Ahmad’s Story – A 16 Year Old’s Solo Journey to Safety
Words by Rachel Trevarthen
Ahmad was only 16 ½ years old when he left his home in Pakistan in 2011, fleeing from increasing violence and persecution directed towards his Hazara ethnicity. He arrived in Australian in January 2013 after a long and treacherous journey lasting around one and a half years.
Ahmad (not his real name) was kind enough to share his story with SIBW this week, one of incredible bravery and perseverance.
I’m Hazara, which is a minority Shia Muslim ethnic group from Afghanistan. My parents left Afghanistan for Pakistan before I was born and so I was born and raised in Pakistan.
I left my home of Quetta in Pakistan when I was 16 years old and went to another state Karachi where I waited for six months to find a way out of the country.
From there I flew to Thailand, then went overland to Malaysia and by boat to Indonesia. I stayed in Indonesia for six months and got on a boat to Australia, which took me to Christmas Island. I stayed there for 1 month, then got transferred to Western Australia where I stayed in the Leonora detention centre for 1 month and 10 days.
I made the difficult decision to leave my home because life was getting more dangerous every day in Pakistan. There were people being killed in front of us by many unidentified extremist groups and I wasn’t able to go anywhere.
I was home all the time and unable to be a normal teenager and hang out, so my Mum decided to send me away because of the growing security problem. Hazara are a minority in Pakistan (Shi’a Muslims) so we face constant discrimination and potential attack. Our communities are bombed, our people aren’t allowed to travel and we could be killed anywhere, anytime.
Once I left Pakistan, the journey to Australia was pretty scary. I felt vulnerable and unsafe being so young on the boat and I missed my family terribly. Being so young with much older people was quite confronting and although nothing bad happened it was difficult.
When we arrived at Christmas Island, it was quite hard as none of us had been in detention before. I was being told when to eat, sleep and wake up and this was hard at the start but we got used to it so quickly. There were a lot of other teenagers there so we became friends and we could hang out together. The conditions were pretty good considering the circumstances and in WA everyone had their own rooms.
Resettling in Adelaide has been hard; having no friends, no language or no family here has been quite lonely. In community detention we had someone to help us go shopping, buy food, get used to a new culture and visit different places so this helped me to settle a bit quicker.
I respect the way people treat me in Australia and I’m happy the way they treat other cultures here. Everyone is different, it is so multicultural which means I can still live by my culture and no one bothers me.
I finished school last year but currently I’m not allowed to study due to my visa situation. I’ve been volunteering at the Welcome Centre in Adelaide to meet people and be involved in the community.
I want to go and study Social Science at University next year, if I get the chance. I worry about my family because they aren’t safe in Pakistan, especially my brothers who live in fear for their lives every day. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to sponsor them to come to Australia and we can all live peacefully, but I don’t know if that will happen.
Even though the situation back home is getting worse and worse, I wouldn’t recommend anyone come here, because living in this situation is also hard. We aren’t allowed to work or study, so basically we do nothing. The boat journey is confronting and very challenging so I don’t know what to say to people who are in a position like I was, they have a very difficult choice to make.