More than 100 people marched with the “No Pride in Detention” float at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The float highlighted the plight of Nima and Ashkan (not their real names), two gay Iranian refugees on Nauru. Astonishingly, Mardi Gras organisers threatened to remove the contingent from the parade after ALP leader Bill Shorten was heckled over his support of offshore processing.
In 2013, the then Labor government knew that homosexuality was illegal in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, yet gay asylum seekers, like Nima and Ashkan, were sent there anyway.
Nima and Ashkan were found to be refugees and have been living in the community on Nauru. But gay sex is illegal there, punishable by up to 14 years jail, with hard labour.
“People from Immigration and Connect Settlement Services all tell us that we mustn’t hold hands or be affectionate in public,” Nima said from Nauru.
“Whilst we were still going outside, we got beaten up and were attacked. Spat at, verbally abused, had stones thrown at us and hit with sticks. It’s been a horrible experience,” said Nima.
In July 2015, both of them were severely beaten. Since then, afraid of going out, they have been virtual prisoners in their accommodation and are escorted once a week to do their shopping.
The international LGBTI rights group All Out has begun a petition calling on Malcolm Turnbull to bring Nima and Ashkan to safety in Australia.
The Immigration Department refused their request to be transferred to Australia. A Border Force officer replied, “While I note that you have recently experienced some unpleasant (sic) behaviour….you have been accepted as a resident on Nauru and are subject to the local laws of Nauru.” It went on, absurdly, “I encourage you to actively engage with Nauruan community members for the duration of your time in Nauru.” How do you engage with official homophobia? You don’t. It has to be fought.