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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Split over Dandenong's Afghan Bazaar plans

PLANS to redevelop the Afghan Bazaar to reflect its cultural identity have divided the community.

Greater Dandenong Council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship have been consulting with Afghan traders to design a streetscape reflecting the culture of the Thomas St precinct.

But Shamama Association secretary John Gulzari said he felt some groups were ignored when the council dubbed Thomas St the “Afghan Bazaar”, complete with camels as mascots, in 2009.

Dandenong’s Afghan community is primarily made up of three ethnic groups, the Hazara, Pashtun and Tajik.

Mr Gulzari said camels had negative connotations for some traders, and did not represent all the ethnicities.

“This is Australia and every law-abiding citizen has the freedom of speech to express their opinion,” he said.

Hazara refugee and Dandenong resident Zakir Hussain suggested Hazara patterns and images of Bamiyan Buddhas - sandstone statues from the Hazarajat province destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 - be worked into the Thomas St art.

Mr Hussain said he didn’t call himself Afghan, and would prefer something less divisive, such as Bamiyan Bazaar.

But Afghan Pamir Restaurant owner Rahimi Baryalai said calling the area the Afghan Bazaar encompassed all ethnicities, and the camel was an important symbol.

“Hazara is a small minority group in Australia,” he said.

“We are Afghan, we should be united under the same Afghan name. We shouldn’t have any division.”

Afghan Australian Philanthropic Association chairman Dor Aschna supported a unified front for the bazaar.

“We want to keep the Afghan flag and logo representing the whole Afghani, not just one ethnic group.”

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