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Afghans resurrect burial rights

Thursday, 8th May, 2014

Bobby Shamroze Bobby Shamroze

By Erica Visser

A hundred years ago, Afghan camel drivers are said to have reserved a piece of land at the Rakow Street cemetery for Mohammedan burials.

The Mohammedan community has long claimed that the plots were paid for, although an extensive search has recovered no proof.

But in an historic move, City Councillors have decided that their descendants will not have to pay almost $700 for cemetery plots.

“I believe it was paid for back then, but no one can find the records,” said a senior member of the Mohammedan community, Bobby Shamroze.

“Over the years, when people were buried out there in that section, there’s been an understanding.

“But all of a sudden (City Council) wanted us to pay for the plots.”

Mr Shamroze said that the dispute had been going since the mid 1970s and he was relieved it had been settled “once and for all.”

“In 1977, when my uncle was burying his son, they tried to charge him a fee for the plot.

“He went to the town clerk and they must’ve made an agreement. There seems to be a bit of paper missing somewhere.”

But it wasn’t until Mr Shamroze’s brother died late last year that he decided the matter had to be settled.

“It’s the principle of it. It was set aside many years ago and I don’t want to see it all fall apart,” he said yesterday.

“It boils down to the fact that I don’t want to let the old people down who fought for this years ago.”

The section is maintained by the Mohammedan community, which also conducts their own special burials as part of their culture.

“I can remember as a little kid the grandfather used to take the boys out there in a horse and cart and we’d clean up,” he said.

Mr Shamroze, who visits the cemetery regularly, said that there was only room for “about a dozen” more burials at the site.

He knew of just three Afghan families who still lived locally; the Shirdell, the Fazulla and the Shamroze families.  

A motion passed by councillors last week allowed fees to be waived for Mr Shamroze and his wife Janet, John and Ray Shirdell and Zara Evans.

“I didn’t want my kids to have the problem I’ve had. It’s very stressful,” Mr Shamroze said.

“I went to John Curtis and Brian Potter, who knew the set-up for exclusive rights, and I thanked them for their support.

“I’m just fighting for our little group and I’m glad it’s all over.”

He also thanked the majority of councillors who had supported him.

Those who had voted against the waiving of fees had argued that it was unfair on the rest of the city’s residents who still have to pay for burial plots.

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