The Afghan Bazaar or Boat Bazaar?

Published by Hameed on

Dandenong is home of great diversity in Melbourne. Like other parts, there are people from different backgrounds living in this heavily multicultural suburb. Rightly so, it is known as the most culturally diverse suburb in Victoria.

Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong

Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong

Afghan businesses have flourished in Dandenong for the past 10 years or so. Specially, Thomas Street is home to many Afghan businesses including restaurants and takeaways, Afghan carpet and rugs stores, Afghan groceries and more. In 2009 after the successful precinct branding of Little India, the Afghan traders advocated for the development of a recognisable brand for Thomas Street. The project was implemented by the City of Greater Dandenong in 2009 and later on the Afghan Bazaar Tour was developed for tourists to have a taste of Afghan culture in the heart of Victoria.

Recently the City of Greater Dandenong has undertaken Afghan Bazaar Streetscape Enhancement Project in Thomas Street Dandenong. Many members of the community have shown interest in this project. There has been face-to-face meetings and workshops, and the City of Greater Dandenong has welcomed opinions from all member of Afghan community.

Some days ago, I received an SMS from a friend suggesting that some members of Afghan community are advocating for changing the name of Afghan Bazaar to something that is either more specific to one ethnic group or strangely enough “Boat Bazaar”. Initially I thought it was just a rumour but this was confirmed by other more active members of the community.

Afghans have been part of the diverse Australian community for over 200 years since the arrival of the cameleers. Contribution of Afghan community is not a new trend that started after arrival of “boat people” but it is well-documented in Australian history. As a matter of fact the rebranding of Thomas Street as Afghan Bazaar was to recognise the contribution of Afghans from the time of the cameleers to date and not that of a particular ethnic group. This is visible from the branding logo.

It will be a sad day for Afghan community in Melbourne to lose this

Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong Photo by: Star Community

recognition to a particular group of people who are trying to score political point. Besides, entertaining the idea of rebranding Afghan Bazaar to “Boat Bazaar” is unethical. This will encourage the arrival of illegal migrants that has caused a lot of issues in the country whether due to unfortunate deaths of boat people or political controversies.

I have always voiced my concern about arrival of illegal migrants and the fact that many people undeservingly used the prosecution of certain ethnic groups in Afghanistan in their advantage to get residency status in Australia. I am not suggesting that all those people were lying about their situation in Afghanistan, but I know for a fact that many people arrived to Australia from Middle East or Pakistan who have used their background to gain sympathy from Australian government and now they are promoting a dangerous and ethnocentric ideology. No matter what ethnic group we belong to, we came to this country as Afghan migrants and anyone denying this fact has a personalised and political agenda.

I do not believe the City of Greater Dandenong will agree to changing the name, however to know that there are people in Australia who would promote such ideas is a cause for concern.

Images from  the City of Greater Dandenong


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Maseeh · 15 August 2011 at 2:10 pm

Well Said!

I can not comprehend the logic of the lobbiests who try to promote propaganda about such an “unfounded” point.

The only thing that gives me peace in trying to convince myself about the comprehension of such elements is their level of education and the values they were brought up with.

I firmly believe that these are the people who relate themselves to the region they were born in before they idnetify themselves as Mulsims, Afghans or Aussies!

anonymous · 17 August 2011 at 3:47 pm

Its a dumb idea to change the name to ‘Boat Bazaar’
‘Afghan bazaar’ sounds like giving enough importance to a culture to name a location after it
Boat bazaar sounds like a place where you go to buy boats. lame

Bellal · 17 August 2011 at 4:09 pm

Well what a great written piece. I agree that such stereotypical behavior be looked down upon. Having a well balanced sense of identity is the crucial ingredient for Afghan-Australians.

With out this balance they will lack progress. I Have always believed that progress and success takes the same systematic path; that is with every three strides forward there will be one step back. Those cultures that can adapt to this systematic path will indeed triumph.

And as for the point Maseeh made, I believe it is not a lack of education or the level of which here on in but merely the fact of falsified “freedom”. I will leave this discussion for a later date but I leave Maseeh with a quote from my favorite author- Khalil Gibran in hope to better explain my point.

“And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?”

    AbuNoureen · 17 August 2011 at 4:33 pm

    That is very well said. Thanks for your comment.

Bellal · 23 August 2011 at 8:03 pm

Hey Abu,

I lost your blog among my favorites. I thought you would have the email notifications enabled. If you could turn it on, it would be great because it is much easier for your readers to be informed not only for the comments but for the upcoming posts. Let me know if you need any help with this feature, I got a bit of WordPress experience under my belt. 🙂 And wishing everyone a happy Ramadan.

    AbuNoureen · 24 August 2011 at 1:47 pm

    A-ha… I found the plugin. Thanks.

      Bellal · 24 August 2011 at 7:24 pm

      No problem ;). Good to see some intriguing discussions going on.

Dor Aschna · 23 August 2011 at 9:28 pm

Mr Aschana seems to have submitted his whole reply to Gressel here. I am going to publish this regardless.

Dear Gressel,

Ref: Afghan Bazaar Streetscape Enhancement Project

I would like to express once again my gratitude to you for providing the opportunity for the Afghan community to express their views in relation to the name and an icon for the Afghan Bazaar.

Interestingly you may have noticed that some of the views have been uttered in a way which will not be of any benefit to the unity and harmony in our community. On the contrary, a few well-known individuals, knowingly or ignorantly, are blowing up their self-convincing and inharmonious opinions. Surprisingly it shows how some views have been influenced to distort the reality in an attempt to secure a temporary political score in sidelining the majority of Afghans including Tajek, Pashtun, Uzbek, Afghan Hazara, Pashaei, Norestani, Arabs and Indos who are making every effort toward strengthening a sound relationship between various ethnic groups in Australia .

Confusion about who is an Afghan?
As you may have observed some people are still confused what to call themselves even if they believe and claim that they are coming from Afghanistan . However, they have rightly or falsely lodged their applications for refugee as a citizen / nationality of Afghanistan . Likewise they are scanning the facts from a very narrow angle in interpreting Afghan as Pashtun. At present, Afghan is a general word for any one coming or claiming to come from Afghanistan , irrespective of their ethnicity or actual place of origin.

Similarly if some one comes from Pakistan, Iran, India , China, Germany, USA, Canada, Britain, Australia , Iraq and so on and so forth , s/he would proudly call herself/himself a Pakistani, Iranian, Indian, Chinese, German, American, Canadian, British , Australian and Iraqi respectively. Nonetheless, tens and hundreds of different ethnic groups are living in each of those countries.

Unfortunately some individuals claim that the name of Afghanistan was something else 100 years ago. But they do not know when and what? They seem totally ignorant of the history and geography of their claimed country of origin. They need to learn that Afghanistan sits at an important geographic location that connects the Middle East with Central Asia and the Indian Continent, which has been home to various peoples through the ages.

The land has witnessed many military conquests since antiquity, notably by Alexandra the Great, Genghis Khan, British and the USSR . It has also served as a source from which local dynasties such as the Greco Bactrian, Koshans, Safaris, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughals and many others have established empires of their own.

The political history of modern Afghanistan began in 1747. Therefore Afghanistan as a country has been officially recognised as an independent geographical and territorial entity for 264 years. Since then it has been recognised as a sovereign nation with particular boundaries and experienced modifications in size and area up to 1919 which gained its independence following the third Anglo- Afghan war and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi and consequently the country regained control over its foreign policy from the British.
Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a continuous state of war, including major occupations in the form of the 1979 Soviet, a Taliban inspired civil war in the late 1990s and the October 2001 US –led operations that overthrew the Taliban in December 2001, the United Nations Security council authorized the creation of an International Security Force (ISAF) to help maintain security and assist the Karzai Administration.
Who have suffered the most during the last three decades in Afghanistan ?
During the last three decades our country has been ravaged by continuous unrest and war. All people of Afghanistan have been suffering and directly and indirectly affected by invasion, occupation, intervention and unabated civil war. Each irresponsible war lord, no matter of its affiliation to a particular ethnic group has mercilessly committed crime against the other group.
Our people in Kabul and other places are witness of heinous crimes such as dancing of a beheaded body, the nailing on the head of a hostage, chopping the breasts of innocent women being not affiliated to their ethnicity or religion. They have committed crimes in the form of splitting the bodies through pulling branches of trees and putting boiled oil on beheaded body to enjoy the dance of a dead corpse, watching the birth procedure of pregnant women on the streets under the point of gun. All these inhumane acts which any human beings avoid of mentioning them are documented filmed and noted down for a day to bring these criminals to justice and for the judgement of our future generation.
So it is not an appropriate time to say who is a criminal and who is innocent. Who has been persecuted by whom? Who has come to Australia for fear of being persecuted by Kochi or Talib and who has managed to come under false name and identity from Quetta of Pakistan and sponsored and coordinated by money launders and brokers living in a safe haven in Australia ?
We feel sympathy for every citizen and the boat arrivals in particular for those who are really from of Afghanistan . But we have to pause for those who keep coming under a false identity as a so called citizen of Afghanistan or and agent of Iran and intentionally are trying to create discord among Afghans. By all means they need to be stopped.
We appreciate the population policy of Australia in accepting migrants under humanitarian policy and as a factor for its population growth. Accordingly every one can be entitled to apply for seeking asylum. For sure the Hazara of Quetta can not be excluded but not under the name of coming from Afghanistan . They were settled in Pakistan at the time when Quetta was part of Afghanistan territory 130 years ago at the time of Amir Abdurrahman Khan, the then ruler of Afghanistan . You know as we know that they have been living for generations as a full-fledged citizen of Pakistan for 130 years. They keep coming under a false name and forged identity, availing of the turmoil in Afghanistan while thousands of our people including Pashtuns, Tajeks, Hazara and Uzbeks, indos, Sadats, noristani, Turkmans and so on lose their chance to settle in Australia .
Hazara of Quetta is Pakistani nationality and is able to spend thousands of dollars for a better future and under the false identity of Afghan. They have never experienced any hardship in Afghanistan and are not actually citizen of Afghanistan .
It is out of the scope of this letter but can be argued if needed at any time. We do not need to go further in depth through this argument. We need to avail of the opportunity to consider all Afghans (i.e. the people of Afghanistan ) to be portrayed all together and represented in naming and in creating the Icon for the Afghan bazaar in Dandenong. The on-going deliberate provocative and baseless arguments expressed by a few well- known self-centred and interest seeking individuals who pretend to act on behalf of Afghans and arrogantly, illogically and unreasonably insist on views which are not shared by the overwhelming majority of Afghans including the Hazara ethnic group. They have been perpetually sowing discord among Afghans and causes further split and friction in the community which inevitably will have undesirable consequences in Australian.
Some people claim that the boat arrivals have changed their population to a majority and can represent Afghans in Dandenong. What a nonsense claim. If we exclude the Pakistani, Quetta boat arrivals that are behind the seen trying to gain a false identity for them. You will be a minority as you are now among our Hazara brothers as well. It is well known even among our fellow Afghan Hazara people that you, on the basis of your activities are an agent of Iran , and working for realization of its strategic goal for dissolution of Afghanistan . Your claim for the change of the name of Afghanistan is part and parcel of Iran ’s policy. Iran on the basis of well founded evidence is working for disintegration of the territory of Afghanistan by their mercenaries as Pakistan is moving in the same direction by its stooges.
Overview of proposals for the Icon and naming of Afghan Bazaar under the streetscape enhancement project:
Proposal 1: One of our fellow country men suggests that instead of a boat and camel the Bamyan statue or Shrine of Hazart-e- Ali in Mazard-e- Sharif or the Ghazni minarets of Ghaznavids dynasty era could be a good icon. He has bitterly expressed his hatred against camel picture because of recent conflict between Kochis (nomads) in Afghanistan and some local people.
Our view: Afghanistan has numerous historical places well- known through out the world which is dated from pre-Islamic, Islamic and modern history. A few are being listed as here under:
1. Bagh-e Jahan Nemah , Northeastern Afghanistan ,
2. The great fortress of Gala-e-Bost, near Lashkarga, Helmand province.
3. Paghman Victory Arc (Taq-e-Zafar), Monument of independence,
4. Gonad mosque , 9 century mosque , known as a mosque of a local pilgrim, North eastern Afghanistan
5. The Minaret of Jam, 11th century minaret, 40 m. high, symbol of architectural evolution.
6. Darulaman and tapa –e taj Baik palaces in Kabul
7. Masjed-e-Jami , Heart, and hundreds of other places
In our view the cameleers have indefatigueably participated in construction and extension of rail way lines in Australia . They deserve to be acknowledged by showing their camel picture at the site of Afghan bazaar. It has to remain an icon; despite how some individuals feel against the camel. The cameleers have played a significant role under a very tough climatic condition to work and actively participate in construction of land transportation infrastructure in this country.
Suggestion and conclusion:
In addition to the camel at the Afghan Bazaar, the Arc of Victory( No 3 in the above list) , the monument of independence , which is a symbol of pride for all people of Afghanistan and their ancestors heroically participated in gaining the independence Afghanistan can represent the whole Afghan community.
In reference to my previous email, members from the Afghan community suggest to the council to make an appropriate decision for the design of an Icon. It would be important to invite a member from each community to give their suggestion on behalf of their community. We would introduce professional people to assist and express impartial and constructive suggestions and assist you with design of a logo so that it represents the whole of the Afghan community. The Afghan Australian philanthropic association appreciate the decision of the council not to change the name of the Afghan Bazaar. We would be delighted if you could possibly keep us abreast of any decision that may be adopted by the council and would be pleased to provide any further information and feedback. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

With warmest regards,
Dor Aschna
Chairperson of the Afghan Australian Philonthropic Association (AAPA)

Pakhtana · 24 August 2011 at 9:53 am

Couldn’t agree more with your point. The sad part is that these people wanting the name change came to Australia under the ‘Afghan’ name, now they say they dont come under that name? The boat name change is one thing and having the boat/buddha logo is another. We are muslims not buddhists to associate ourselves with a Buddha that was destroyed by the Taliban. Assosciating partners with Allah comes under Shirk ; “[You should] worship Allah and not ascribe any partner to Him…” – Al-Tirmidhi………May Allah guide us all 🙂

Rahimi Baryalai · 24 August 2011 at 1:20 pm

It is not as easy as they think to change the name to Bamyan or Boat Bazaar. They have to know the history of Thomas Street. Mr. Moin Bahrami started the first Afghan Take Away shop and then Pamir Restaurant by Rahimi. A few months later Mr Haji Meenadar opened Khyber Grocery which is now Gulistan grocery. Also Mr Babk Opened in 2001 Pamir Bazaar (Grocery). Arian Restaurant and Grocery by Mr. Irgasht. So the start of this bazaar was by these people not by the charcoal chicken shops. Even whatever publicity and good name is coming to Afghan in Dandenong is mainly the contribution of Mr Moin Bahrami, Dandenong Reception, Salang Restaurant, Afghan Pamir Restaurant, The Ghan Rugs, Shah Rugs, Afghan Masala, Afghan Delicious Kabab (Hayatulah Najimi) , Mr. Mohseni (Aryana Restaurant and Reception) And our New Afghan Pizza Shop Run By Zargai Jan Bahrami and Kabul Fashion.
This is not the issue of just Dandenong it is something against our country national interest and our country sovereignty. It is not only the name of street or Bazaar but some individual do not accept Afghanistan and Afghan name. These are the start point if not prevented the cancer cells will spread up to Bamian. Gradually our country will fall in a part
Baryalai Rahimi

Afghan · 24 August 2011 at 3:28 pm

And how would a logo of a boat represent Afghans? Not all of us were boat people. Many of us came by plane and the legal way? The CAMELS shows the Afghan-Australian links and relationships better than anything. It’s dated as far back as the 1800s, before Australia became a federation. They joined the Burke and wills expedition and helped pioneer early-Australia. The Buddha statues have no significance to the afghan-Australian relationship nor does the boat represent afghans living in Australia. If the Hazaras are going to migrate to Australia as refugees and identify themselves as Afghan during the process, why change now? To create disunity.

The camels represent the first Afghans in Australia and the name represents Afghans. Placing boats will be a absolute joke!!!

Shershah Mirranay · 24 August 2011 at 9:04 pm

I am writing in support of all my fellow afghan brothers who have responded to Hamid Sabiri in favour of being staying under one Afghan banner and being a proud Afghans regardless what ethnic groups or colour identification and race they belong to. In addition those who want to see our great country Afghanistan to be known to the outside world as Afghanistan rather than by a particular ethnic group.

My proud Afghan brothers Masseh, Ashana and the rest of Afghans have said enough to convey our united message.

First I liked to thank all my Afghan brothers who contributed to the issue in a constrcutive manner specially Ashana for sharing with us our proud history and made me feel a proud Afghan.

However I would like to make a comments in relation to particular points Mr. Sabiri raised in his letters about the word Afghan belongs to particular ethnic group, and secondly the symbol Camel as being symbol for Kuchi(nomads) people in Afghanistan.

The word Afghan belongs to particular ethnic group

Mashee jan, I don’t know how to admire you, you have proven that you are indeed are a proud Afghan. You have said enough on the topic that any person with some intelligent would take your points and move on with their lives. Besides fully agreeing with you I would like to shade further light in the context of Australia history in order response to Mr. Sabari’s comments.

The term “Afghan” is today the national identity of Afghanistan. Despite being of various ethnicities, in a research poll that was conducted in Afghanistan in 2009 by United Nations, 72% of the population labelled their identity as Afghan first, before ethnicity.
While national culture of Afghanistan is not uniform, at the same time, the various ethnic groups have no clear boundaries between each other and there is much overlap. Mix marriages, no colour identification or language barriers. All different ethnic groups customs and ways of life are known to outside world as an Afghan culture and the people are known as Afghans.

One doesn’t have to go too far and just read few lines of our great nation Afghanistan’s anthem would know what Afghan means: Tajik, Uzbek, Pushtoon, Hazara, Turkman, Balocuhi pashai are brothers are united under one name called Afghan, Afghan, Afghan.

In the Australia context, The Afghans or Ghans were camel drivers who worked in outback Australia from
the 1860s to the 1930s. While called Afghans, not all of them were from a particular ethnic group; some came from the northern regions of British India, areas that now constitute modern-day Pakistan but belong to Afghanistan at the time. Ashana has highlighted in his response during that period these places were part of Afghanistan. Therefore I don’t need go into further into the history of these events.
Secondly, the Afghans played a great role in establishing the Muslim faith in Australia. They were the first Wave of Muslims in Australia after Australia was discovered by British Empire in 1700s hundred.
Camels were the primary means of bulk transport in the outback (where the climate was too harsh for horses and other beasts of burden) prior to the widespread adoption of motor vehicles. They helped explored the large continent Australia and established the railway infrastructure for Australia. The train from Adelaide to Darwin is known as The Ghan in memory of the Afghans. It was known even though they people who came to Australia weren’t just people from particular ethnic group but from all ethnicities that made up the Afghan nations.

If over two hundreds years ago if our people could united under this holy and proud name why can’t we be united in this day and age.

Whoever believes those Afghan terms belongs to a particular ethnic group doing a great disloyalty to his country Afghanistan. We need to be united and not create division via ethnicity.
As an example, a country like Pakistan which was artificially created by the British not longer is a made of different ethnic groups, different languages and racially different but they are known as Pakistani not Pashtun, Punjabi or Sandi or Balauchi or Hazara.

In contrast, A country like Afghanistan which has been always stayed independent and had a great history we should be more united and proud to called ourselves Afghan.
I can give you many examples where a country is made up of different ethnic groups but they lived under one nation such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and many more. Even though these countries were created by the colonial powers but if you asked a person from these countries they would proudly liked to call themselves Iranian, Pakistani etc.

I am not sure why a particular ethnic group would prefer not to call themselves par of the Afghan nation since the creation of the country. However such people have they have hidden agendas of disintegration and seeking separation from the remaining of the country or infarct they are not from Afghanistan but proclaiming to be from Afghanistan for personal benefits such as seeking asylm in Australia. Perhaps they may have come from neighbors countries but share similar ethnicity to one of the afghan ethnicity groups but not nationality. Therefore they can’t stand this noble name Afghan.

The Camel is a symbol for Kuchi of Afghanistan

I totally disagree with Mr. Sabari comments around camel belonged to the nomads in Afghanistan and accused a noble tribe such as the Kuchi for burning the villages where in fact it was the Hazaras who burnt down the Kuchi tenants and their herds and recently burnt the Kuchi market in Kabul. I don’t want to politicize this issue but same time I don’t allow anyone to point their fingers to other groups.

The camel signifies temperance, patience and perseverance. In ancient times it may have been used as a sign of royalty and dignity. This reflects the true character of an Afghan; hard working, loyal and someone who has dignity.

Camels not only symbolize Afghan in Australia but it has special place in our religion Islam.
Every Muslims regardless if they are Afghan or not should see Camels as animal that assist our prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in many battles and travels throughout the vast desert of Arabia.
It was the Camel that decided where the first mosque of Islam was to built, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina when the Prophet migrated to Medina.
One of the animals mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as a sign miracle of Quran is the camel. These animals have many advantages to serve human life.
Camel privilege mentioned in the Quran only to serve man so that he always remember the power of God As with its creator.
Allah has created all creatures with a variety of strengths and advantages either at sea or on land as a sign of power. Among the animals that have the privilege of gods mentioned in the Qur’an as a miracle of Quran is the camel.

I believe neither should the name or the symbol changed from Afghan to particular ethnic group name or a place in Afghanistan or the symbol from camel to another symbol which alien to the Afghan people such as the status of Budda when 99% of Afghans are Muslims!

    AbuNoureen · 24 August 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Very well said! Thanks for your comment.

Haya · 25 August 2011 at 1:32 am

As’ Salaam alaikum

Dear brothers and sisters

Bismillah Hi Rahmanir Raheem

I think there are enough intelligent and well written replies here to add anything further to. It’s comforting to know that many of us are on the same page when it come’s to our collectve identity as Afghans. What I do not understand is that why the name change initiative now? it seem’s as though our Hazara brother’s don’t wish to be associated with the name ‘Afghan’ when all these year’s were complaining of inequality and discrimination of not being accepted as part of the Afghan community. Finally now we are comming together as one and contributing to the Afghan name in the West in a combine effort to move past our differences and what history has taught us.

I agree with Rahimi Baryalai as the people who began businesses under the Afghan name on Thomas Street are the reason why today Thomas Street has become ‘Afghan Bazaaar’ their shops became the building blocks of the numerous rug stores, restaurunts, grocery shops and clothes stores that represent Afghan culture and tradition. It is an insult for ourselves to be labelled as ‘boat bazaar’ as someone mentioned earlier we all did not arrive through the same mean’s as those who claim it will be a suitable name to be known by or having the Bhudda logo represent an Islamic republic state.
This tradition of trying to compete with one another and seperate ourselves from one another is mostly evident in the Afghan culture, we don’t see China Town being changed to ‘Tibetan Town’ or ‘The Han Chinese’. We don’t see India Bazaar being fought to change to ‘Jatt Bazaar’ or ‘Marathi Bazaar’ . So why us?? why should we be known through ethnic ground’s and not as a collective state?
I see that it is us Afghans who usually create the divide bigger and bigger amoungst ourselves.

I sure don’t want to be associated with ‘Boat Bazaar’ or ‘Bamyaan Bazaar’ as it is not the central and wholisitc identity belonging to all collective Afghans from all ethnic groups, the bolani, kabuli palao, naan, boranii dishes all loose their essence and meaning and they should probably change their menues and get rid of the Afghan flags that appear on their windows and raise the bamyan flags because one ethnicity won’t speak for us all. As frank and brash my repsonse may sound to people I am simply stating how I would feel as an Afghan walking past Thomas Street that consists of Afghan restaurants with a title that does not represent what they offer and it’s something that does not represent me. Inshallah it is not the case that there is a name change but if somehow they gain the support to change it, I assure you many Afghan’s will stop walking those streets and stop sitting in those restauraunts and buying from those stores because it’ll be a slap in the face.

Ramadhan Mubarak to all
May Allah protect us and guide us to the path of siratul mustaqeem.



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