Letter from an asylum seeker after 3.5 years in detention

This post was made on Julian Burnside’s website, which you can also link to by clicking here.


This is a letter written on 28 June 2013 from an Iranian held in an Australian detention centre. Identifying details have been removed and the changes italicised.

Bob Carr should read this and hang his head in shame.

Hello. I [name suppressed] entered Australia three years and six months ago. I have spent all this time in immigration detention. I was on Christmas Island for three months and after that I was transferred from that Island to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney and until this moment I have been here.

I arrived in Australia [early in 2010] and this was because of the terrible situation I had in Iran and finally it forced me to leave my birthplace. I am a Kormanji Kurd and in Iran I had no identity because my father had no identification documents in Iran, as he entered Iran from an area between the two countries currently known as Armenia and Azerbaijan. This means my family have no documents to prove their identity and having no identity means having no civil rights in Iran my country of birth (i.e. the right to work, to buy or sell real estate, cars and other things you need an identification to own, and get married officially, etc.)

When I set foot on Australian soil, I had felt I set foot in a land where the people there would see me as a human being who is reaching out a hand towards them for help, but …

Now it is [42 months] and I am still expecting to receive the help I hoped for by setting my foot in this country. And during this time I have passed so many days in great hardship, many friends have left my side and some who could not bear being in a cage, flew out of this cage forever. The death of my friends has been very hard on me, at the time of writing this letter it is exactly four days since my dear friend Ahmad passed away, a boy who was simple and sincere, with a pure and big heart who could not tolerate being in this cage and at the age of 26, left our side forever.

Now I ask you: Is this the human rights that the Australian Government has promised to refugees?

In three years and a while I have witnessed the death of 7 human beings. When Ahmad died this thought appeared in my mind “This could have happened to you, you may be the next person”

Now after three and a half years I have stopped eating food, but is this really justice?

Only and truly only for freedom, which is the natural right of any innocent human being, am I on a hunger strike and that is after three years and six months have passed. Is this the meaning of human rights? Is this the meaning of justice?

What is interesting is that after six days of my hunger strike has passed, no one has even asked me why I am on a hunger strike. I don’t know how many days of my hunger strike will have passed when you receive this letter, but I just want to ask you for one favour, and that is to put yourself in my situation for just a few seconds.

When I came to Australia I was a joyful, twenty seven year old youth. Now I am thirty one but there is no sign of happiness left within me. It has been years since most of my friends are living outside of this jail, people who arrived in this country the same time as me and I’m still waiting.

I have very good Australian friends who have shown me the meaning of humanity. It has been a few years that they come and visit me every week. I like Australia and its’ people, I only and only detest injustice.

At the moment it has been six days that I have been on a hunger strike because no one is answering my questions. And my only question from the department of immigration is: “why?” and what is more interesting is the sentence which is the answer to my question: “You have no right to ask us and we can keep you in jail until whenever we want to.”

I am tired, there is not much left of my hopes and dreams, I’m afraid I will even lose these and then I won’t have anything left for happiness or to live for. The day I came to Australia I had a wife who was my hope and was waiting for me, now I have lost her, my family and I am missing them. Sometimes I think even they have forgotten about me.

And finally: Jail will imprison the human heart more than their body, I do not want the fate of the friends who have left us forever. I need help, but my voice is not reaching anywhere and I am extending my hands seeking help from you.

[name suppressed] Detention Centre

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