Racism. Get Up. Speak Out.

Racism. Get Up. Speak Out. Bashir's Story

Is a bank manager, husband and father.
Enjoys dumplings.
Finds answers to challenging questions.
Speaks out against racism.

Escaping his beloved Afghanistan as a teenager was harrowing and dangerous for Bashir Keshtiar, but it led the now 41-year-old to Australia where he vowed never to take life for granted.

Bashir will never forget the overwhelming pain and emotion he felt upon finally reaching Pakistan. He travelled for 15 days, walking at night and hiding during the day, arriving with torn feet and a torn heart.

Bashir's Story

Bashir now sees his life in Australia as one filled with opportunity. “I would never compromise the peaceful life in Australia,” Bashir said. “I call it the land of opportunity. It is up to you, as an individual, to decide what you want to do. I’ve learnt to keep a positive mind.”

This outlook guides Bashir in his work as a bank manager, in his myriad community roles and in his role as a father.

When asked if he has experienced racism in Australia, Bashir said “I’ve been questioned about my qualifications because of my appearance and I have seen a staff member yelled at because she has a background from Asia.” His reaction was sympathetic, kind and supportive. “I explained to her, ‘It is not against you, they are upset about their own situation’, and she understood. You have to set your mind positive.”

Such honesty, love for country and positivity are evident to those who accompany Bashir on the Afghan Bazaar Cultural Tours he has conducted for the past seven years for the City of Greater Dandenong.

He enthrals participants with his stories, talking openly about Afghan politics, history and culture, including the regime that gave him reason to flee from his former homeland and the obligatory military service. The tours end with a traditional meal often including Bashir’s favourite fragrant dumpling dish, ashak.

“I came from a community that was struggling to establish itself (in Australia),” Bashir said. “I thought, how can I ease that process? Communication is the key. To understand others, you need to get out of your comfort zone. To be effective in Australian society you need to speak English. We’re all one. There is enough space for each other and what we each believe.”

Bashir said the positive feedback he got from sharing his culture gave him great pleasure and the energy to continue his community work.

“This country has given me so much,” he said. “I want to see myself as an ambassador. I want to show what a true, open-minded Afghan stands for. While we maintain and respect the core values of our culture, we are open to and respect other’s cultures.”

Bashir notes his love and respect for Breshna, his wife of 20 years with whom he has four children, is pivotal in his life, explaining that it is her support that allows him to fulfil his many community roles.

Along with the Afghan Tours, Bashir is chairperson of the Afghan Australian Arts, Literature and Publishing Association of Victoria and Afghan Australian Social Services Association of Victoria. He is a regular presenter on SBS Radio’s Dari program and is this year studying a diploma in retail administration, which he will add to a diploma in business management and BA in politics and sociology.

“I love to mix with people,” he said. “It’s my belief that we can all get along with each other.”

Words by Natalie Filmer
Pictures by Dulce Amor Temporal

Download Racism. Get Up. Speak Out. postcard featuring Bashir - 1MB