Najaf Rugs & Textiles was established in 2002 by Najaf Mazari. An Afghani Refugee. Few people would have the gumption to start a small business in a foreign country without being able to speak a word of English but Najaf Mazari is one of them. Originally from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan's north, he was taught how to make traditional rugs by his family. He believes it was a valuable skill and one he has put to good use here in Australia.
Desperate to escape from the constant violence, Najaf paid a people smuggler $3500 (US) to bring him to Australia in 2001. He travelled by car to Pakistan, then by plane to Indonesia where he boarded a small fishing vessel with 96 other asylum seekers. What followed was a nauseating nine-day voyage that almost ended in disaster when their engine broke down whilst a cyclone was near when the Australia Navy spotted the boat. Thereafter Najaf was taken to Ashmore Reef, which lies north of Darwin.
Najaf spent more than a fortnight on Ashmore Reef before being transferred to Darwin and Adelaide, and then finally to Woomera Detention Centre. He was incarcerated for four months while his case was assessed. To pass the hours, Najaf got a job in kitchen where he was paid $1 an hour.
During his time in Woomera, Mazari says he witnessed acts of frustration and despair. He worked hard and avoided conflict.
After being released on temporary protection visa; In 2001 he’d met a lady on the bus and when she learnt he could make rugs, she directed him to High Street in Prahran, which has a number of rug emporiums in which helped him quickly find repair work.
And within two weeks the word was out. Everyone had heard about that repair man from Afghanistan, in which many rug dealers rang Najaf and asked him to work for them. He says he was lucky that he didn't have any competition.
He went on to work with carpet and rug manufacturer Customweave, before friends helped him open his own business, Afghan Traditional Rugs, in 2002. He sells all manner of rugs from Afghanistan but also from other parts of the world and carries out repairs sent to him from around the country.
Najaf was reunited with his wife and daughter in May of 2006.
Najaf also had the amazing opportunity to publish books with co-writer Robert Hillman; The Rug Maker of Mazar-e-Sharif and The Honey Theif and soon-to-be third book. Both of the books have been best sellers still continue to do well till this day. Najaf’s first book (The Rug Maker) was on the VCE book list for 3 years, which then got extended for another 3 years.
Najaf was nominated for Australian of the Year Awards 2014 and also has had a painting of himself entered into the Archibald Prize by artist Phillip Howe.
His business still continues to do well.