BRINGING YOUTH TOGETHER: Organisers Diyar Hafedf, 18, and Jasmine Elliot, 13, at the first Gladstone Youth for Cultural Diversity event on Saturday.
BRINGING YOUTH TOGETHER: Organisers Diyar Hafedf, 18, and Jasmine Elliot, 13, at the first Gladstone Youth for Cultural Diversity event on Saturday. Andrew Morgan GLAMULT

Muslim family escapes violence but not racism

WHEN Diyar Hafedf, 18, came to Gladstone two years ago, everyone just stared at her.

"I was the only headscarf girl around," she said. "Even at school people were too scared to talk to me."

Born in Baghdad, her family moved to Dubai 10 years ago to escape the violence that is life in Iraq.

"I remember the killings, and how dangerous it was," she said.

"But we were lucky my father is a doctor and we could move to Dubai and then Australia."

Now she calls Gladstone home.

She has more friends than she can count, and she is co-ordinator of the new Youth for Cultural Diversity Group, an initiative of Welcoming Intercultural Neighbours.

"I love Gladstone and most people are wonderful," she said.

The confident teenager has had her fair share of racism, and said it wasn't fair that some people made assumptions about her because she wears a hijab (headscarf).

"My mum and I get yelled at in the street all the time, and you only have to look on (Facebook) to see how much hate there is for Muslims," she said.

"One lady posted she wanted all Muslims to die and she has a family with three kids."

"What are her kids going to grow up believing?"

Instead of being scared, Diyar wants to combat racism by bringing young people together in the Youth for Cultural Diversity Group to share experiences and stories so they can make up their own mind about what to believe.

"We have to remember that in every culture and religion the majority of people are normal families that have breakfast together and live normal lives," she said.

"We have to focus on respect and understanding not on fear and hatred."

The Gladstone Youth for Cultural Diversity group is open to young people aged 12-24.

For more information see the Facebook page or call 4903 1931.

Did you know?

  • The number of new Australian citizens who call Gladstone home is rising steadily each year.
  • In 2013, 220 people received their citizenship in Gladstone compared to 92 people in 2009.
  • The majority of people from overseas who live in Gladstone are from the United Kingdom, India, China, South Africa and the Philippines.
  • Emerging populations in Gladstone include Jamaicans, Iraqi, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankans and Iranians.


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