Solidarity’s Mark Goudkamp spoke to two Iranian refugees who maintained a 24-hour vigil outside Villawood detention centre during the recent rooftop protests. Hadi Parhizkar is the brother of Majid, an Iranian asylum seeker who joined the rooftop protest. Melina Adlparvar is an Iranian refugee whose husband is in Villawood Detention Centre.
Both Majid and his brother Hadi are Iranians who were involved in protests in Tehran in 2009 against the fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad. The government crackdown against the protests saw at least 40 people killed in June 2009 alone, and thousands imprisoned and tortured by the regime. The two brothers fled Iran after the protests and arrived on the same boat at Christmas Island.
Yet Hadi has been accepted as a refugee, and Majid has been rejected and remains in detention. Hadi told Solidarity, “Majid was rejected twice on Christams Island then moved to Perth, and then me, his auntie and sister wrote letters and they transferred him to Villawood in Sydney so we could visit him. He’s been 20 months altogether [in detention] and in Villawood for around 10 months.”
“Majid is going to Fairfield STARTS every week [for psychological help]. He’s become more and more stressed, more and more nervous about his situation. At least if Immigration told you when the end was, if it’s one, two or three years at least you know the end.”
“There’s no explanation why I got accepted and Majid was rejected. It shows how unfair the whole thing is. Two weeks ago he got his third rejection and now that things are tense inside Majid has joined the rooftop protest. He wants an answer from Immigration about a permanent visa and to speak with them.”
Melina Adlparvar also fled Iran during the government crackdown, but arrived by plane.
What was it like growing up in Iran, and why did you leave?
At the last elections we had very big problems. Majority of the people in Iran and even in other countries were really angry because that wasn’t their vote, and they started killing young people in Iran like Neda Agha-Soltan.
At that time I was living and working in Dubai. All the Iranian that we were living in Dubi decided to protest in front of Iranian Embassy. Most of [This was reported in] the Dubai newspapers and TV, and also some Persian newspapers in Dubai, but of course, not the Iranian media they joined us as well.
After that, I went back to Iran, but only for one week, and when I got back to Dubai, I heard the situation was so bad I couldn’t go back again. My visa in Dubai was about to finish. But I still had my tourism visa to Australia, so I left all my things behind and came here. When I came to Australia I applied for a refugee visa and they gave me permanent residence after nine months.
Your husband came by boat. Can you tell me why he left, and how he came to Australia?
He left for the same reasons as me. But as a stateless person, my government doesn’t accept him as an Iranian, but the Iraqi government doesn’t accept him as Iraqi. He was born in Iraq, but when he was a two-month old baby, his family was deported back to Iran.
When I became active in Dubai, he told me, ‘Don’t do this Melina, you won’t be able to come back to Iran’. We argued a lot and we broke up. After that my mum called me to say, ‘you’d better not come back now. They are looking for you’.
After that in November 2010, our fathers saw each other by accident in the street. They started chatting. His father asked, ‘How is Melina’.
My father said, ‘She’s in Australia’. His father said, ‘Really? Hassan is in Australia too’. And they gave our numbers to each other.
I got a taxi to the detention centre. In the visitors’ area, when he came out, I couldn’t believe it. His face was skinny. His hair was gone. His health was not good. He had totally changed. I wanted to cry but I controlled myself.
The first week I came two or three times. The second week, every day.
I couldn’t understand why he was in the detention centre. We are good people from our country. But we had problems with the government. That’s why we had to leave. After that, we decided to get married before we lost each other again.
During these past six months, I have witnessed how they have been treated and called criminals. They need help. Australians and Australian Governments as the defenders of Human Rights must be more open minded and stop prejudging refugees. They can’t accept my husband because he doesn’t have any ID, so they won’t give him a visa.
I went with him to the tribunal, and the judge said, ‘don’t worry if I reject him, you can apply for a spouse visa’. But first I have to wait for his protection visa to be fully rejected. He’s already been in detention for 15 months.
When we went together for the interview and he was rejected, he started to go crazy, saying, ‘I can’t stay here. I can’t control myself.’ I can’t work because he needs me here everyday.
When they put people inside, they become crazy like this. If they get rejected, they should give them a good reason. Last time Majid [on the roof] was rejected, they said to him, you can change your religion back [to Islam] and say sorry. What is this?