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Update: Shayan
Do you want to be a human being today?

By Minou
Updated August 28, 2001
The Iranian

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' loving presence.

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 are desperate.

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 >>> HERE

***

Earlier article

By Minou
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 detention center.

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:

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/s344246.htm

The contact information for the Australian Minister of Immigration is listed below.

Sample letter

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 Rights.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Contact information

Philip Ruddock MP
Minister of Immigration
Suite MF 40
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 7860
Fax: (02) 6273 4144
Web: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/general/contacts.htm
Email: minister@immi.gov.au

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