Almost forgotten about, 19 August 1919 marks the anniversary of Afghanistan independence from Great Britain. Now, Sunday 15 August 2021 will be remembered as the day the world has watched as the Taliban took charge of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. 

The news is particularly distressing for the Afghan community in Australia, fraught with grave uncertainty for the future of their homeland. 

Nasreen Hanifi is a psychologist, community activist, director of clinical services for My Ability Care and president of Mission of Hope. She cautioned against making any snap judgements or assumptions about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. 

“The internal corruption coupled with external involvement has turned Afghanistan to what it is today…the information is not concrete, nobody knows…[the Taliban’s] agenda, [or] what’s going to happen,” said Ms Hanifi.

She stressed that it is imperative to observe the news reporting with a critical eye; particularly when considering how the mainstream news and social media are being constructed at this harrowing time.

“It’s important to differentiate between our traditional cultural dress called Perahan o tunban of Afghan people and the Taliban, people frequently conflate the two, without truly knowing the distinction,” explained Ms Hanifi.

With emotions running high and the country’s leadership yet to be established, Nasreen having worked in the trauma space for more than 15 years acknowledged the significance of being supportive to fellow Afghans in Australia and the necessity of enhancing one’s understanding of the situation.

Illustration: Nasreen Hanifi is a psychologist and community activist whose parent’s fled as refugees. She cautioned against making any assumptions about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. Source: Facebook.

“It’s important to educate ourselves and that goes for me too, not just on the plight of the Afghan people but also the history of Afghanistan and why did the rise of the Taliban happen,” said Ms Hanifi. 

She spoke of the necessity to provide trauma centres that currently do not exist in the country. Afghanistan has endured four decades of war mired with painful memories of great-power politics that left indelible scars on its people, diaspora and generations to come. 

Indeed, the implications of their suffering tremendously impairs every aspect of a person’s life — career choices, relationships, parenting, mental health, physical health and even, life expectancy.

“Trauma is very vast. Interpretations of trauma are very vast….There is a lot of intergenerational trauma and that has happened and could be the result of the Taliban taking over, the huge amounts of addiction issues which are currently present in the country,…abuse [and exploitation] of young girls and…boys,” explained Ms Hanifi.

Illustration: Afghans mark the 102nd independence day of Afghanistan in Kabul. Source: Wakil Kohsar, AFP.

Her advice to ordinary Australians of all backgrounds is to provide a listening ear to Afghans and reach out to those vulnerable within our society. 

“Please keep an eye out for …parents who are elderly and watching the events unfold in Afghanistan [as it] may be difficult for them. Keep an eye out for moments where… emotions and… thoughts become uncontrollable and if they continue to persist for longer than two weeks then reach out for help,” exclaimed Ms Hanifi.

Nevertheless, she reminds her community of their endurance and the necessity to support all Afghans during this disturbing time. 

“Afghan people have great pride in being able to manage their emotions and this comes from a place of resilience but we need to reach out…[when] times get tough,” said Ms Hanifi.

Anyone affected by this report should call Hayat Line on 1300 993 398, a free and confidential support line for Muslims in Australia.