Abbas Nazari Presentation by PNBHS

Abbas Nazari Presentation

Last week we were privileged to host former Tampa refugee Abbas Nazari.

Mr. Nazari was in Palmerston North as part of the promotional tour for his book ‘After the Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand’, recounting his story of escaping the Taliban as a young child, being adrift at sea for weeks in the midst of a political maelstrom, before finally finding a new home in a country neither he nor any of his family had ever heard of.

Mr. Nazari left his audience with a key message about choosing how we respond to the challenges that life throws at us. “Life comes at you charging like a bull. It’s up to you whether you grab it by the horns and wrestle with it or let it pass you by.” He explained his belief that regardless of our background and individual circumstances, we can overcome the challenges that confront us with the right attitude.

Abbas Nazari Presentation — Image by: PNBHS

In his presentation, Mr. Nazari spoke about his upbringing in Afghanistan and the danger the rise of the Taliban posed to his ethnic group, the Hazara people, a minority in Afghanistan. He explained that because the Hazara spoke a different language, looked different and had different religious practices, they were persecuted by the Taliban. As the danger increased and the Taliban moved closer to his isolated village, Mr. Nazari’s parents made the courageous decision to flee. This involved a harrowing four-night road journey hidden in the back of a truck and months in a refugee camp in Pakistan before paying people smugglers to get them to Australia. This leg of the journey involved a flight from Pakistan to Indonesia with forged documents and bribes to border officials. After weeks spent in Indonesia living in squalid conditions they were picked up by bus in the middle of the night and taken to a dilapidated wooden fishing boat, the Palapa, that was supposed to carry Mr. Nazari, his family and other refugees to Australia.

After a traumatic journey, the Palapa broke down and started to sink. Fortunately for the refugees on board a cargo ship, the Tampa, came to their rescue. From the small wooden fishing boat emerged 438 passengers, who unwittingly waded into the middle of an immigration debate that was fuelling Australia’s national election.

The Tampa - 438 Refugees Lived On Deck in Empty Containers — Image by: Abbas Nazari

Many of us in New Zealand will recognise the name ‘the Tampa’ as the saga headlined international news for several weeks. The New Zealand government agreed to take 150 refugees from those on the Tampa, family groups and unaccompanied children. After a period at the Mangere Refugee Centre they were settled into life in New Zealand, with Mr. Nazari and his family being relocated to Christchurch.

Mr. Nazari, his siblings and other family members have all worked hard to establish businesses, complete their education and give back to the Afghani community in New Zealand, as well as the wider community. As well as his point about stepping up to take on the difficulties that life throws at us, Mr. Nazari also had an important message about challenging the misconceptions and prejudices that some people hold about refugees and immigration.

Unfortunately, Covid Alert Level restrictions meant that not all of our Year 9 students were able to be in the audience for Mr. Nazari’s presentation, but this was a great opportunity for the young men and staff who were able to attend. After the Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand is available from the PNBHS Library. It is an easy-to-read and enthralling account that will be of interest to young men at all year levels.

Abbas Nazari