In her diary entry, 34-year-old Iranian refugee Ellie* describes her harrowing experience of being forcibly imprisoned in offshore detention regime on Nauru. Translated from Persian by Saba Vasefi.
While Australia is going to celebrate Refugee Week, it will be just another week of incarceration in the Australian detention regime for me. I am still enduring 8 years of terror and dehumanisation and am surviving only through my own resilience. The regime has stripped me of my identity. But I’m still enthusiastic to protect and respect my existence as a human.
I am terrified that my lawyer and immigration caseworker keep advising me that my whole life and freedom is in the hands of one man, the immigration minister. It is profoundly disappointing for me that the immigration caseworker tells me that my health is not her concern.
Australia is punishing me for escaping from violence, and sexual and physical assault. I am suffering intensely from lack of safety and security. Nothing can make me happy. But also, there is nothing that can any longer keep me silent in prison. After 8 years of indefinite imprisonment without any crime, I still hope for freedom, and I will fight for my hope and for my voice to be heard.
I am surrounded among men who were rapists, children, and women abusers. Every day, I sink deeper into the swamp of fear and despair. I want to shout from the bottom of my heart to the people who played with my youth, life and future. But no one hears me or sees me struggling alone in my bag of sorrow and suffering. I have fallen into a deep black hole and no matter how much I shout and ask for help, no one hears me. They do not want to hear me and pass by indifferently. I am mentally and physically fed up.
Imprisoning a defenceless asylum seeker woman for eight years without any criminal record is nothing new and has been talked about a lot. But I want to tell you that the Australian Government is also punishing a harmless and defenceless woman who has been repeatedly physically and sexually abused, and harangued with verbal and physical harassment, and vigorous constraints.
My dozen complaints about guards breaching my privacy by invading my room and patting me down did not go anywhere. Rather, Serco punished me by reducing my weekly points, which are used to buy essential products from the detention shop. They have done this because I resisted their incessant demands to search my body and room.
The series of rigorous punishments I have experienced at the hands of this detention regime cannot be compensated with any money. Because how will a judge be able to see the wounds of my soul to determine compensation for it? What compensation can restore my stolen youth? What compensation can erase all the grief caused by recurring memories of the dark and atrocious experiences I’ve endured while in detention? What court is able to deeply understand my physical pain and illness, which have not yet been cured after even 8 years? Is it fair to keep a lonely and defenceless woman in an environment surrounded by men who have a record of child abuse?
I never forget when I was in Christmas Island Detention Centre how I was forcibly lifted from a hospital bed and flown to the terrible island of Nauru without my consent and despite my medical problems.
I do not feel safe at all. The gaze of lustful and treacherous men and criminals and aggressors surrounds me in detention. I am extremely distressed and fearful that the normal rules of behaviour and laws that apply to men’s treatment of women do not apply to me; they can harass me, and it goes unpunished.
I live in fear and apprehension. I am suffering from severe insomnia. Whenever I manage to fall asleep, the officers cause me stress and apprehension by knocking their boots on the floor and packing tightly into my room for daily counting and inspection.
Despite my request, instead of sending a female officer for my daily census, male officers entered my room, which made me feel anxious and insecure. The census is done 4 times a day. They do not respect my privacy and they violate it: even when I sleep, I can no longer wear comfortable clothes for fear of being woken.
The officers always come into my room with their dirty boots; they do not respect my privacy. Although I have complained and asked them to stop many times and have even posted notes on the door of my room, they still deliberately enter like this to harass me.
Most officers in the workplace write daily reports about the detainees every hour, 24 hours a day, recording even our simple act. Some officers write inaccurate reports about people, and when the incident is investigated and ABF finds the report is not accurate, they never apologize. If the officers misbehave, they are supported. But if one of the refugees makes a mistake, not only will seven points be deducted from our ten points for shopping, but in addition, we will be threatened and punished.
Even a crumpled paper can be recycled and be useful. But why does the Australian government set out to destroy all of a refugee’s capabilities and potential?