Do you want to be a human being today?
Updated August 28, 2001
Last week Shayan was taken away from his parents and placed in the foster
care of an Iranian family living in Australia. We can only imagine how
this must increase his bewilderment. Although I'm sure the Iranian family
will offer him the best of everything that they can - there really is no
substitute for a child in such a deep state of shock who needs his parents'
Shayan's removal from his parents makes a further victim of him, and
it victimizes the parents in a brutal manner - those of us who are parents
will be able to fully understand the depth of their pain. To be separated
from a child who is traumatized and in shock is contrary to every parental
instinct that a civilized society would normally uphold and respect.
Australia is acting in a profoundly cruel manner towards this family
- it runs contrary to everything the rest of the world has come to expect
from that country - a sense of fair play, an egalitarian spirit and kindness
as a national value.
Although Australia is not alone it deserves mention at this time as a
boat with over 400 refugees is currently barred from entering an Australian
port and sits out at sea between Indonesia and Australia with not enough
food, water and worsening sanitary conditions.
There are women and children and people who require medical attention
on board the vessel. The majority of the refugees are apparently from Afghanistan.
I do not know of one Iranian - inside or outside Iran who would condemn
an Afghani for fleeing the Taliban regime. The Australian government calls
these people 'queue jumpers' but they are much more than that - these people
They are in many cases fleeing outright persecution and while in our
fat and stable lives in the West 'persecution' may seem a distant historical
notion - for many of these people it has become a daily reality in their
fight to survive. They deserve our compassion and a place among the rest
of us who profess to live for freedom and justice.
BBC account of the stranded vessel >>>
August 27, 2001
I want to tell you the story of a little boy. He is from Iran and his
name is Shayan Bedraie. He and his family are refugees in Australia. They
have been detained without charges simply because they are refugees. They
are held in a detention center called Villawood, which is on the outskirts
of Sydney. Shayan's father is afraid to return to Iran because he was involved
in organizing student protests; he was in prison before fleeing the country.
Several refugees at Villawood have tried to commit suicide. They have
been detained sometimes for years. They do not know if their cases for asylum
will be heard and if they are heard whether or not they will be sent back
to the countries from which they have fled in fear. They are detained in
prison-like conditions where sometimes there are not enough beds, no air
conditioning, or heating, and one newspaper shared between several hundred
people is the only way to pass the time.
The detention centers in Australia are managed by an American company
called Wackenhut that runs a global security and correction center program.
They are under contract by the Australian government.
Shayan witnessed a suicide attempt and for the last six months he has
drawn the same picture over and over again: a man with a cut wrist, blood
pouring down, his family behind wire with tears their streaming to the ground.
Shayan does not sleep, does not eat and has required hospitalization.
Each time he has returned to the detention center after being in hospital
he goes back into shock and cannot eat or sleep. The detention center's
medical clinic waits until Shayan's health is critical before sending him
back to hospital.
Shayan has a very close relationship with his father and the constant
trauma and shock of being returned to the center then separated from his
father who is not allow to travel with him to the hospital is taking a terrible
toll on this little boy's life.
Australian authorities have accused this Iranian man, Mohammad Bedraie,
of preventing his child from taking food so that the family might gain sympathy.
The outrage of this assumption goes directly to the discrimination that
Iranian men (and Iranian women) suffer all over the world. Mohammad asks,
"how could a human being possibly prevent his own child from eating?"
The family has recently learned that they are to be deported back to
Iran and this could happen in a matter of days. Australia's action in this
case is in defiance of Article 31 in the UN Convention on the Status of
Refugees. Australia is signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees
and the UN International Declaration of Human Rights.
The Minister of Immigration in Australia is Philip
Ruddock. He cannot be called a human being. If you want to do one thing
today -- email, write, fax or phone his office (contact
details below) and complain about the treatment of Shayan Bedraie by
the Australian authorities. It is that simple -- it is that human.
Refugees rely on the humanity of the world to resolve their plight, please
do not feel reticent in criticizing Australia for its actions. It is through
diligent protest that we uphold the basic rights of people wherever they
are in the world. As an Iranian and an Australian co-authoring this article
we ask for your support.
It is not important what political belief you hold, or how you feel about
what is happening in Iran, you do not even have to agree with the asylum
seekers. Shayan is a child, he is innocent, he is hurt and he is in pain
and as human beings we must rally to his defense. The government of Australia
needs to be held accountable for their actions -- Shayan is in a deep state
of shock because of the horrific conditions he witnessed inside the Villawood
If you would like to verify this story -- the facts have been taken from
the Australian Broadcast Corporation website and their program called Four
Corners which produced 'The Inside Story' about the refugees. If you would
like the transcript of the program go to:
The contact information for the Australian Minister of Immigration is
You can copy and send this in the body of your email (don't forget to
sign), or print it out as a letter, or use it as a guide to express your
own feelings about the treatment of refugees in Australian detention centers:
Dear Philip Ruddock,
I am appalled to learn of the conditions for refugees in your country.
The program called "The Inside Story" produced by Four Corners,
ABC, has highlighted Australia's disregard for basic human rights and its
callous treatment of people who have fled their native countries in fear.
I am disappointed to learn that Australia is a country where the detention
of a child such as Shayan Bedraie is allowed to continue under inhumane
conditions and that his severe health situation is not treated with greater
compassion. The treatment of refugees seeking asylum in Australia should
be humane and it is apparent that they currently are not.
I believe that Australia should uphold its commitment to the UN Convention
on the Status of Refugees and the UN International Declaration of Human
Philip Ruddock MP
Minister of Immigration
Suite MF 40
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 7860
Fax: (02) 6273 4144