Man feared drowned had fled Taliban attacks

Rachel Baxendale and Nicolas Perpitch
The Australian
April 23, 2013 12:00AM

MELBOURNE man Assad Faizi's nephew Hayatullah has been missing since he boarded a boat that sank off Indonesia on June 21 last year, drowning about 90 asylum-seekers.

For Mr Faizi and his family, last week's sinking of another boat -- which this time claimed the lives of all but 14 of the 72 ethnic Hazaras on board -- was a tragic reminder of Hayatullah's fate.

Hayatullah Faizi, who was 26, was an ethnic Tajik, but like thousands of Hazaras he had fled the family's native Afghanistan via Pakistan and Indonesia, fearing retribution from the Taliban, after he had worked on Australian and US army construction projects in Tarin Kowt.

Yesterday at their home in Hallam in Melbourne's outer southeast, Mr Faizi, his wife, Melika, and their daughter Naziha showed The Australian photographs and certificates presented to Hayatullah by the Australian and US armies and an American construction company.

Mr Faizi said he had begged his nephew not to board the boat.

"I said, 'Don't come'. He said, 'No choice'," Mr Faizi said, adding that he fears for the safety of Hayatullah's family, who are still being persecuted by the Taliban in Pakistan. Hayatullah's then-pregnant wife Perdost was shot in the stomach last May by militants who broke into her house.

In another attack, Hayatullah's brother was paralysed from the waist down several years ago after being abducted and run over by the Taliban.

Mr Faizi believes both attacks were "punishment" for his nephew's work with coalition forces.

He brought out a Pashtun document he said was an official Taliban threat left at the family's home in Pakistan.

Mr Faizi came to Australia by boat to seek asylum in 2001, while his wife, daughter and sons gained sponsorship and emigrated in 2007.

He was proud of his nephew's work with coalition forces but felt Hayatullah and his family had been left "without protection".

Relatives of those missing after last week's capsize off Indonesia are extremely concerned for their safety.

Hazara Ramazan Ali's wife and five children in Pakistan have heard nothing from the him since he called to say he was boarding the boat.

Speaking from Quetta, Mr Ali's nephew Shukullah Redjaie said his uncle's wife, Bibisabr, his three daughters and two sons had stayed behind in the Pakistani city while he tried to reach Australia. "Firstly he's going there and then bring our families," Mr Redjaie said.

The family is increasingly desperate after learning the boat he was in sank in the Sunda Strait last week. "One day he called to say, 'Tonight we will go on boat'," Mr Redjaie said. "(Now) I don't have information about him."

Melbourne man Arif Hazara, one of the moderators of a Hazara asylum-seeker Facebook page, was receiving constant calls and messages from friends and relatives. "It is most likely they have drowned and there is no hope left," he said.

"We can't say that directly to them but we have told them there hasn't been any latest news about them."

Perth Hazara refugee Ali Mohammad Fidayee's 16-year-old cousin Mahdi Fidayee was also on the boat.

"He made his last call to his home (in Pakistan) at 1am on Thursday 11 April," Mr Fidayee said of his young relative.

"He told his family that they are now in the sea and they left Indonesia around 11pm.

"After that call, he is still missing and his number is also not working."

Mr Fidayee said that like him, his cousin had caught a plane from Pakistan to Malaysia and then a boat to Indonesia, where he paid $US4000 to people-smugglers for a boat trip to Australia.


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