FThe ront page stories and ripped excerpts from a damning report on war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers will feature in a month-long exhibition in western Sydney about the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan.
The documents form the basis for a confrontational collection of protest collages artwork by Elias Alawi, as he struggled to address the stark and shocking consequences of his The Bretton War Crimes Report in Afghanistan.
Among the media used in the collection is the washing of the artist’s own blood.
“As an Australian Afghani, I struggled to imagine how the Australian Defense Forces could commit such crimes,” he told Guardian Australia.
I have this paper called citizenship, I’m safe, but in Afghanistan there are victims, and here are the families of the victims.
Afghanistan is so far away, the government says it is a tragic country, there is nothing else we can do, but Australia went there to help, innocent Australian soldiers were killed. That’s why I use my blood.”
About 50,000 Afghans now living in Australia will mark the first anniversary of the Taliban’s relocation to Kabul later this month.
More than one in five of these Afghan nationals, most of whom have arrived in Australia as refugees in the past 20 years, now reside in the Greater Sydney area.
With a revised version of the Australian Defense Force’s Inspector General in Afghanistan, known as the Brereton Report, now in the public domain, these relatively new Australians are grappling with an inconvenient truth about how their adopted country treats their people.
Confronting Australia’s role as co-rescuer, co-conspirator and crime is one of the dominant themes of Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan, which officially opened Thursday at the Leo Kelly Blacktown Center for the Arts.
The program includes a series of forums curated by Maryam Zahid, founder of Afghan Women in Movement, with speakers from the Afghan community including public interest lawyer Lala Bordelli, SBS journalist Abdullah Al-Khail, exiled Kabul court judge Farah Altaf Attahi, WHO Globalism She fled to Australia with her husband and three children Shortly after the Taliban took control of the capital last August.
On August 24, Afghan war crimes whistleblower David McBride will join an online forum discussing Afghanistan’s future and the social and political challenges Australia faces when dealing with a hardline Islamist government.
McBride was one of the topics in Hoda Afshar photo gallery In recognition of the whistleblower’s work, which toured earlier this year.
The work of another exiled photojournalist, Najeba Nouri, was shown in the Twenty Years Exhibition. Nouri was working with Agence France-Presse (AFP) as a video journalist based in Kabul until the Taliban seized power a year ago. It is now based in Paris.
Nouri told the Guardian last October She fears for her family, friends and colleagues who have left her behind. The new director of Kabul University, where her younger brother was a music student, had just called for all journalists to be killed.
In February, the International Federation of Journalists reported that About half of the media in Afghanistan has collapsed In the previous five months, more than 70% of journalists who fled or went into hiding were women.
Journalist and director Anthony Lowenstein co-coordinated the comprehensive program with artist and writer Alana Hunt. He wants the exhibition to provoke, inspire outrage, and spur a broader cross-section of society to confront Australia’s role in the longest war in this country’s history.
Lowenstein spent time in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2015; He says that while the US-led war there may have officially ended, its bleak legacy continues.
“We are all responsible as Australians for the current situation in Afghanistan,” he told the Guardian. We have occupied the country for 20 years, committed war crimes against Afghan civilians and have very little [that’s] Positive to appear to share with us.
“The war has fallen into a memory gap,” he says. “Our legacy is tainted there as a nation.”
Calls to refocus on Afghanistan
The Australian War Memorial Project, funded by the federal government, was launched in 2016 to research Australia’s military commitment to the conflicts in East Timor and the Middle East, and is part of a controversial $500 million expansion plan for the National War Museum.
However, Australia’s official military historians were not allowed to see the full and unedited Bretton Report, which may not be released until investigations are completed later in the decade.
Lowenstein says Afghan society is concerned that if historians are not given full access to the report, the War Memorial Gallery will continue to provide a brilliant account of Australia’s 20-year existence.
Fears are not without reason. The current exhibit documenting Australian forces in Afghanistan makes no mention of alleged war crimes, despite the fact that, like The Guardian columnist Paul Daly pointed this out about two years agothe Britton investigation was already at that point 18 months old.
Lowenstein says organizers hope the Twenty Years Fair and Symposium will return some media attention to Afghanistan, possibly due to entrenched racism, It has been left behind by the media and public policy. When Kabul fell, for example, the Morrison government promised to house only 3,000 Afghan asylum seekers in its annual allocation of 13,000; Meanwhile, more than 8,000 Australian visas have been issued to Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both countries have roughly the same population, about 40 million.
“All refugees must be treated equally, and the new Australian government has a chance to repair the damage done.” [the occupation]Lowenstein says. “Australia has a moral responsibility to help the Afghan people.”
Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan Available at Leo Kelly Blacktown Center for the Arts until September 3rd