At just 21 years old, Adila Yarmuhammad believes she will be the youngest Muslim woman to run in the 2022 federal election.
- The new political group is led by activist Drew Pavlou
- Five candidates, mostly young people from diverse backgrounds, hope to run as part of the Democratic Alliance Drew Pavlou
- Party focuses on human rights, with eye on issues relating to the Chinese Communist Party
She is aiming for a seat in the Australian parliament, but she knows she is inexperienced.
“Even while running [for a seat] Enough, it shows other women and young girls that it is possible, ”she said.
“You don’t really see a lot of women of color in parliament, let alone a lot of Muslim women in parliament.”
The college student and human rights activist, an Adelaide-born Uyghur, wants a seat in the South Australian Senate.
“South Australia has always been masculine, white, dominated in terms of politics and parliament,” she said.
Party born of Hong Kong activism
Ms Yarmuhammad is one of five mostly young candidates gathered to run under the banner of a new political party, led by 22-year-old Drew Pavlou.
Mr Pavlou rose to prominence in the media in July 2019 when he first staged a protest at the University of Queensland in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
“I organized this protest and my life changed forever,” he said.
Mr. Pavlou was assaulted by pro-Beijing students during the event, which was filmed.
The video went viral and marked the start of Mr. Pavlou’s public activism against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Fast forward two years and Mr Pavlou said that the “Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance” had over 2,000 members, raised $ 27,000 in “grassroots donations” and was in the process of being officially registered with the Australian Election Commission.
“If we cannot run on the ballots as a democratic alliance,” said Pavlou, “we would all run as independents but belong to the same political movement and have a similar brand image. “.
The alliance hosted a launch event in Hyde Park in Sydney today and has already sparked new controversy in Queensland after a billboard company has refused to run advertising from the alliance supporting the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
In terms of what the party stands for, Mr Pavlou said it was not just one problem.
But the group is focused on human rights, with an eye specifically on issues related to the Chinese Communist Party.
“The interference of the Chinese Communist Party, the authoritarianism of the CCP, is part of a larger political problem where we are witnessing a wider retreat of democracy and a rise in authoritarianism,” Pavlou said. .
But he stressed that the alliance is “not against the Chinese people” and that the party has “the utmost respect for the Chinese people.”
Policies on Mr. Pavlou’s website include official recognition of China’s treatment of Uyghurs and Tibetans as genocide, increasing the rate of job seekers, investing in the bullet train and sanction of Chinese “genocidal” officials.
The part-time student, who also works part-time at a law firm, knows the odds are against his alliance – and him personally in his bid for a seat in the Queensland Senate – to be elected to Parliament.
But Mr Pavlou is not discouraged, telling the ABC he can still go to work in his father’s fruit shop if things “crash and burn”.
“We are a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Young “intelligent” and “compassionate” candidates
Another member of the alliance is Uyghur Australian Inty Elham, 27, who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives, in the Sturt electorate in South Australia.
The chiropractor, also a human rights activist, runs her own healthcare business.
“I want more representation in Australian politics in terms of cultural diversity and I want more women in parliament, especially in light of recent events,” said Ms Elham.
In Victoria, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Max Mok, 21, will challenge liberal Gladys Liu in the Chisholm seat, a seat Ms Liu won by a handful of votes in the last election.
Mr Mok said he was a student in that electorate and his family had lived in Chisholm for a long time.
“We remember Australia, before the Chinese infiltration really happened,” Mok said.
“Right now, in one part of the electorate, it’s really hard for ordinary voters to choose which party they want to vote for. We try to [be] the alternative.”
Finally, there’s Kyinzom Dhongdue, who lives in Sydney, vying for a seat in the New South Wales Senate.
Ms Dhongdue said she was the first Tibetan Australian to run for the Australian Parliament.
At 43, the professional human rights activist said she knew she was the oldest in the group but joined the alliance because young people “give me hope.”
“They are smart and compassionate and they know how to handle all the crises of our time,” Ms. Dhongdue said.
Ms. Dhongdue, who took six months off to participate in the campaign, was born in a Tibetan refugee camp in India and came to Australia “as a stateless person because China invaded my country.”
“I have dedicated my life to lobbying the Australian government to put human rights above profit in our relationship with China,” she said.
“I think we are at a critical point in our relationship with China and it is important that our voices are heard.”