AFTER THE TAMPA by ABBAS NAZARI

 |   |  1 min read

AFTER THE TAMPA by ABBAS NAZARI

Decades ago, at Refugee and Migrant Services in Auckland, I glanced at a map showing that vast territory between Greece and India, lands unfamiliar to most New Zealanders but from which refugees and migrants would increasingly arrive: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Someone observed that when these people told their stories, our culture and view of the world would change irrevocably.

True, and many of these people have escaped privation, repression, brutality and war zones of the kind we cannot imagine, even though we witness it nightly, usually with a caution that it “may be upsetting to some viewers”.

Yet these are our fellow citizens: engineers, doctors, cleaners, research scientists, nurses, shopkeepers, civil servants, Uber drivers, architects, teachers.\

And every one has a story.

That of Abbas Nazari is perhaps more remarkable than most.

Today, he’s a graduate of the University of Canterbury and a Fulbright Scholar who received a Master’s in Security Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.

A long way from being a barely literate child in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, where his family had lived for generations. When the Taliban moved toward their village in 2001, they — being the ethnically different Hazara and Shi’a, both targets for the Sunni fundamentalist militants — fled.

He remembers the uncertain journey to Pakistan, waiting fearfully for months in Quetta, then Karachi before a flight to Jakarta, then the terrifying journey on a barely afloat boat carrying 433 asylum seekers heading for the Australian territory of Christmas Island. With the boat leaking to the point of sinking, they were rescued by the Norwegian container vessel Tampa.

That, however, was far from the end of their troubles. With hindsight and recourse to reports from the time, he tells of how the refugees — starving, ill and terrified — were made to wait a week in appalling and unsanitary conditions, in limbo because the Australian government refused to allow the Tampa to land them on Christmas Island.

Rescue for his family and many others subsequently came with the promise of a home in New Zealand.

“Who is New Zealand?” one man asked . . .

.

To read the rest of this review -- and other reviews of New Zealand books -- go to Kete Books here

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing at Elsewhere articles index

THE LAST WORD by HANIF KUREISHI

THE LAST WORD by HANIF KUREISHI

Consider the plight of a hard-pressed writer commissioned to do the biography of an old, famous living author. Then think how much more difficult it would be if the manipulative author has... > Read more

BOB DYLAN: THE STORIES BEHIND THE CLASSIC SONGS 1962-69 by ANDY GILL

BOB DYLAN: THE STORIES BEHIND THE CLASSIC SONGS 1962-69 by ANDY GILL

With Bob Dylan's 80thbirthday recently we could have anticipated the slew of books which is just starting to arrive, many of them academic and full of discourse, interrogations and other such... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE DISCO SUCKS MOVEMENT: Divide and . . . conk out

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE DISCO SUCKS MOVEMENT: Divide and . . . conk out

It’s both easy and hard to explain the rise of the Disco Sucks movement at the end of the Seventies. In some parts of the world the zenith of disco coincided with the emergence of punk,... > Read more

Shadow in the Glass: A short story

Shadow in the Glass: A short story

Campbellhad a directness that Dennis had once mistaken for the dourness of the Scots. “You’ll be wanting home, then?” “Yes, just for a fortnight . . . perhaps three... > Read more