AusGhan Aid, raises funds to improve basic health services and provide educational resources to people living in remote villages in Balkh province, Northern Afghanistan.
AusGhan Aid supports the communities around the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The city of Mazar-e-Sharif is the fourth-largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 368,100 as of 2012. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by highways with Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the southeast, Herat in the west and Uzbekistan in the north. Mazar-e-Sharif is renowned for its beauty, prosperity and industry. However, like the rest of Afghanistan, it struggles under the weight of conflict, poverty, violence, and unrest.
Afghanistan is one of the most profoundly unstable countries in the world. Afghanistan is confronted not only with difficult physical and environmental challenges, but is also crippled by the severe effects of complex social and political factors. Writer Amalendu Misra (Misra, 2004) muses that “to reconstruct the story of Afghanistan’s place in the world is to reconstruct a microcosm of international Cold War politics in which Soviet domination, American intervention, Pakistani reassertion, Iranian double-dealing, vicious mujahideen offensives and the Afghan experience all find their place”.
Najaf Mazari was born in 1971 in the small village of Shar Shar in Northern Afghanistan. At 12 years of age, after his family had moved to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Najaf became an apprentice rugmaker – an occupation that suited his propensity for both creativity and hard work. Seeing through his apprenticeship and aspiring to make beautiful rugs gave the young Najaf some respite from the horror of the incessant conflict around him.
In 2001, Najaf fled Afghanistan. The Taliban had occupied the north of the country and were carrying out genocide against men in Mazar-e-Sharif. Najaf was captured, tortured and narrowly escaped death before his family paid a people smuggler to convey him out of the country. Najaf reluctantly left his family and his beloved homeland, and embarked on a dangerous journey to Australia. He was detained in the Woomera Detention Centre while his application for refugee status was processed. He then settled in Melbourne, where he opened a rug shop. In 2006, Najaf’s wife and daughter were given permission by the Australian government to join him in Australia. He was granted Australian citizenship in 2007.
The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif is Najaf’s memoir of living with conflict and of enduring its far-reaching consequences. All proceeds from the sales of the books go directly to the AusGhan Aid charity which was formed to help people who do not have access to basic health services and educational resources in remote villages of Afghanistan.
Najaf was nominated for Australian of the Year Awards 2014 and also has had a painting of himself entered into the Archibald Prize by artist Phillip Howe.