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Tampa boat refugee - lecture at University of Canterbury

Tampa boat refugee to give public lecture at University of Canterbury

July 17, 2014

Nearly 13 years ago, the Norwegian freighter Tampa rescued about 430 people, mainly Afghans and Iraqis, from a sinking fishing vessel off Australia.

After a long period of uncertainty, New Zealand accepted 131 of the refugees. One of them was then seven year old Abbas Nazari.

Next Wednesday (July 23) Nazari, now a University of Canterbury postgraduate political science and history student, will give a public lecture on campus about the future hope for a new Afghanistan. View a YouTube preview clip here:

Nazari says life changed forever when the Tampa picked him and his family up from the sinking boat in August 2001. At the time the incident created headlines around the world because the refugees were refused permission to land on Australian soil.

Today, Nazari credits his parents’ courage, determination and support as the foundation on which his achievements, including a University of Canterbury emerging leaders scholarship, have been built.

At the age of 12, Nazari came third in the New Zealand National Spelling Bee, after being in the country only five years. It was an amazing effort for Nazari, who emigrated to New Zealand via Nauru as one of the Tampa refugees.

“When we came to New Zealand, I didn't know any English so I stayed at home and could only watch TV or study, so I read books and studied hard to catch up. Once I graduate from university with my Masters degree I am keen on joining an international aid agency, like the United Nations.

“I want to help people and countries in need. Afghanistan is seeking a peaceful transition of power. Past elections saw the Taliban scare voters away. It was different this year as the country is entering a new phase of modernisation and economic development through education and technology.

“Back in 2001 when we fled our country, the Taliban were at the height of their power. Then with 9/11, everything changed. Up to that point our people, the Hazāra, faced particular discrimination by the Taliban for their ethnicity and religion – most are Shi'a Muslim.

“Now we are entering a new era. The current war in Afghanistan is fast coming to an end as international troops begin to withdraw from one of the longest wars in history. New Zealand has already withdrawn all its forces and the United States along with NATO is planning to wind down to a minimum combat presence by the end of the year.”

Nazari will explain in his public lecture next week how the recent national elections will impact on the country and the people of Afghanistan. Will the Taliban mount an insurgency? What about the future of New Zealand-Afghan relations? He will discuss these issues in his talk.

His presentation will provide some insights to the future with a look at the history of Afghanistan.


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