General Features

Face to face with Hussey Dala

Edwina Hall, Kairos, Volume 24 Issue 15

Hazara refugee Hussey Dala and his family fled Afghanistan in 1999 for Pakistan after the brutal murder of his eldest brother and the abduction of his father by the Taliban. In Afghanistan, the Hazara people are easily identified because of their distinctly Asian appearance and they are targeted by the Taliban.

In 2001 Hussey left Pakistan, risking his life with a people smuggler in the hope that it would one day allow him peace and opportunity in Australia. After two years’ detention in Nauru, his refugee status was rejected and he was returned to Afghanistan, where he feared daily for his life. He was eventually granted an Australian visa due to his father’s sponsorship.

Tell me about your life in Afghanistan as a Hazara.
Hazaras are honest, peace-loving people. Hazaras live in the central part of Afghanistan and comprise the third largest ethnic group. Centuries ago, Hazaras use to live in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, until they were expelled by Abdur Rahman in 1893. Hazaras are mainly Shi’ite Muslims; the majority in Afghanistan are Sunni.

I was born in a village called Dallah, I grew up in a big family. I have two sisters and four brothers. Life was peaceful, there was no fighting and no discrimination, although life was harsh.

When the Taliban came to power their target was to kill young people, especially those who were educated. Because my brother was a successful businessman he was killed by the Taliban. My brothers witnessed his murder. The Taliban beheaded people. The Taliban are very cruel; they have very ancient ideas for a modern world.

I went to a private school, one of the few schools open during the civil war. I was very happy as a child and I thought of my future. Unfortunately all those dreams were taken by the Taliban. We don’t know what will happen after 2014, if the Taliban again come to power. Afghanistan will be hell for the Hazaras.

Why and how did you come to Australia?
I knew that Australia was a safe country of love and opportunity, and that’s why I left Pakistan in 2001. I knew that otherwise one day I would be a victim. At the time a lot of Hazaras were leaving Pakistan.

I got the phone number of the smuggler from one of my friends. I paid $3000. Now people are paying more than $20 000 to come to Australia. It was a very dangerous journey. On 23 August 2001, after three failed attempts to travel by boat, we once again attempted to get to Christmas Island. After 30 hours at sea, at four in the morning I heard a big bang: the engine was broken. We were in the middle of the Indian Ocean for three days, with no food, no water and no hope. It was very scary. But when I looked at the children and the families crying, I thought God would help us. On 26 August we were rescued by the Tampa, a Norwegian ship, and then transferred to Nauru by Australian authorities. Someone was looking after us.

How did you feel when your refugee status was rejected?
It was very dangerous for me to return to Afghanistan. I was there for one week. I tried to resettle in Kabul but it was horrible. Every person loves their homeland, but I couldn’t feel that love or peace. The Taliban killed 15 of my friends when they returned to Afghanistan [after their refugee status was rejected]. I was reunited with my family in Quetta, Pakistan. Six months later we were given visas due to my father’s sponsorship and through the proper channels, so we are some of the luckiest Afghan migrants.

How did you feel when you returned to Australia?
When I arrived at Sydney airport I could not believe I was in Australia. It was a joyful moment. I thought, I’m safe now, I can walk the street without fear. I had one day of rest and then I began working [as a tiler]. Australia is my homeland. I find that Australia is a country of safety, of opportunity, of hope and of love. Australia is a very multicultural country. Respecting every belief is what I have found in Australia. Everyone here is trying to make a good life. I respect every law and regulation here. I want to be a good Australian citizen. I hope to make it here as a musician. In Afghanistan music was banned by the Taliban.

What words of wisdom would you offer other asylum seekers in detention?
Don’t give up your hopes. Show the Australian people that your life is in danger and that you are genuine refugees. Australia shouldn’t forget the refugee convention. People are not fleeing for fun. Nobody puts their life in danger for fun in the middle of the sea.

Photos: Top: Hussey Dala; Bottom: Hussey with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where life is peaceful at last. Photos by Fiona Basile