'I was held at gunpoint': How Asif escaped the Taliban

ASIF Rasheed still remembers the day he thought he was going to be murdered by the Taliban.

"I was held at gunpoint, and I just knew it was going to be the end," he said.

"I decided that I could not stay any longer."

The former Muslim is now crafting a life for himself and his family in Toowoomba, after escaping years of religious persecution in Pakistan.

Mr Rasheed was working for the United Nations in Balochistan, a province of Pakistan, when he became the target of religious extremists in the region.

Asif Rasheed, barista at the Downs Steam open day. Saturday, 5th Aug, 2017.
Asif Rasheed, barista at the Downs Steam open day. Saturday, 5th Aug, 2017. Nev Madsen

He said he and his group of intellectual friends were targeted because of their efforts to de-radicalise the area.

"Before I came to Australia, I was working for the UN for 10 years and the city I was living in, the capital, was in the midst of the troubles from around the world being all there," he said.

"There was influence of the Taliban (in our city) and there was the presence of terrorist organisations.

"My friends and I were a group of radical free-thinkers and we had renounced Islam, because we believed in acceptance and tolerance.

We didn't mind what they believed in, but if it's imposed, we were very active in de-radicalising the youngsters.

"We made quite a few enemies, so gradually what happened is things started to go south."


Mr Rasheed sought refuge in Australia in May 2015, and his family has since joined him.

He holds a masters degree in international relations, and after after 300 job applications is now employed at a poultry farm.

He also volunteers at two charity organisations, wanting to give back to the community that has taken his family in and given him so much, he says.

Multicultural Development Australia CEO Kerrin Benson said Mr Rasheed's story was one of hundreds in the Toowoomba region.

"Through local partnerships, civic champions and faith leaders we have seen successful settlement and wonderful community connections with our newest residents who now call Toowoomba home," she said.

"At MDA we work with people who have experienced displacement and faced many challenges in fleeing conflict situations and through settlement they are provided with a second chance to create a better future for themselves and their families."

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