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To Serve The Exploited

The daughter of a refugee, who had fled Afghanistan for fear of persecution from the Taliban, has secured her place in history, as she has become the first hijab-wearing Senator of Australia. Also, the 27-year-old Fatima Payman is the youngest, as well as the first Afghan Muslim member of the Australian Senate.

After taking charge as the senator in the last week of July 2022, the Afghan-Australian said that the media should not project her as a hijab-wearing politician. Fatima claimed that no one should be judged on the basis of her/his religious identity, stressing: “I won’t judge someone wearing boardies and flip-flops across the street. I don’t expect people to judge me for wearing my scarf. I want young girls, who decide to wear the hijab, to do it with pride and to do it with the knowledge that they have the right to wear it.

Fatima Payman

Although Fatima identified herself as a common Australian citizen, her life in Australia has not been too smooth. Her father was an Afghan who belonged to the Hazaras ethnic group. Five years after Fatima’s birth, her father left Afghanistan for neighbouring Pakistan, leaving behind four children and a wife, in 1995. He arrived in Australia in 1999, and started driving a taxi. He also worked at a restaurant to survive in a foreign country. Fatima was eight when her father brought his family to Australia.

The family settled in Perth, Western Australia. Fatima’s mother, too, started a driving school business in Australia, to help her husband run the family. Her father died of leukemia in 2018. By that time, Fatima completed her studies in Pharmacy from the Islamic College of Australia. She also earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Anthropology and Sociology, apart from completing a Diploma Course in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Fatima with her child

Fatima wanted to study Medicine; however, she joined Politics, and became a member of the United Workers Union in 2018. She also signed up for the Young Labour Party in Western Australia. She defended her decision to join Politics, stressing that as she witnessed the struggle of her father, she decided to be of service to the exploited. Fatima told the press: “We have all heard ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. This really hits home for me. I’d like my first gratitude to be expressed to my late beloved, whose sacrifices will never be forgotten and who I dearly wish was here to see how far his little daughter has come.” She added: “Knowing the sacrifices that my dad went through as a taxi driver (and) security guard to ensure he saved enough money to make ends meet to support this family and to ensure that my siblings and I had a future that he wasn’t able to secure for himself.” Fatima ran for the post of Senator from Western Australia in 2022, and tested success in first attempt. However, she never dreamed that she would reach the Senate this year.

Fatima received Australian citizenship in 2005. She wanted to give up her Afghan citizenship after becoming an Australian citizen. However, the Afghan Embassy in Australia did not allow her to do so. Meanwhile, the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, and Fatima still remains a citizen of Afghanistan.

Fatima has set her goals as a Senator, as she has said that she would like to encourage representatives from various fields to join politics, apart from working hard to improve the quality of children’s education and in protecting the environment. She has one more wish… Fatima wants to inculcate the fact that hijab is normal, like other garments.

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