Those who have fled

Faces Of Asylum Amnesty International Tuggeranong Arts Centre February 6 To 28, Monday To Friday 9am To 5pm See Tuggeranongartscom.

Faces of Asylum is not merely a photographic exhibition. It's intended to put a human face to some of the more than 650,000 people who have fled persecution since the end of World War II and made new lives for themselves in Australia.

''It was put together a couple of years ago by Amnesty International,'' Amnesty's ACT/Southern NSW community organiser Bede Carmody says. ''We approached a number of people who had come to Australia by boat, who had settled in Australia and were participating in society and were prepared to have their stories told.''

He says a lot of people, including some in the news media demonise asylum seekers and the stories are intended to dispel the myths and misconceptions, and show the truth behind them.

Chaman Shah Nasiri fled Afghanistan when he was 19 years old after his brother was kidnapped and his father imprisoned.

His mother, fearing he would be next, collected the life savings of her extended family and paid to smuggle him out of the country. Shortly after he left, his father was killed.


He spent three years on Nauru, where he negotiated between the Department of Immigration and hunger strikers to resolve the situation. He was granted permanent protection in 2004, was granted Australian citizenship in 2010 and now lives in Brisbane. He spends time working with Amnesty International to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.

The Wazefadost family fled the danger of Afghanistan and went from Pakistan to Indonesia to Australia. They were kept in Curtin Detention Centre for three months and were then on temporary protection visas for three years before being given permanent protection visas in 2004. Now, Madhi and Raihana Wazefadost are at school, while Nooria and Najeeba have studied at university.

In 1999, after years of terror, the Taliban told Hussein Dad they would kill him if he didn't give up his oldest son to fight for them. The family sold all its belongings and fled. Hussein came to Australia, while his wife and children hid in Pakistan and waited.

After arriving in Australia, Hussein spent months in Woomera Detention Centre. But although he was safe, he had no way to contact his family and was worrying constantly.

Hussein received refugee status in 2005 and was then able to find his family in Pakistan and bring them to Australia.

The 17 images in the exhibition were taken by professional photographers on behalf of Amnesty International a few years ago and for the past three years Faces of Asylum has been touring Australia.

''In the last couple of years it's been to Bodalla, Bega , Queanbeyan and Goulburn,'' Carmody says.

Amnesty International is in discussions to show the exhibition at Young and hopes to continue touring the images and stories of resettlement indefinitely.

"We are talking about ordinary people. They are doctors, teachers, artists, mothers, fathers, children, who have been forced to leave their homes to escape persecution, including human rights abuses such as unfair detention, torture, or even death,'' Carmody says.

"We should be proud that Australia can protect this small group of desperate people who are running for their lives.''