  • and no one makes this decision easily.

  • If I had been able to simply fly to Australia,

  • it would have taken me less than 24 hours.

  • But getting a visa was impossible.

  • My journey was much longer,

  • much more complicated,

  • and certainly more dangerous,

  • traveling to Thailand by air,

  • and then by road and boat to Malaysia and into Indonesia,

  • paying people and smugglers all the way

  • and spending a lot of time hiding

  • and a lot of time in fear of being caught.

  • In Indonesia, I joined a group of seven asylum seekers.

  • We all shared a bedroom

  • in a town outside of Jakarta called Bogor.

  • After spending a week in Bogor,

  • three of my roommates left for the perilous journey,

  • and we got the news two days later

  • that a distressed boat sank in the sea en route to Christmas Island.

  • We found out that our three roommates -- Nawroz, Jaffar and Shabbir --

  • were also among those.

  • Only Jaffar was rescued.

  • Shabbir and Nawroz were never seen again.

  • It made me think,

  • am I doing the right thing?

  • I concluded I really had no other choice but to go on.

  • A few weeks later, we got the call from the people smuggler

  • to alert us that the boat is ready for us to commence our sea journey.

  • Taken in the night towards the main vessel

  • on a motorboat,

  • we boarded an old fishing boat that was already overloaded.

  • There were 93 of us,

  • and we were all below deck.

  • No one was allowed up on the top.

  • We all paid 6,000 dollars each

  • for this part of the trip.

  • The first night and day went smoothly,

  • but by the second night, the weather turned.

  • Waves tossed the boat around, and the timbers groaned.

  • People below deck were crying, praying, recalling their loved ones.

  • They were screaming.

  • It was a terrible moment.

  • It was like a scene from doomsday,

  • or maybe like one of those scenes from those Hollywood movies

  • that shows that everything is breaking apart

  • and the world is just ending.

  • It was happening to us for real.

  • We didn't have any hope.

  • Our boat was floating like a matchbox on the water

  • without any control.

  • The waves were much higher than our boat,

  • and the water poured in faster than the motor pumps could take it out.

  • We all lost hope.

  • We thought, this is the end.

  • We were watching our deaths,

  • and I was documenting it.

  • The captain told us

  • that we are not going to make it,

  • we have to turn back the boat.

  • We went on the deck

  • and turned our torches on and off

  • to attract the attention of any passing boat.

  • We kept trying to attract their attention by waving our life jackets and whistling.

  • Eventually, we made it to a small island.

  • Our boat crashing onto the rocks,

  • I slipped into the water

  • and destroyed my camera, whatever I had documented.

  • But luckily, the memory card survived.

  • It was a thick forest.

  • We all split up into many groups as we argued over what to do next.

  • We were all scared and confused.

  • Then, after spending the night on the beach,

  • we found a jetty and coconuts.

  • We hailed a boat from a nearby resort,

  • and then were quickly handed over to Indonesian water police.

  • At Serang Detention Center,

  • an immigration officer came and furtively strip-searched us.

  • He took our mobile, my $300 cash,

  • our shoes that we should not be able to escape,

  • but we kept watching the guards, checking their movements,

  • and around 4 a.m. when they sat around a fire,

  • we removed two glass layers from an outside facing window

  • and slipped through.

  • We climbed a tree next to an outer wall that was topped with the shards of glass.

  • We put the pillow on that

  • and wrapped our forearms with bedsheets

  • and climbed the wall,

  • and we ran away with bare feet.

  • I was free,

  • with an uncertain future,

  • no money.

  • The only thing I had was the memory card with the pictures and footage.

  • When my documentary was aired on SBS Dateline,

  • many of my friends came to know about my situation,

  • and they tried to help me.

  • They did not allow me to take any other boat to risk my life.

  • I also decided to stay in Indonesia and process my case through UNHCR,

  • but I was really afraid that I would end up in Indonesia

  • for many years doing nothing and unable to work,

  • like every other asylum seeker.

  • But it had happened to be a little bit different with me.

  • I was lucky.

  • My contacts worked to expedite my case through UNHCR,

  • and I got resettled in Australia in May 2013.

  • Not every asylum seekers is lucky like me.

  • It is really difficult to live a life with an uncertain fate, in limbo.

  • The issue of asylum seekers in Australia

  • has been so extremely politicized

  • that it has lost its human face.

  • The asylum seekers have been demonized and then presented to the people.

  • I hope my story and the story of other Hazaras

  • could shed some light to show the people

  • how these people are suffering in their countries of origin,

  • and how they suffer,

  • why they risk their lives to seek asylum.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I am a Hazara,

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B1 TED boat asylum afghanistan pakistan indonesia

【TED】Barat Ali Batoor: My desperate journey with a human smuggler (Barat Ali Batoor: My desperate journey with a human smuggler)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/07/12
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