Hudud in M’sia? Look at my country now, warns Afghan refugee

 Even corrupt Ashraf Ghani administration was better than country’s new fundamentalist leaders, says victim of persecution

KUALA LUMPUR – Salim (not his real name) fled Kabul to Malaysia after Taliban-linked criminals threatened his family’s life and safety.

But now, he warns Malaysia not to adopt ideologies similar to those held by the Afghan militant group, which just took over the country after the United States’ abrupt exit following 20 years of war.

When told about the existence of a Malaysian-based Islamic political party that has pushed for the implementation of a strict hudud code of law, Salim advised the country to look no further than Afghanistan.

“I’m a refugee who loves Malaysia and has a deep connection with the country ever since my son was born here. I urge Malaysians to learn from the Afghan experience. Whatever happened there can happen anywhere.

“If there are those here that support similar ideologies with the Taliban, it is possible that Malaysia may face the same fate as Afghanistan,” Salim told The Vibes.

Although the previous government led by Ashraf Ghani was wrought by corruption and poor governance, Salim said it was still better than when the Taliban ruled.

He pointed out that, despite the lack of good governance from the ousted president that left the nation plagued by corruption, lack of security and unemployment, things were still far better in comparison with a Taliban-led administration.

The refugee said that under Ashraf, his countrymen were able to go about their daily lives normally, unlike the years when the Islamist group led the nation from 1996 to 2001.

After five years in government, the mujahideen were driven off by US-led forces on the hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre

Given this, Salim voiced his hope that the Malaysian government would tread carefully when dealing with the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan led by the Taliban militants.

“Many countries have yet to recognise the Taliban. I urge the Malaysian government to first see if the Afghan people are happy and only then consider recognising the Taliban government.

“If they are not happy, then don’t,” he said.

Before coming to Malaysia, Salim said that he was a professional who worked with Afghan government institutions until an Afghan organised criminal syndicate with ties to the Taliban threatened his family's life and safety.

This led to him fleeing his country for the safety of Malaysia with his wife and another sibling.

Currently, he works as a spokesman and representative for the Afghan refugee community here.

‘We take jobs Malaysians don’t want’

Salim shared the Afghan refugee experience in Malaysia, with the hopes their stories would become known here.

“In Malaysia, they know very well the Palestinian experience, as it seems to be promoted quite well. However, not many are aware of the happenings in Afghanistan, and what refugees face here,” he shared.

Seeing that Putrajaya is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Afghan national said that since their status is not recognised, refugees in Malaysia are simply using the country as a transit point.

Although free from war, Salim said Afghan refugees still live subpar and fearful lives in Malaysia.

“Refugees and their rights aren’t officially recognised. We can’t legally work, nor attend school and access medical services,” Salim said.

Further, placements into other countries for refugees here remain slow, due to the bureaucracy of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) procedures.

For now, to make a living, Salim said Afghans are forced to work “low-profile jobs that Malaysians do not want”.

Many refugees can only obtain jobs such as cleaning and in the construction sector, which are often the type of work that locals reject due to working conditions and pay.

“The problem is when a refugees work this way, they are subject to abuse by employers,” Salim added.

Granting basic rights sorely needed

When asked why he chose Malaysia given the lack of protections for refugees here, Salim said that the destination did not matter when fleeing Afghanistan.

Based on his own experience, the community leader explained that he and his family did not have any choice when they fled the Taliban-linked criminal network, as it was literally a matter of life and death.“We didn’t have a choice. We aren’t in a situation to choose which country is better, but we choose a country that is safe for our families.

Stay alive first, only after can we begin to figure out our next step. I wasn’t thinking about which country to go to. I wanted to survive and keep my family alive,” Salim added.

In an appeal to the Malaysian government, Salim said his people are in dire need of help.

Their children want to go to school, and Afghan parents want work and access to healthcare.

“We request what has been provided for locals, we just want the same for all refugees, not just Afghans.

“We came here to stay alive.” – The Vibes, August 22, 2021

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