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Robert Hillman is a writer who deserves to be as well known as Winton or Grenville. Now, quietly furious about the Howard government's treatment of refugees and determined to put a human face to the hardships endured by refugees, he has found an Afghani rug-maker, Najaf Mazari, and crafted his personal story into a moving tale of courage and tenacity. This is the story of how Mazari, when confronted with persecution and possible death at the hands of the Taliban, decided to leave his wife and young child, flee across the border to Pakistan, make his way across the Indonesian archipelago, catch a leaky boat, reach Darwin and then be buffeted by the overtly political and less-than-happy experiences of being transported to Adelaide and the refugee camp at Woomera before being recognised as a legitimate refugee, settling in Melbourne, establishing an Afghan carpet and rug shop and finally bringing his wife and child to Australia.

Hillman never strays from Mazari's voice. Thus the story sounds like a monologue, written down verbatim. But there are subtleties. It is carefully and artistically structured. And it contains lots of criticisms of the war in Afghanistan and the treatment of refugees.

Here, for example, is a careful critique of both Russia and the US in Afghanistan, heavy with understated sarcasm: "We Afghans had the undesired honour of being among the first human beings on earth to be blown to pieces by this state-of-the-art Russian weaponry.

Here, too, is a sense of the overpowering boredom of waiting in the middle of the Australian desert for some bureaucrat in Canberra to make a decision; of the stupidity of the government. It deserves to be read by everyone who was ashamed at the way Australia treated refugees through the Howard years. The Sydney Morning Herald.

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The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif

The Taliban express their hatred for everything from music, to clean-shaven men. During typical raids in Mazar al Sherif Najaf Mazari recounts how the young Hazara men are shot on the spot The Hazaras are expelled from Mazar el Sharif. Najaf refuses to leave and is forced into hiding. His family believe that immigrating, even as an illegal, is his best chance of survival.


The Rug-Maker Of Mazar-E-Sharif

Well this was a painful read. I wish I could say otherwise, because there is a good story in there somewhere, but it was so poorly written the first pages drove me mad with irritation and boredom. Najaf Mazari was born in in a small village near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. He left school at age twelve, and apprenticed himself to a master rugmaker.


Here, then, is a chance to put a name to one of those desperate enough to leave his homeland in search of a place where he could "build a house that will not be blown up". The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif begins in the Woomera Detention Centre where Najaf Mazari is locked up alongside other "illegals" and pondering whether he would be granted a future on the other side of the barbed wire. The narrative flits back and forth and retraces his life in Afghanistan, his hazardous journey to Australia after persecution and torture by the Taliban and his successful application for permanent residency. This happy outcome, however, is preceded by years of violence and civil unrest in his motherland, which Mazari duly summarises.

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