School of Communications plans event for 300 Hazara refugees

Ghazanfar Ali, founder of the Utah Hazara Association, speaks to BYU School of Communication students about ways for students to get involved with the Utah Hazara Association. The School of Communications is hosting a workshop on Feb. 12 for 300 Hazara refugees. (Hailey Deeds)

The BYU School of Communications is hosting a workshop on Feb. 12 for 300 Hazara refugees in the Harman Continuing Education Building. Refugees will learn skills such as how to start their own business, develop good study habits and use social media.

The event will be from 1-5 p.m. and will conclude with a cultural celebration.

The Utah Hazara Association founder, Ghazanfar Ali, said the Hazara is an ethnic group that accounted for 65% of the population in Afghanistan in the 19th century. Now, they are about 18% of the population. The Hazara population has gone down because of genocide and many Hazaras fled as refugees to other countries, he said.

Communications professor Robert Walz said the invitation for the Hazara community to come to BYU is a big deal emotionally. He hopes the classes and workshops the school puts on are on a level that are really helpful. 

“Our entire school is engaged in this project,” Walz said. “The public relations classes are working on a project to help raise money to help build a community center, a mosque. This will be a several-year project.”

Ali spoke to students in the School of Communications on Feb. 1 about efforts his company is making to help refugees in his home country of Pakistan.

Ali started the Utah Hazara Association to help Hazara refugees in the Utah area learn English and adapt to United States culture. Ali said an aim of the nonprofit is to teach refugees the culture here while also helping them keep their own identity and culture. 

“Being a very small minority, our culture, our history, our religion, our heritage is at risk of being wiped off,” Ali said “Because we are a very small minority, a lot of people don’t care about what happened to us. We have to raise our own voices.”

Ali said Afghanistan was so against the idea of the Hazara people gaining education, they denied their community electricity. Those who protested and tried to get education in other ways were bombed or killed, he said.

“All of this happened in Afghanistan, and that forced my parents, and my forefathers and my neighbors parents to leave Afghanistan and go to different countries,” Ali said. 

Hazara people have migrated to any place they are able to Ali said. Many of these people have to go illegally and seek refugee status. Once they receive refugee status, they become citizens in those countries and become the “most powerful people in those countries,” Ali said. 

BYU junior Ashton Welker attended the Feb. 1 speech and said he learned a lot. “I honestly didn’t know anything about the Hazara people before that so it was really cool to learn more about their people and life,” he said.  

Welker said a lot of the time you have to go seeking for these opportunities to learn about other people’s perspectives. The best way to get involved is by raising awareness and getting other students involved in the cause as well, he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to serve a cause that’s really important,” Welker said. “I think it’s important to find one service opportunity that you can be passionate about. Just learning about these types of things and becoming more aware is a really important thing as a member of society.”

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