Ali Bakhtiarvandi is an Iranian refugee who arrived in Australia by boat in 2000, aged 34. He was detained until 2004 in three different detention centres. He is now an Australian citizen.
More information about Ali Bakhtiarvandi
Transcript of Interview
27 May 2007
Interview conducted by Cecelia Winkelman
MS WINKELMAN My name is Cecelia C-E-C-E-L-I-A Winkelman W-I-N-K-E-L-M-A-N. Today’s date is Sunday the 27th of May 2007, I’m conducting the interview with Ali Bakhtiarvandi in the city of Ballarat, the state of Victoria, Australia. Ali would you say your name and spell it?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI My name is Ali A-L-I Bakhtiarvandi B-A-K-H-T-I-A-R-V-A-N-D-I.
MS WINKELMAN And your name at birth, was it different?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN Same name?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Okay, do you have any other names?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, Ramin R-A-M-I-N.
MS WINKELMAN Okay, do you have a nickname?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN Okay and your birth date?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Fifth of April 1966.
MS WINKELMAN Okay and your age now?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Forty-one.
MS WINKELMAN And the city, if you would spell it, and country of your birth?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I born in Iran and the city name is Abadan A-B-A-D-A-N.
MS WINKELMAN Now let’s start. Could you speak about your life in Iraq[sic] before detention?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI My real life is starting by revolution in Iran and because before that I was really young and I was just busy with school and really busy, by play soccer. After revolution everything was change in my country. And short time after that the war was start between Iran and Iraq, and it stayed for eight years.
MS WINKELMAN Could you say a bit about your life in Abadan before the revolution?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, I start school, I think when I was six or seven years. I went to school in that time, I haven’t really memory about that time because this was long, long time ago and lots of thing was happened in my life, but it was actually good. In that city it’s very hot weather in long summer time, actually more than four, five months. Everybody was happy with their life. I and my family, we was very happy together and we enjoy whatever we had in that time.
MS WINKELMAN How many brothers and sisters were there?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I have three brother and five sisters.
MS WINKELMAN Right.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, it was with my parents – 11 people, we was living in very- actually a small house, and this was really good, really good.
MS WINKELMAN And where are you in the 11?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Number eight.
MS WINKELMAN Number eight, okay. All right, and could you say a bit about what was good about it?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We had very warm family, and actually my oldest sister, she get married when I was I think one or two years old, and she left Abadan to North Iran in Sari, and my second sister, older sister, she was working for Hospital Department in that city Abadan, and my dad was retired. My mum was always working in house – cooking, cleaning, and she did everything and we enjoy with our time.
MS WINKELMAN So, when you were born your dad was retired?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think one year after that he was retired.
MS WINKELMAN And he retired from?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI From petroleum company.
MS WINKELMAN Right. What did he do there?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI He was working for the air conditioning department in the petroleum company in Abadan.
MS WINKELMAN Right.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN Okay, and mum did the cooking?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, she always cooking and I think most of her life is spent in kitchen and look after seven, eight kids.
MS WINKELMAN What was the house like?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Maybe it’s hard for you, or anybody who here to believe, but we had two rooms and one small living room, a very, very small kitchen that’s it and yeah, the small front yard and all nine, ten people were sleeping in that place for actually a long time, I think since 1967 or 8 until 1980. The war start we was living there.
MS WINKELMAN Where did you sleep?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We was sleeping all together and it was fine.
MS WINKELMAN What were the beds like?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We all were sleeping on the floor with mattress.
MS WINKELMAN Right.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN In the day time?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Day time we spent time for school and something else. Night time we was together until we had to go to bed or sleeping, actually.
MS WINKELMAN Right, and what did you do together?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We play together and we watch TV, and sometimes we went to visit our relative and they came to visit us, yeah.
MS WINKELMAN You mentioned soccer?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, soccer was my- one of the good time in my life.
MS WINKELMAN And then the revolution in Iran?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, but very short time actually after revolution the war was start and – the time for revolution was less than one year, but people demonstration in all around Iran, Shah left Iran and a new government came.
MS WINKELMAN How did that affect you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Actually revolution didn’t affect me or my family, but the war was affect me and my family and lots of people because the city I was born, and I was living, it was very close to Iraq border and people in my city – actually that city and Basra in Iraq, we had just one river. It’s less than I think 500 metre and you can see people in Basra, in Iraq, from the city I was living there. And that’s why after a short time then the war was start we had to leave the city and more than 90 person- people left that city because this was really, really dangerous.
MS WINKELMAN How old were you then?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I was nearly 14 years old.
MS WINKELMAN Fourteen. So the whole family left?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, except my dad and my sister, because my sister she was working for hospital department. She was working for government and she wasn’t allowed to leave the job, and my dad said ‘I cannot leave my single daughter there in lots of horrible situation’, and he was stay with her. I don’t remember for how long I think more than few months, until they transfer everything from that hospital to another, a little bit safe place.
MS WINKELMAN Where did the family, the rest of the family, move in the mean time?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We moved to another city in the Khuzestan estate and after that we left to North Iran to live with my sister.
MS WINKELMAN And what city was that?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sari.
MS WINKELMAN Sari, how long did you stay in Khuzestan estate?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Exactly three months, since the war start and in second city also it wasn’t very safe, but still this was better than my first city, Abadan. And yeah, after that we left to Sari in North Iran, and we was there for more than a year.
MS WINKELMAN Staying with your sister?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yes.
MS WINKELMAN So, the war had started and three months later you left to go to Khuzestan?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, since the war start we was in that situation for nearly three months, and after three months we left to Sari, North Iran, and we was there for more than a year, and we moved again to another city in the middle of Iran they call ‘Esfahan’.
MS WINKELMAN Esfahan?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And after short while we bought a house in that estate[sic].
MS WINKELMAN And how old were you when you moved to Esfahan with your family?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Nearly 15, 16 years old, yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Right. And who was there, how many members of the family were with you at that time?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI My oldest brother was soldier in that time, one of the – three of my sister was working for three different hospital department for government in three different city of Khuzestan estate, and my second brother he left to war as a soldier, and the first one came back. My dad still was there in Abadan, and my mum and I and my sister, my younger sister, we was in Esfahan.
MS WINKELMAN The three of you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN And you bought a house there?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN What was the house like?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It actually was bigger than first house we had in Abadan, and it was good. We had three room with big living room and little bigger than first house front yard. Yeah, it was good. Still my mum she living there, and she’s quite happy.
MS WINKELMAN And then what happens next?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI After that I was always travelling to North Iran, Khuzestan, to visit my sisters, because the place they was living there it was very close to the war situation it wasn’t really safe place, and I was continuing to playing soccer as well. Sometimes at school and until the (indistinct) few years like that.
MS WINKELMAN Few years. What sisters did you go to visit?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Three of them, they was living there.
MS WINKELMAN In Sari?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, in the Khuzestan Estate.
MS WINKELMAN Khuzestan.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, because they was working for government, and sometimes I went to visit them even for short time and – yeah, I come back to Esfahan to live with my mum; going to North Iran to visit my sister another one, the oldest one, and busy with soccer, busy with war, and until I was 20 or 21 I went to war.
MS WINKELMAN As a soldier?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI As a soldier, because in my country after 18 years old you have to go to involve with army. It is a rule and you have no choice.
MS WINKELMAN So, you went to the army at 21?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Twenty or 21, yeah.
MS WINKELMAN So, you finished secondary schooling in Esfahan?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI In Sari, actually.
MS WINKELMAN In Sari?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN With your sisters?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, and I went to war. Actually, before I went my third brother was soldier as well, I think for more than a year, and I went to West Iran – they call Kurdistan.
MS WINKELMAN At 21?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. I had seven more training in that estate in Kurdistan. For some reason, they sent me to nurses study after the training time finish.
MS WINKELMAN Nurse?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Nursing?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. I went to another estate they call Azerbaijan, (indistinct). I had nurses study there for three months, or a little bit more than three months, and after that again I came back to Kurdistan and I was working as a nurse.
MS WINKELMAN And then what?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I went to war. In that time in Kurdistan we was not only involved with war with Iraq, we was busy with another group in Kurdistan. They call them Komala and Democrat, and there was a group who was fighting with the Iranian Government for Kurdish people in Iran and the situation there was really dangerous, because when we had fight hit Iraqi people. We wasn’t thinking about our backside, because we know 100-percent our enemy come from front, but in that situation, busy with different group in Kurdistan, like Komala and Democrat, you never know from which side your enemy coming. Backside, right, left, front – and they didn’t have any uniform or anything like that. They just wear traditional Kurdish clothes and it was hard to know who is Democrat and who is Komala and who is no. Until I went to the border behind Sulaymaniyah in Iraq, we was there for while and the – it was time nearly to stop the war from United Nation by Javier Perez de Cuellar. He was Secretary-General of the United Nation in that time; and three my friend was killed there. The time was really dangerous. We couldn’t take the body back to Iran. We left the body there, two of them. The missiles come next to them, two of them was head cut off, and one of them he had no face. Actually, the body came three months after that. Then we came back to Iran. Short while after that they stop war, and Iraqi people and Iranian people, actually army, they went to the border. That was one of the really hard time I had in that eight-years’ war between Iran and Iraq. And I saw lots of horrible situation in that eight years, but the hardest was one of the (indistinct) people, because he say to me two days before he died, he say to me “I’m not sure I can have a (indistinct) to fight with, to using my bullet, and I will die soon.” And he died.
MS WINKELMAN His name?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI His name was Nassar. He was from north Iran. Some part of Babolsar city. He was very nice, kind man. And we had good time, sometimes I went to visit him before we going to border. And we was talking and he wasn’t really happy with his life, for some reason. But it was my really hard time. I saw lots of people who was killed in that eight years. But I never can forget him. I always remember, because another thing he say to me when we was on the mini bus, he said to me “Ramin,” I said “yeah?”, he said “we both not gonna come back.” And I said “Nassar, that’s alright. Everything in God’s hand, and you never knows what’s going down.” And we don’t know where we’re going now, because they didn’t say where we going. And it’s make me to always thinking, ‘how come he said we both not going to come back, and this was true for himself, and didn’t come to me?’
MS WINKELMAN Can you say what made it the hardest thing in your life?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN Can you say what is it – what made it the hardest thing in your life?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI There is lots of thing hard in my life which is hard to forget. One of them was my dad – I didn’t see him before he died. One of them, my friend – he died in border, with Iraqi missiles. And lots of another thing; it’s hard really to forget, and sometimes it’s hard to talk about it, too.
MS WINKELMAN So, you were at the war, and you had asked a friend to ring for you-?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, because I had the responsibility of, in that time I had responsibility of more than 50 soldier, and I had to look after them, because we came back to Khuzestan estate and the situation was not normal situation, because the war was nearly finished, but that was war between Iran and Iraq. Not war between- not fight between Komala, Democrat, and Iranian Government.
MS WINKELMAN So, this friend went to a city…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN …to ring…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN …Esfahan?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN What city did he go to?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI He was in Sanandaj.
MS WINKELMAN Sanandaj?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sanadaj is capital city of Kurdistan estate.
MS WINKELMAN So he rings home and finds out that your father is dead, but he doesn’t tell you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, he said everything okay. And, because my uncle, he said to him “look, if he cannot come to Esfahan, don’t tell him.”
MS WINKELMAN So, he didn’t?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN But he tells your Major that your father’s dead, and the Major knows you need to go home, and he lets you go?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And he says “oh, nothing happened, he’s really sick and he wants to see you.” And exactly one day after that, I went to home, and he was died already. Nine days ago, in that time.
MS WINKELMAN So, you had…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, and after that, I still I had to stay in army, because I was in the army actually nearly 31 months. And nearly one year after that, my time was finish to be in army, and I came home, I went to north Iran, and I found a job in a petroleum company
MS WINKELMAN How old were you then?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think 24, 25, something like that. I went to north Iran and I find a job in a petroleum company. It was actually not… err, it was contracting of building for petroleum company.
MS WINKELMAN Contracting?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep contracting. And I was working there for maybe two years. And after two years I went to south-east Iran again, near my city Abadan. And I was working for some electricity company. Private company.
MS WINKELMAN What were you doing in the petroleum company? What was your work there?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I was working as a warehouse – look after the warehouse, and a few different private company, they was working there, and we have to give them whatever they need using for building. Yep. After that I went to south-east Iran again, and I was working for electricity company. It was private company. For nearly three years.
MS WINKELMAN That was in the city of Abadan?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, this was very close to city Abadan, this was an hour and half far from Abadan. They call it Mahshahr.
MS WINKELMAN Mahshahr?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, it’s actually a small city. I think as small as Ballarat, because the population there was between 45 to 50,000. And I was working that private company for nearly three years.
MS WINKELMAN What did you do?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I was working as a technician. Electricity technician. And after that, I find a job in petrochemical in (indistinct) city. And I was working for petrochemical – actually, for few different private company for nearly six years.
MS WINKELMAN So that makes you, 33 now?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. Actually, I think more than 33.
MS WINKELMAN More than 33. Just go back for the army[sic] – what rank did you achieve in the army? If you were over several men, you must’ve achieved a rank.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN What rank were you in the army?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI The army I was involved with it’s called Revolutionary Army. In Iran they have different army. The Revolutionary Army made by after the revolution in Iran. And in that time, everybody was same.
MS WINKELMAN Right. No rank?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN You just had…you were responsible?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Okay. So let’s go back to your petroleum company then. You’re more than 33, you’ve been working six years in the petroleum company in that same city near Abadan…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN …and what happens next?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I was working for different private company in petrochemical, with lots of different responsibility.
MS WINKELMAN Such as?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI First time when I start I was working for the special place as a MPI test. It was test the weld line with a special magnetic machine and paint. I was there for a few months. After that they wants me to go work in heavy polyethylene factory.
MS WINKELMAN Pollutant?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Polyethylene. It’s a plastic factory in petrochemical. I went there and I was there for I don’t know how long. After that, they wants me to go to another place to working as a manager for a group of special painter. It was painting the acid and (indistinct) line. It wasn’t normal paint. After that, they want me to go to another place, they call it (indistinct) styrene factory. They make rubber. And I was there for, I think, last three years of my job in petrochemical.
MS WINKELMAN This is the same petrochemical company that has taken you…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yeah. But in that petrochemical, they have different factory, and they make different production.
MS WINKELMAN So, the last three years – this brings you to age 30…?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think…I’m not good at age, because I didn’t thinking about it anytime. But I was working exactly until 1999. And earlier 2000. Because I came to Australia 2000.
MS WINKELMAN Right. So up ‘til 1999, you’re working in a petrochemical factory?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN And what city is that?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Mahshahr.
MS WINKELMAN In Mahshahr still?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN And then you leave for Australia?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. After that I decided to leave the country for some reason, and I left from Iran through some Arabic country.
MS WINKELMAN Can you show which one?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain. And from Bahrain to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. And from Malaysia to Jakarta in Indonesia. I was there in Indonesia for nearly two month with something days. In the two big cities – first one was Jakarta for 20-something days. After that we left Jakarta because of some reason to Surabaya. I think Surabaya is second biggest city in Indonesia.
MS WINKELMAN And where were you staying?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Hotel. Because people are smuggler, they was look after us, and, yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Can you say how you contacted the people smugglers?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I first met my smuggler in Jakarta airport. Because as soon as we get in Jakarta airport, we are arrested by police, Indonesian police. They said we have to go back to Iran, actually to deport. My body was shaking. I couldn’t believe. Because we had spend lots of money to came to Indonesia.
MS WINKELMAN Who? Who? You’re not alone? You’re with someone else?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. I met someone else in Shiraz airport. He came, actually. And another one also, he left in Kuala Lumpur airport.
MS WINKELMAN So there’s three of you who come, who arrive together?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yeah. We didn’t know each other; just we met each other in Shiraz last Iranian airport, in Iran. And yeah, we ask him “How much we have to give you to let us to go?” He said “$200”, actually American dollar, because in that time we just have American money.
MS WINKELMAN For the three of you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, two. Because one of them – he left in Kuala Lumpur.
MS WINKELMAN So it’s $100 each person?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, $200 each.
MS WINKELMAN Each person?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And I was quite happy. It was lots of money for them, and also for someone like me I have enough money to get to the smuggler in Indonesia to send me to Australia, or we didn’t know how long we have to stay in Indonesia.
MS WINKELMAN Could I just stop you for a moment? When you left Shiraz, was it?…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN …Did you know Australia was your destination?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, I had no idea about Australia, and I didn’t know where I have to go.
MS WINKELMAN Just to leave?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I didn’t know anything about the people smuggler. I find the smuggler because of that person he was with me. We met each other in Shiraz airport. I didn’t know anything about the situation between people smuggler, refugee and Australia.
MS WINKELMAN So when you left Shiraz, what were your expectations?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I just thinking to come to Indonesia, and maybe it’s easy for me to go anywhere from Indonesia.
MS WINKELMAN Right. And it was no difficulty leaving Shiraz?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, no.
MS WINKELMAN Okay.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI The problem was police tried to deport us, because our visa was illegal visa, and they said this was not right visa to enter Indonesia, and “that’s why you have to go back”.
MS WINKELMAN So you had an illegal visa?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And I didn’t know anything about it, because I gave my passport to someone in Iran to take it to Indonesia embassy in Tehran, and pay for my visa and doing everything, I didn’t go. And even I did it, I didn’t know this is right or wrong visa. And anyway, we spent $200 each, and another police said “alright, if you need your luggage, you have to pay some money to me too”. I said “that’s okay, just give us our suitcase”. We gave him $50 – $25 each – and we came out of the airport. My friend actually rang the smuggler.
MS WINKELMAN Oh, he had a number?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. He had number from Iran.
MS WINKELMAN So, somehow, from Iran, he had made contact with the people smuggler.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, he had his number from Iran – how, I don’t know. And yeah, he came to airport and he took us with taxi to hotel. And we met another three people there, three Iranian, who came one or two days before we arrived to Indonesia.
MS WINKELMAN Like you did?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Also with an illegal visa?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I don’t remember.
MS WINKELMAN From the same city, Shiraz?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. Yeah, they arrived from Shiraz, but they wasn’t living in Shiraz.
MS WINKELMAN Right. That was the exit point?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. Yeah, we went to hotel, we met each other, and we was there for 20-something days, in same hotel. (indistinct), the smuggler said “the time is really dangerous”, because our visa was expired after 21 days, “and you have to leave the city, Jakarta. I bring you ticket for train Surabaya. Someone coming to Surabaya train station, and take you to hotel.” It take us exactly 12 hours from Jakarta with train to Surabaya. And a man, I forget his name, he came and – it was easy for us to recognise each other, because his face was Middle East face. We met each other and he took us to hotel. We was in that hotel for 18-20 days. After that again he said “oh, you have to move from this hotel to another hotel”. He find another hotel and…
MS WINKELMAN He’s a Middle Eastern man, the smuggler?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep, yep. They was actually Iraqi.
MS WINKELMAN Oh.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And we moved to another hotel. This is third hotel in Indonesia. We was there for, I think, less than one week. And after that, he came and he said “time to go”.
MS WINKELMAN There’s five of you now?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. “Time to go. Tomorrow, six o’clock in Surabaya port with big ship to Kupang. And this is your ticket.
MS WINKELMAN To “Kopeh”?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Kupang.
MS WINKELMAN Kupang?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think Kupang is some part of East Timor. That was take us from – took us from – Surabaya to Kupang 48 hours with big ship, actually. More than 2000 people was on the ship. As soon as we get there, we didn’t know each other. 36 refugee was on the ship, and we didn’t know anything about each other, except my small group – five people. And some people was arrested by Kupang police. Arrested by Kupang police, and they paid money to police, and they release them. After 12 o’clock, we went to the hotel. Everywhere was dark – 12 o’clock in the morning. And it was 36 people. We met each in that hotel in Kupang. Three o’clock, four o’clock in the morning, smuggler come and he said “pack your stuff. Time to go.” We went from some part of Kupang, it was really dark bush, and – with minibus. After a while they said “oh, come out and we have to walk from bush to the beach. And don’t make any noise. If you lost each other, you can use just a small whistle”. And we met each other on the beach. When we get there, Indonesian man – I don’t know he was police or no – I think they make movie there, with the smuggler – people smuggler. They make problem between each other for money, and we already paid for our trip to Australia to a smuggler. And they knew everyone has still a little bit money. And he said “I’m not gonna send anybody. You didn’t give me money.” the Indonesian man to the smuggler. “and you have to give me money now, otherwise I’m not gonna send anybody to Australia.” He had a small gun, and he shook the gun. It was really a scary time.
MS WINKELMAN And was someone making a movie of this?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. It was just – they making movie between each other to make us to give them our last money, you know?
MS WINKELMAN Oh I see. It’s a setup.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yes. And the smuggler asked every single person. I said “look, I have no money”. I had $150 American dollar still. I said “Look, I haven’t any money. I already paid you, and doesn’t matter, if you don’t want to send me to Australia, give me money back now, I’m going to Kupang to police and going to Indonesia – to Jakarta or Surabaya, it doesn’t matter.” They take us – they take our passport. They said “oh, it’s not good for you to have a passport in Australia.” Anyway, the movie was finished, and they said “you have food, water, coffee, sugar, life jacket, everything on the boat. And after eight hours, you’ll be in Australia”.
MS WINKELMAN So, they setup this little scene, a little drama…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep, yep.
MS WINKELMAN …some people gave money?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN Oh, nobody gave money?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN You were the spokesperson for this group?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. They ask every single person…
MS WINKELMAN …and everybody said no?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And the only information they gave us about Australia – they said “after eight hours you be in Australia. You going to under the United Nation control. You’ll be in detention centre for maximum three months for just serious medical check, and after three months you’ll be free.” That’s my, and everybody, information about Australia. When we went inside the boat, we didn’t see anything of like lifejacket, food – except some noodles, some coffee, sugar, and expired water bottle. It was expired, and taste was really bad. I said to myself “for eight hours, doesn’t matter.” And twenty-fours gone, we couldn’t see anything except water. And sometimes, in the day time, the small island of part of Indonesia. Forty-eight hours gone, couldn’t see anything, except water.
MS WINKELMAN The boat has a motor?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yeah. And we was 36 people, two Indonesian man. There was a Captain and a helper. The boat was very small. Few woman was there. I think one or two of them was pregnant.
MS WINKELMAN How many women?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think four, or five. One or two of them was pregnant. And they was Muslims woman. It was really hard for us to sit next to each other.
MS WINKELMAN Because?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Because they was Muslims and we can’t sit next to each other, because of…
MS WINKELMAN A man and a woman?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yep. And in the night time, weather was very cold. In the day time, we didn’t know what was going on.
MS WINKELMAN There were no beds, in the boat?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN No beds?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No – it was really a small boat.
MS WINKELMAN Just benches?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, nothing. We going inside the boat, because they said “for next few hours” – they didn’t say next 24 hours or more than 20 hours – “It’s better nobody can see you, and if some ship or anybody see you they can think ‘oh, this is a fishing boat’.”
MS WINKELMAN So you were in a space inside the boat?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN With no seats?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. No seats. Just like that, you know? And it wasn’t flat. And nearly three days take, took us to see one big ship in the earlier morning – three, four o’clock in the morning. They didn’t care about us. They just left. After that, we saw the light of customs ship.
MS WINKELMAN The big ship knew you were there, knew you were on board?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, but they didn’t care us… (indistinct) care and they left us. And the situation on the water was very hard. Very strong wind. It was really a scary. Everybody was thinking ‘oh, we die soon’. We had to take the water out of the boat, because the water come from down. And finally we saw customs ship. They warning us to stop with the light – this was earlier morning. They came with a small boat and they said “you have to go back to Indonesia”. The Captain of ship, of boat, said “I cannot do anything like that. If I’m going with these people they will kill me.” They said to him “you’re going to jail for three months”. He said “doesn’t matter. But still is better than going back with these people to Indonesia, to Kupang”. And they said “okay, stay here until we come back.” They went to big ship and I think they contact Australian government or whatever, and they coming back and they said “you are under the Australian Government arrest”.
MS WINKELMAN That’s a good place to stop.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI They said “you are under the Australian Government arrest.” And everybody was happy, because they thinking we survived that hard situation on the sea. They took us to near the Ashmore reef area.
MS WINKELMAN You stayed in the boat?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And they said “you have to stay until two ship coming to take you to Australia.
MS WINKELMAN You’re still on the boat at this point?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And everybody was on the boat – women, children, singles. And it was take 48 hours for the two army ship coming. One of them for families, and one of them for single people. From there to Darwin – actually, we didn’t know where we going, they just said ‘Australia’ – it was 48 hours again, from Ashmore reef to Darwin. And we went to somewhere in Darwin. They check everything we had. And we was there until 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock in the night. And we had (indistinct) police every single people, person, and about the smuggler, some different question. Security (indistinct) company was there. Few people from Immigration Department was there as well. After 10, 11 o’clock, they take us to Darwin airport, and we went from Darwin to Port Headland.
MS WINKELMAN By plane?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. We went to isolation block, they call it Juliet block. And it was really a scary block for first time when you came to Australia and sees lots of security, because we didn’t know anything about detention centre, or what’s going on.
MS WINKELMAN Can you describe it?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It was double story block with a small room for double bed, and metal door for each room. And straight away, the Supervisor, she was very horrible person. She start to fight with us straight away.
MS WINKELMAN How?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I don’t know, because she didn’t like us to come to Australia, but this was her job, and we actually making money for them. Without any refugee, they couldn’t working in that company or security of detention centre – but I don’t know why she was angry. Next day they send our block to another block – they call it ‘India’ block.
MS WINKELMAN Was this all of you together, or just for singles?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, no, no. All together – families and single, but they have different room. And we went to next block. We wasn’t allowed to come out for fresh air, except for less than one hour in the morning, and less than one hour in the afternoon time.
MS WINKELMAN What was it like inside?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Inside was too boring, and also a little bit scary, because they cover behind the window with some metal – you couldn’t see anything, even the light couldn’t come in inside the room. We have no any contact with anywhere. We have no TV. No telephone. No newspaper. No anything. And just they bring the food. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
MS WINKELMAN So there was a common room? You had your private room?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, private room, and living room. And I was there for nearly one month. After one month, they start to take people for interview with Immigration. My interview was starting in the late night – actually, after 10 o’clock.
MS WINKELMAN And this is what year?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN What year is this?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI 2000. Because I came to Australia fifth of June. And I think in July I had my first interview with Immigration Officer – after 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock in the night. Still I did know what’s interview or this is an interview or investigation, or something like that. When I went to the room, I saw two ladies – one of them was Iranian interpreter, and one of them Immigration Officer. The Iranian lady said to me – I forget both name – “she said she wants to ask you some question, and this is an interview between you and Immigration. I’m an interpreter.” And I said “Can I ask her something”. She said “Yeah.” I said “I don’t know anything about interview or what you mean about it, but I know about the investigation. And in any investigation they close their eyes and put handcuff on hand and I really wants to knows…”
MS WINKELMAN Interrogation, you mean?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And she said – Immigration officer said “No. You don’t have any reason to be scared. We are just two ladies sitting here and you are free to ask any question and give me answer of my question”. I was a little bit happy. This take me I think more than an hour. I went back to different block, and I think less than 10 days after that, I have interview with lawyer. It was second, my interview. One of the hardest thing is was interview with that lawyer from some company in Melbourne, actually. I don’t know I’m allowed to say their name, or the lawyer name, but it was horrible time in that – since I came to Australia until visiting that lawyer. He was treat me like a very angry person, like an angry judge, or something like that.
MS WINKELMAN He was angry?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. Finally, after my interview I said “look. I think you are my lawyer, but you was treat me like I’m a criminal person.” He said “no, this is my job and I have to do this.” I said “By the information I have from any lawyer, you know, they not treat their client like that, and I’m sorry I wasn’t happy with you.” Nearly two hours I was talking to him –
MS WINKELMAN Two hours?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI – or maybe more than two hours. And he make very, very shorter statement of whatever I say to him. He said “look, whatever you say to me, it’s between me and you. This is your statement, and this is my statement. I’m not allowed to give this statement to anybody. That’s fine”. After that, I had my third interview with Immigration Officer, and I saw my statement exactly same, from my lawyer, in my third immigration officer hand. I was wondering ‘he say to me everything be secret between me and you. Why he give my statement to Immigration?’ In that time I couldn’t ask anything, because I had lots of histories. I was scared of my situation, and I just start to talk with Immigration Officer. That interview finished. After I think two weeks, or maybe more than two weeks, they call me to interview with Federal Police. Interview with Federal Police took me three hours, and exactly three days after that, I get refusal from immigration.
MS WINKELMAN What did the refusal say?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI They believe some part of my case, and they refused it two reason, which is make me come out of (indistinct). And it was make me to thinking ‘okay, I didn’t get refused from Immigration. I get refused from the decision which was made by Australian Federal Police. And the decision from immigration it was involved with decision from Federal Police.’ They never give me any copy of Federal Police report or decision or anything like that. But I was sure 100-percent they was involved to each other. After that, actually after my third interview – two hours, three hours after that – they let me come to compound. Compound was different by – not actually too much different, but a little bit different by isolation block, because everybody was free in the compound. And we can contact with our family, or our friend, or whatever. I don’t remember we had TV that time, but some people they had radio – they can listen to radio. Every night before 12 O’clock in the morning we have to go to our block, and around each block they have fences, and they lock that gate until the next morning. Not lock the block, lock the fence around the block. And we was there until next day, and they open the gate and we can come to everywhere in the compound, or go to the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pretty soon I get really tired, and I was thinking ‘there is no way for me to stay in this situation for a long time’. I start – I actually start to not eating. For 18 days I didn’t eat anything. Just drink water. In day 18 they call me for some medical check. I went to medical and the nurse said “you didn’t eat anything for a long time. We’re worried for you, and we need you to stay in isolation room for one night. And we have to look after you tonight.” I said “if it’s just for one night, it’s fine. More than one night, I’m not gonna stay.” They said “no, just one night.” One night took me for one month in isolation room. People inside the compound they get very angry, they call Immigration Manager and (indistinct) manager – the security company manager. And they said “the only way, if he has start to eating, he can come out next day. Otherwise, no.” And they said to detainees “you can do whatever you like. It means if you wanna broken everything, or doing everything – it’s fine.” I didn’t start to eat, and they let me to have visitors from detention centre people – detainees, because in that time they have no any visitors from outside. And afterwhile they cut my visitors. They didn’t let me have fresh air for 18 days. Eighteen days I didn’t see anything outside the room. I was just allowed to use bathroom inside that block and shower once a day before shift change. Shift change was I think 6 o’clock in the evening, or seven o’clock.
MS WINKELMAN This is the second month in isolation, then?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN Are we into the second month of isolation?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. This is the isolation room.
MS WINKELMAN So you were on hunger strike?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN For, err, eight- err
MR BAKHTIARVANDI After 18 days, they transfer me to isolation room.
MS WINKELMAN And you were there for one month, and then?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. Still I was there. I’m telling you…
MS WINKELMAN Oh this is the month? You were (indistinct)
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep, yep.
MS WINKELMAN And you’re still not eating?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, no. And I start to take my tablet, because I had problem with my stomach. And every day they took me to medical, check my blood sugar, and something else. They was talking to me to start eating, I said “I’m sorry.”
MS WINKELMAN Because? You-
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Because there was no reason for them to keep me there and also the situation was really hard to stay. It was really hard for someone like me to cope with that situation.
MS WINKELMAN Where your application had been refused?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And by that time we had lots of information from people who was in detention centre, and we meet them after my interview, they was there for more than a year. I was thinking ‘oh, there is no way for me to go out – people here more than a year. How come I can go out?’ And I was in the isolation room. The isolation room was very small room. Very dark room. With the camera on the corner. And they covered the wall around the room with some hard (indistinct), like a mattress, and it was dark colour, I think very dark green or grey colour. No window. And always cold. I had no bed, except no pillow, except one doona. And no clothes except one white material like a hospital…
MS WINKELMAN gown?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI gown. Yep. And they didn’t wash – they didn’t let me to wash that for one month. They said “we haven’t any more. If you wash that, you have nothing to wear.” And in day 46 they coming and show me some paper. And they said “we received a fax from Phillip Ruddock, Immigration Minister, and he said if you’re not starting to eat until next 48 hours, doctor can force you.” I said “that’s okay. I’m not gonna start it, because I have two way – freedom, or died in detention centre. This is my choice. If you thinking you can force me to eat, just do it. I’m not gonna start.” In that time they moved me by wheelchair, because I couldn’t walk. It was 46 days I didn’t eat anything. I lost weight from 63, 60-something to 53. I lost 15 kilogram. More than actually 15 kilogram. And nobody was allowed to give me cigarette, except one of the supervisor, he was very nice young man, and sometimes he took me to bathroom and he said “look, I give you cigarette. Don’t say anything to anybody. And after your cigarette finish, I will shower and come out. If they knows I give you cigarette, I lost my job.” He was really nice to me. And I cannot thinking ‘okay, he was try to be nice to me to make me to start eating’, because before I went to isolation, and also after that time, I always see him nice to everyone. And he was 100 percent different by most of the security guard was there. In day 48 I was laid down on the floor of the isolation room. They come and open the door, and I try to get up, and they said “no, just lay down”. I didn’t know what’s happening. Few officers, one with video camera, doctor, two nurses, supervisor. Two officers was hold my leg very hard. Another two of them they hold my arm. I really couldn’t move. They didn’t need four officer to hold my body to feed me by force, because I had no power, I had no energy. I lost everything in last 48 days. And supervisor she said – and put my head between her leg, her knee. And doctor and nurse try to put some tube from my nose to my stomach. They use some – something liquid, cream colour – I don’t know. I didn’t know the name. And it was very hard for me to breathing since they put the pipe inside. And yeah, they take the film of that situation, and they left. They left and still I was there in isolation room – actually, they change my isolation room to Juliet block isolation room for another week or 10 days, and after that they release me. And..
MS WINKELMAN Did they continue to force feed you every day?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, actually they let some close friend from detention come to visit me, and they was talking to me, and they said “look, you cannot do anything about it. With not eating, or even kill yourself. You have to start eating. And you have to be strong.
MS WINKELMAN Your friend said this?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Can you say his – the name of the friend?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I’m not sure, because…
MS WINKELMAN Oh fine. That’s fine.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yeah. But, yeah, actually one of them he went back to Iran. His name was Paemon. And he said “look, you have to be strong to continue to fight with this situation. Fight as a single person is not going to work.” And I was thinking ‘he is right’, because after 48 days, I didn’t do anything – just making problem for my physical body. And I start to eating, but I actually couldn’t eat very well, because I didn’t eat for long time, and it was hard for me to eat. I had no feeling to eat anything.
MS WINKELMAN No desire?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And after a week or 10 days, they let me to come back to compound again. After that, I had my RRT Refugee Review Tribunal.
MS WINKELMAN Your?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI My RRT – Refugee Review Tribunal.
MS WINKELMAN Tribunal? Oh yeah. Refugee Review Tribunal.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yes. And I put request to contact my lawyer – actually, that company they changed my lawyer, they gave me another lawyer. She didn’t contact me with my request. A day after my RRT she contact me – and some security guard coming and saying “oh, you have a phone call with your lawyer”. I said “which lawyer? I don’t need any lawyer – my RRT was yesterday, and I had to talk to her before my RRT, not now. She cannot do anything about it now.” I went and pick up the telephone and said “look, I was really wants to talk to you before my RRT, no now. My RRT was yesterday, and you cannot do anything about it now. Have a good time. Bye.” I hung up the telephone, because I had some important question to ask her, and she didn’t contact me, and I didn’t talk about that situation in my RRT, because something was happen after my third interview and before my RRT. And I had to talk about it with my lawyer to make sure it’s right for me to talk about it or no. And she didn’t contact me. I was really angry with her.
MS WINKELMAN Can you say what that situation was?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Not really.
MS WINKELMAN Okay, fine.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And I lost (indistinct) and nearly same decision as – first my decision, actually Immigration decision, the refusal. I appealed to Federal Court. My lawyer in Federal Court, she said “you cannot do anything about it, with that second situation, and because you didn’t say anything about it in your RRT.” I said “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know I can talk about it or no. I tried to contact my lawyer, she didn’t ring me back, and the phone call between detainees and their lawyers come through from the Immigration Department. I cannot ring her from public phone in detention centre. It has to be through the Immigration Department. That’s why I didn’t rang her.” And she said, “I’m sorry. You have no chance in your Federal Court.” I said “That’s fine.” I lost my Federal Court, and…
MS WINKELMAN When – when was that? How far – long after the RRT?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think few months after RRT.
MS WINKELMAN And you’re still in Port Headland?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN And it’s 2000-and?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI 2000. (indistinct). I’ve got some problem with my left leg, and the doctor said “some nerves in your leg cut, and it’s belong to the last time when you was sleeping, it’s take two years to be fix, and I can just send you to physiotherapy.” I said “that’s fine.”
MS WINKELMAN The nerves where cut while you were asleep?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN By somebody else?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. He said in some position you put your leg when you was sleeping, and this was happen. Without any accident or anything like that. I said “that’s okay, physiotherapy is good”. I was waiting for physiotherapy I think more than two months. And every day Medical Centre in detention said “tomorrow”, “next week”, “after tomorrow” – I get really tired, because it was very hard for me to walk, because I couldn’t use my left leg. And I start again to not eating. Twenty one days I was – I didn’t eat again. After one week, I think – no, actually last week of 21 days, they took me to isolation again. Different isolation room. And they said “you have to eating. After that, you can go to physiotherapy.” I said “I’m not gonna do this. First physiotherapy, after that I start to eat, because there is no way for me to trust you. More than two months I’m waiting. ‘Today’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘next week’, ’10 days’, and you didn’t send me. I’ve got this problem in detention centre – you have responsibility to fix my problem, because you keep me here. Now you wants me to eating and keep me here or send me back to compound for another months with my problem. What’s going on after?” The member of committee of detainees in detention centre they make meeting with Immigration Manager and also ACM manager. They promise them – ACM and immigration – they promised committee member of detainees, to send me to physiotherapy very soon if I start to eat. They come to visit me and they said “if you start eating, they promise us to send you to physiotherapy.” I said “when? Now is 21 days I didn’t eat, and if they cannot look after me and everybody else, it’s better for me to kill myself, you know?” And they said “No, just please start.” And the next day they send me to physiotherapy once. Actually, they send me to physiotherapy in Port Hedland hospital. The young girl was there, she gave me piece of paper, and she said “you have to do some exercise, whatever they said in that paper.” Just finish. And they send me back to detention centre. This was my physiotherapy. After that, still I don’t know for what reason, and I don’t know how long after – this was in 2001, earlier 2001, I think. They put me in isolation again. In that horrible room. And they making big problem inside the detention centre. They bashed detainees. ‘They’ means ACM security.
MS WINKELMAN There was a reason why they put you back into the detention…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. They did say me anything.
MS WINKELMAN …no reason?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I went to took my medication in the night time, and they took me to isolation room. And after that I heard from the security guard on the passage of that isolation room, block, something happen in detention centre, inside the compound. And that was fight within ACM guard and detainees. And the next day with police they put some people in South Hedland Police Station. South, South Hedland is very small country town near the Port Hedland. I think 15 minutes far from Port Hedland. And after one week they took me there as well, to that Police Station, to keep with some of my friend. There was really dirty jail. All the wall, and floor, and everywhere full of dirt. I cannot say full of what. And after two days when I was there, I said “I have to see…” – because Asian security guard was look after us, not police – I said to some of the officers “I have to see supervisor”. He said “I’m sorry, you cannot.” I said “that’s okay. If anything happen to me tonight, it’s your responsibility. It means, if I kill myself, my friend all knows now. I told them. And this is your responsibility. They are my witness.” After short time, maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, they call me and they open the cell and come out. They took me to somewhere else and search all my body without any clothes. They put handcuff on my hand, they took me back to Detention Centre in that horrible room. And after exactly two days, or three days, with various special security control, they took us to Port Hedland airport.
MS WINKELMAN So you all went back from South Hedland, not just you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, no. Just they took me back. People was there. They to me from Port Hedland detention to airport, and took them from South Hedland Police Station to airport.
MS WINKELMAN And you had been in the isolation room again, in Port Hedland, when they took you back to that room?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN To the isolation room?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN And then you went to the airport?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And around airport was security guard. ACM and police security guard. It’s like they wanna transfer few really dangerous people from Port Hedland to somewhere else. We didn’t know what’s happening. And they took me to very small airplane. Very small. It was, I remember, nine chair, with another two detainees. Another two single detainees with Iranian, Iraqi family to a little bit bigger airplane. And we went to Perth.
MS WINKELMAN Perth?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. ACM car was there, with ACM security for that two single people they was with me in the airplane, and they put handcuff on their hand and take them to Perth Detention Centre. And they let me to come out with two security guard. One of them actually ACM manager of Maribyrnong Detention Centre – and that time I didn’t know. And I think his name was ‘Tony’. He was nice man. And he said “look, we have another five of us flew, fly, and if you need to use bathroom, or need some drink, you are free if you wanna walk, you are free, but don’t go too far.” It means he let me to be a little bit free. I think that was my only time a little bit was free without any security. After a short while we went to Maribyrnong Detention Centre.
MS WINKELMAN In…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI From Perth to…
MS WINKELMAN …Melbourne?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI …Melbourne. Even in Melbourne Airport, I asked the security guard – who came from Maribyrnong Detention Centre to take me there – “which city is it?” They said “oh, we don’t know”. Because I didn’t know Melbourne, Sydney, or anywhere in Australia in that time. I said “that’s okay”. When I went to Maribyrnong Detention Centre still I didn’t know anything. I saw two of my friend, they came from Port Hedland in the same time with different airplane, and I ask them “which detention centre is this?” They said “This is Maribyrnong Detention Centre in Melbourne.” I said “oh, I was thinking it was Sydney, ‘cause I – in the night time when we came to Melbourne and everywhere was – you can see lots of light and big city – and they said “no, this is Maribyrnong Detention in Melbourne”. Anyway…
MS WINKELMAN When was this? 2000-and?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI 2001. And in the next, next two days after we went there, we got some visitors from outside. And one of them she is a very famous person in Melbourne and lots of people they know her, and another one from Refugee Action Collective group. Both they organised for some lawyer to come to see us, because there was three – three people from Port Hedland. And they was talking about us in that time in, I think, The Age newspaper, because I saw the print with our name. And, yeah, they was there – Maribyrnong Detention Centre was very small detention centre. It was hard to be there for long time. The only thing different between Maribyrnong and Port Hedland Detention Centre for us – we had three times visitors – morning, afternoon, and night time. And another thing same. Something maybe worse than Port Hedland – like food. In Port Hedland, food was Middle East food, but in Maribyrnong it was different, because few different nationality was there. We had Vietnamese, Chinese, Pakistani, Iranian, and Iraqi, and all people they have same food. Our room was small and for four people. No door for the room. The light on and off with central office. They had no exactly time to turn off or turn on the light. Sometimes this take two o’clock in the morning, sometimes eight-thirty or nine o’clock in the night. I already knew what they doing, because they always try to making people angry, and make them to do something in detention centre, and talk about it in the media as a dangerous, or terrorist, or criminal people in detention centre to make Australian people scared of us. That’s why since I was in detention centre, I was never happy with any situation like that – broken something, or smash the window, or make a fire, or whatever. I was happy to stop eating, even for two months, but I wasn’t happy to broken anything, or have a physical fight with security guard. It wasn’t nice and good to me. Before I came to Maribyrnong Detention Centre, by the thing I saw in middle of 2000, since I came to Port Hedland Detention Centre, I was thinking ‘we had big mistake to come to Australia, because this is 100-percent racist country’ because we couldn’t see anybody nice, because we have no contact with people outside, and we had no visitors – we just can see each other, some security guard, and Immigration officer. And that was making us to thinking like that – ‘this is a horrible country. Why we came to this country?! How we can be free of this country?’ Straight away when I came to Maribyrnong Detention Centre and people start to visiting us. My mind was change, because I saw lots of nice people. They forget their problem, they using their special time from their life, they coming to visit us, and they care about us. They was different people – lawyers, doctor, student, old people, young people. And it was really nice to see them. It was make us to cope with situation inside the Detention Centre when we coming back from visit inside. And there was – I met my ex-wife. She was visiting Afghani lady with her three kids, and she heard about my story in Port Hedland Detention Centre. She come and she was crying and I said “What’s wrong? What’s happening?”. She said “I heard your story, and I get really sad. And I was wondering…” – the time was nearly finished for that visit – “I was wondering if I can to visit you.” I said “I’m happy if you like to come to visit me, but if you wanna cry, no, please, because we have lots of sadness/sorry everyday inside the detention centre, you know? It’s not nice for me to see someone coming and crying because of my situation.” And she said “no, I’m not gonna cry”. I said “ that’s fine, if you wanna come to visit, that’s fine. I have lots of visitor, you can come too.” She come to visit and after few times she ask me if she can marry me. I said “That’s fine, if you thinking we can marry forever, I’m happy.” Because she’s a very lovely person. And she was very happy. She came to visit me everyday, sometimes three times a day – morning, afternoon, nighttime. As soon as Immigration Department they knows we want to engage, in the morning time in 2002 – I think, because I was in Maribyrnong Detention Centre for 16 months – they call for my special doctor, because my lawyer was organising it, doctor from outside to come to visit me to check my problem with my stomach and my leg. When I went to part of immigration in detention, they put me in isolation room, and after a few minutes, immigration manager come and she said “I’m sorry, Ali, you have to go back to Port Hedland. I received a fax from Canberra. There is not enough bed in Maribyrnong Detention Centre.” I that time exactly I never forget – 24 beds was empty, when say to me. I said “that’s okay. They send you fax, I have to go to Port Hedland, that’s fine.”
MS WINKELMAN When was this?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI In 2000 in Maribyrnong – 2002 in Maribyrnong Detention Centre. “Alright, I’m going back. Just let me to ring my lawyer and let him know,” – my lawyer was Julian Burnside in that time – “and also, let me to pack my stuff in my room.” She said “No, you are not allowed to go in.” “Why I’m not allowed to go in?” “I don’t know, this is the rule.” Before that, few months before that thing, actually more than few months, maybe more than six months before that, I had problem with my tooth, and every day they gave me different antibiotic. They said “if you wanna go to see dentist, you have to use handcuff.” I said “there is no reason for you to put handcuff on my hand. From Port Hedland you bring me here without any handcuff, I didn’t do anything. I was free in Perth Airport and there is no report about me to doing something illegal in that time or since that time until now. If you tell me why you have to use handcuff on my hand, I’m happy to use it.” They said “Because your immigration process was finish, and they thinking you might be try to escape”. I said “Look, I escape one time from my country to Australia, this is caused me to stay in detention centre at the moment more than two years. I’m not going to do this again in my life. One mistake, that’s enough. Good experience.” She said “I’m sorry this is a rule and you have to use.” It take more than three months to fight with them to go to visit dentist without handcuff. Finally my visitors and some people said “there is no way for you, and you should go. How long you can use antibiotic and have pain all the time?” I decided to go to see dentist. They put handcuff on my hand in detention centre, and they take it off when I come back. It means when the dentist pull out my tooth one by one, handcuff was on my hand. He pull out five teeth straight away, one by one, because all was broken and they didn’t want to spend money to fix it. Five together. And then I come back. The security guard who was with me said “Can I tell you something?” I said “yeah, that’s fine” – I couldn’t talk actually very well, in that time – he said “I think you are crazy, because if they kill me, I never let them to put handcuff on my hand and let the dentist to pull out my five teeth in just 10, 15 minutes.” I said “There is no way for me to doing anything. And I have no choice. You might be doesn’t know, but I have problem more than three months at the moment. How long I can cope with this situation?” And, yeah, they sent me back to Port Hedland, and straight away I had two visitors. After that two visitors, I had my fiancée in that time, she came to visit, and reception said “he’s not in Maribyrnong Detention Centre, and we don’t know where he gone.” And she was crying and crying and they didn’t tell her “we sent him to Port Hedland” until I rang her in the night-time to her home. I said “I’m fine, and I’m in Port Hedland now”. And she was crying. She said “they didn’t tell me anything”. And I was there for, I think, two days in isolation block – not isolation room, isolation block, with some people came from Curtin Detention Centre. In that time they try to close Curtin Detention Centre as well. And after that they let us to come to compound in Port Hedland again. And I came to compound, I saw some people from – I remember them from 2000 when I came to that detention centre. And they was very happy to see me, and I was very happy to see them. Everything was same as before. A little bit they treatment was different.
MS WINKELMAN How?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI because I think Immigration wants them to be a little bit better with detainees. And not the time – as they soon as they thinking they have to making problem in detention centre, they make problem for detainees, to talk about it in media, in newspaper, news, radio. Even for some small reason.
******END OF TAPE 2******
MS WINKELMAN Ali Bhaktiarvandi Tape 3. You were saying you were returned to Port Hedland in 2002.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. I went to Port Hedland and my ex-wife, actually, she rang me and she said “as soon as I can, I gonna (indistinct) with someone and coming to Port Hedland Detention Centre and we can get married.” Because she was really scared if they try to deport me, which is they did to someone else. And this was – I was think for us, thinking about it, deportation was really hard. Because when they try to deport someone, they never call him or her to say “oh we wanna deport you, and you have to come with us”. No. They call him, for example “your lawyer wants to talk with you.” “nurse wants to see you” “you have appointment for X-Ray” “you have appointment for specialist” and after that you never see that person again, because they put him in isolation room, they coming to pack his stuff, and that’s finish. Nobody knows anything. That was make everybody to scared when they called them for nurse, or specialist, or X-Ray. And we say to each other “look, I’m going. They call me for nurse, I don’t know it’s true or no. If I didn’t come for example 20 minutes, ring to this number and that number and let them know.” This was rule between detainees – to help each other. And we did lots of time when they try to deport people, we did something like that. And I remember in first two, three months when I get released, I was in Ballarat and they ring me from Baxter, and they say the name of our friend they wanna deport him. And I rang some people in Melbourne, and they stop this deportation, and now he’s free. This was good. Detainees was look after each other for I can say every single thing – when they get sick, when they get tired, when they have some problem with their family in Iran or whatever, they try to help each other. And yeah, she came in November 2002. She ask immigration manager, immigration manager said “I don’t know anything about it, because it’s the first time someone wants to get married in detention centre. Let me to ask Canberra.” We was sitting in visit area in Port Hedland in very hot weather, and she came and she said Canberra (indistinct) Canberra said it’s fine. I think it was next day we get married in Port Hedland Detention Centre, without anything except the priest come to detention and two witnesses from Sydney – they was visitors of some people in detention, that’s it. It was very quiet marriage party. And after that, few times they call me and they gave me paper and they said “you have 28 days’ time to decide to go back to your country, we gave you $2000.” And we always say to them “we gave you $2000 more and don’t talk about it.” The problem – the fire problem actually start in – in some detention centre like Baxter. As soon as detainees in Port Hedland find out about it they making some fire in detention centre. Which is Immigration Department said cost $10million. And it wasn’t true. Even I’m not sure $500,000 it cost. And they next day local police, Federal Police, and a special security guard came and control detention centre. Two days, three days going like that – they control everything.
MS WINKELMAN How long after your marriage did this happen?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It was actually in 2003. I get married in 2002. It was happen – the fire and this situation happen in 2003. And police, and Federal Police – local police, Federal Police – they control all detention centre. Two days, or three days after in morning – very earlier morning, when everybody was sleeping – they coming without any warning, open the door, and when they come into my room, I was sleeping.
MS WINKELMAN There was no one else in your room?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. We had single room, because the number of detainees was very low in that time. And I had single room. I was sleeping on the floor – I had (indistinct) I couldn’t sleeping on the bed because of my back. I was (indistinct) on the floor in my room and they come in and they said “don’t move! Don’t move! Don’t move!” I was really scared – ‘what’s going on?’. “And put your hand on the wall like you are” – I think you saw before on TV sometimes police doing to some criminal people “and open your leg” search my body, and they said “okay, that’s fine. Just go with this officer out of the block.” I said “that’s fine”. “And they have to search your room.” I said “you can search my room every five minutes, because I haven’t anything illegal.” They sent me out with security guard, and they took me to isolation room for very short while, and after that they transfer me to police station in South Hedland again. The security guard was there from ACM, and I asked them “why we are here?” – I think there was 10 people there, 10 single detainees. They said “oh, we don’t know”. Federal Police coming, and we asked them “why we are here?”. They said “Immigration gave your name to us as a people who making fire in detention centre.” I said “I have one leg and one (indistinct), for doing something like that, you need healthy body to go through the fence to that place which was burnt by fire, and I cannot do this, because I have physical problem for long time – you can look at my medical file.” They said “we don’t know.” Immigration come and they said “why we are here?”[sic]. She said “Federal Police find out the name from we don’t know where, and they take you.” Federal Police accuse Immigration, and Immigration accuse Federal Police. They coming and call us for warning for investigation, and they took me there and interpreter was there, and two young Federal Policeman. And they said “we going to have reinterview in next few days” – I don’t remember, I think Wednesday – “and are you happy to talk with us?” I said “no, because I have no information to give you. I wasn’t there.” And one of them he said “could you tell us who was there?” I said “no, I cannot tell you. You know why? Because as soon as I tell you who was there, you wanna ask me ‘why, what you doing in that time there. You was involved with that problem in detention centre.’ I wasn’t there, I don’t know who was there, and this is not my problem, and not my business.” And my wife, in that time, she organise with some lawyer from legal aid to come to visit us. The young lawyer she came to visit us with her secretary inside the cell, and she said “don’t talk with Federal Police. They have no proof against you, and they cannot do anything about it. And tonight, they call you for investigation, and then you going there – say ‘I’m not gonna have any interview with Federal Police with tape recorder and video camera’ and come back to your cell.” And when she left they call us for interview, each person said “no, we’re not gonna talk.” And in the next day, after eight days, they take us back to detention centre. In that eight days, we wasn’t allow to have a tea – no more tea, because they said “in prison, you are not allowed to have hot water”. I receive the tea, and shampoo and soap from one of my supporter in Melbourne. And they gave it to me in that police station, and I said “look, we have tea, and we can hot water from shower.” And we drink tea with hot shower – hot water from bathroom. And they didn’t gave us hot water to making tea for ourself. Eight days. And it was very, very hot – more than 40 degrees. And, I’m not sure, I think for two days, first two days, we didn’t eat anything, because we wasn’t happy to be there without any reason. And yeah, finally they send us back. It was not only time, I just remember now – in 2000, in the night time, they call me and they said “Supervisor wants to talk to you.” I said “that’s fine.” I went to see supervisor and he said “you have to go to isolation room in Juliet block.” I said “why?”. He said “some officer said you thinking about escape from detention centre in 2000.” I said “I didn’t thinking like that, but could you tell me how they knows we was thinking about it? If you said ‘oh, someone said you was talking about it’, I can say ‘yeah, I was talking about it and some security guard they heard whatever I said’. But if I didn’t say anything about it, how come she or he they knows I was thinking about it?” They put us in isolation room for few days – actually one week, I think – and after one week they said “if you promise to not making any problem when you coming back to compound, we can release you. It was mistake.” I was there one week for some mistake, with another few detainees, actually. Anyway, after that fire problem, some – I’m not sure I can say teenager, or younger, because I never see them and I never talk to them – they came to visit some Afghanis in Port Hedland Detention Centre from Perth with, I think, their teacher. Security guard said
“you are not allowed to go visit Afghanis, because they might be raped you. And this is illegal for you to go to visit.” They going back, they rang to some of the Afghani mobile phone, because we actually get mobile phone in detention centre. And she said to him “we came to visit” – they was actually waiting for them to come to visit – “and they said ‘oh you are not allowed to go visit because of this reason’.” Of course, they get angry, they went on the roof, and they said “we want to see Immigration Manager.” And Immigration Manager didn’t come, because they didn’t know what they can say. They already make a problem inside detention centre for nothing, because lots of people came to visit, security guard in visit centre – very close to detainees and visitors – and nothing was happened. Nobody making problem for anybody. And that situation making big fight between detainees and security guard until police came.
MS WINKELMAN What was the fight like?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Fighting with – it was physical fight, actually. It was physical fight between detainees and – physical fight like they threw to the rock and concrete, like that, to each other. And security they come with a special clothes – shelf and black (indistinct).
MS WINKELMAN Black -?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Black (indistinct). It means ‘baton’.
MS WINKELMAN Baton?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. The detainees call the baton ‘black Panadol’.
MS WINKELMAN And ‘shelf’ is what?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Thing…
MS WINKELMAN Oh, a gua- a guard?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep, yep.
MS WINKELMAN A shield?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Shield. Yeah, sorry. And they couldn’t stay, because detainees was very angry. And they came back – I had some photo from that time I take by my secret camera – and until police came. When police came I was on the public phone. I was giving report to someone in Melbourne by telephone about every second of that situation in that time. And I said to that person “I’m sorry, I have to go, because police come, and when they coming, they doesn’t care who was involved in the situation or no. They try to bash everyone.” They bash people, even teenager, the lady – Iranian lady. And I didn’t see, but some ladies in detention centre said her leg is black because of police baton. But I take the photo from some – my friend, they bashed by police from back and leg. They bashed one of my friend, and they took him to isolation block. From isolation block they deport him to Iran, after that time. Thirty-something people was arrested by police, and they was in Juliet block for nearly one month.
MS WINKELMAN Not you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. I was very lucky. And yeah, in the same – second day after that time, I think. Third or second day after that, they coming and they said “we wanna search the room”, because some peop- some officers, some of the really racist officers, they get report they have some weapon, like knife, or something like that, and they have plier and razor cutter. And they came to my room. I actually broken the camera, take the film out, put it under the ground in few plastic bag. And I put my mobile phone under the biscuit in the box. I put it on the table in my room. They came and they said “we wanna search your room”. I said “I’m happy. And if you need me to help you, I can help you. Would you like some coffee and tea?” They said “no, thank you.” I said “I’m not sure you can find anything illegal. Would you like some biscuit?” The mobile phone was turn off under the biscuit, and they said “no, thank you. We are not eating or drinking anything.” They search and they didn’t find anything. They search and they didn’t find anything. They left. Few days after, I say to one of the officers – she was very lovely person – I say “look, I have this film. I want you to send it to my lawyer in Melbourne. If you like, I can tell you what’s inside this film. This is a photo of security guard – people was bashed by police and security guard, in that problem. Honestly. And I need you to send it by post.” She said “that’s okay.” She send it to my wife, and my wife was print it. And yeah, some photo came out with (indistinct) magazines. More than a year ago, I had interview with two journalist from that magazines. And straight away something from my- my (indistinct), and this was printed in that time. Almost then they was investigating people who was bashed with local police and detainees. And they didn’t do anything about it, because they have no power against Immigration Department. And some of them still they have big problem with their neck, their back, their leg. And they always using some strong pain killer, because they have pain, since that time. And they have everything to prove about their problem, but nobody can help them – even lawyers. That problem was finish and after that, I don’t know how long after that, they ask me if I like – this the first time and unusual in detention centre, from Immigration – “if you like, you can go to Baxter Detention Centre, and it’s might be can help you to get out soon.” I said to that man, Immigration officer, “I don’t care about whatever you said, but I’m happy to go, because I heard there is hard situation, this actually was in Port Hedland and Maribyrnong – I was there – I like to see with my eyes. And I’m very happy to go there.”
MS WINKELMAN Let me just interrupt for a moment. You had a lawyer in Melbourne before you were taken to Port Hedland?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN Did your lawyer know you had gone to Port Hedland? Was he able to help you out?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No. I told you already, my fiancée in that time, she came to visit me, straight away they said “we don’t know where he going, but he’s not here.” They didn’t say anything to anybody, since I rang my fiancée and I said “look, I’m in Port Hedland Detention Centre and I’m fine. And you can ring people to not be worried about me.”
MS WINKELMAN Right. So the lawyer you had then, did know you had been taken to Port Hedland?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, nobody knows. They didn’t let me to rang him as well.
MS WINKELMAN I know, but once you arrived in Port Hedland, and you did contact your wife – she came up to marry you – by then, you lawyer from Melbourne would have known?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No no no. Straight away in the same day I get in Port Hedland, in the night time, I rang my fiancée, and I said “look, I’m in Port Hedland. You can ring my lawyer and people to not be worried for me.”
MS WINKELMAN But they couldn’t do anything for you?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, because they already transfer me back to Port Hedland.
MS WINKELMAN (indistinct)
MR BAKHTIARVANDI And I said to Immigration “look, I was there for more than a year. There is no reason for you to send me back there. She said “I don’t know, I received a fax” which is, I didn’t see.
MS WINKELMAN Okay.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI True or no, I don’t know.
MS WINKELMAN So, now you come to the end of your time, your second time in Port Hedland, and you’re about to be transferred to Baxter?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And actually I heard – before I decided to go, I heard from some people in Melbourne they wanna close Port Hedland Detention Centre in two months, and I was thinking ‘it’s might be good if I go by myself before they close Port Hedland Detention Centre’, and it was true. As soon as I get there, months after, they closed Port Hedland Detention Centre. And actually less than a year before they close it, the spend $16million to change the construction of Juliet block. And I remember Carmen- Carmen Lawrence, she came to visit it us, from Labor Party, from Perth. And we told her, and she was shock when she went inside the block and see everything and she ask Immigration Manager “how you spend $16million to change the construction of this block? What for? You’re not gonna keep some people here like Al ’Qaeda or Taliban. They are innocent people. They are refugee. Even this detention centre security is too much for them. You have spent $16million of that only block to keep some people who is not really happy in this detention centre.” She didn’t say anything, and yeah, it was happened and they spend that money, actually, nobody can do anything about it. I went to Baxter Detention Centre by myself. Before I went, the only important thing I had – it was my mobile phone – I put my mobile phone inside my tape recorder. I open tape recorder, I put mobile phone and charger, I put it back again. I went there very relax. And they said “oh, which compound you wanna go?” I said “Compound W1”, because I knew some of my friend from 2000 was there. And they said “It’s fine. You can go to Compound W1”. This was night time. They said “tomorrow, we will give you everything new like mattress, bedsheet, everything.” I said “that’s fine”. Baxter Detention Centre was exactly different way another detention centre I saw before. It was really clean detention centre, with very high security. The problem in Baxter Detention Centre, you couldn’t see anything beyond yourself, except the sky in the day and the star in the night, because every compound, it’s like a soccer field, but the put some caravans around the soccer field, and you cannot see anything outside. They cannot say you are surrounded by caravans. And each room for each person; actually, it’s a single room. In the- I don’t know which fences had very high voltage electricity, I think 400 volt or something. And one day they call me from immigration, and they said your case officer wants to see you. I went there and he said “Ali, do you know we have a high voltage electricity on the fence?” I said “yeah, I already know before I came to Baxter”. And he said “do you know it can kill people?” I said “I was working with electricity, and I think I know better than you.” He said “no, I mean if you wanna escape, this might be kill you.” I said “look, you’re talking to some person who not really thinking about escape. If you let me to go out of Baxter Detention Centre for any reason by myself, and then I come back and you never open then gate, I’m coming from above the gate inside. It means I’m not gonna stay out. It means I’m not thinking about escape. I had escape one time in my life, that’s finish. And if you haven’t anything else to talk about it, I wanna go.” And he said “no, thank you. That’s finish.” I said “goodbye”. And for any reason you have to go outside the compound, you have to go through the few different electronic gate. Sometimes if they wanna make you angry to see your action they make you to stay longer behind the gate, and you can knows, because when you push the button they knows someone behind the gate, and they can zoom the camera on the person who behind the gate, but they didn’t move the camera to have a look behind the gate to make the person, or people, who was behind the gate, angry. Because they already know people in detention centre they are really tired, and with every small thing, they might be making problem, and this is good for them. This is for Immigration Department and the security guard, not for the detainees. And for visit you have to go one, two, three, four, five different electronic gate in Baxter. And when you coming back to your compound again, that five- you have to go through there, that five electronic gate. And with that feeling we had, in that time, it’s really hard to stay behind the electronic gate. It’s really hard when they search you before you going to visit, and after you coming back from visit, because they already search visitors, and whatever they bring inside – like food or everything which is not illegal, you know – and they know the visitors doesn’t have anything illegal. And detainees also, their room always search by security guard. Anytime – whatever they need or they like. And visiting compound to compound it was starting by 8
MS WINKELMAN Smug- oh, the people smuggler?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep.
MS WINKELMAN Yes.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI In Indonesia. And I said “that’s okay”. I went and I see them and they said “we need you to come to Court in Darwin and as soon as we got time from the Court, we let Immigration know to let you to come.” I said “that’s fine.” In August 2004, I went to Darwin with one of the detainees, and five, six security guard. And the first- no, not first day, the second day, I think –one of the security guard mobile phone was ringing and when he gave answer he said “someone wants to talk to you.” I said “talk to me?”, he said “Yeah”. When I answered the telephone, it was my wife, she said “did you heard any news?” I said “no, I’m in Darwin at the moment, and you know already, and I’m waiting for Federal Police to take me to Court.” Few times she said “oh, you didn’t heard anything?” I said “no, I told you already. I’m in hotel. We sitting next to pool in hotel. And…”
MS WINKELMAN Next to?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Pool.
MS WINKELMAN Oh.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. And “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s good, and I’m fine.” And she said “you got your visa.” I wasn’t really happy, because a few reason. One of them was it was hard for me to say to the person, to the detainees who came to go to Court as a witness to say ‘oh, I’ve got my visa, and we might be not seeing each other for long time. And another thing I was thinking the price I spend for this visa was too much. Four and half years my life, which nobody can gave me back one second. It wasn’t small price for this visa. The only reason make me happy because I was thinking ‘okay, I might be not have too much stress, and also my wife and lots of my friend who tried to help me for long time.’ That’s it. I went to see my friend in his room, because we have two bedroom in hotel, and I told him “I’ve got news, and I’m not really happy.” I was very honest. “And I’ve got my visa.” I actually tell the security guard, the said “it might be true, might be no, but we have to waiting for Immigration Department.” I said “that’s okay, I’m not care about it.” And we went to restaurant in lunchtime to have lunch. One of the immigration officer from Baxter he rang to security guard mobile phone and he said to them “he’s got his visa, and he’s free from now. You have nothing to do with him. And he can go anywhere.”
MS WINKELMAN You- who rang the guard?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI One of the Immigration officer from Baxter. His name was ‘Nigel’, I think.
MS WINKELMAN He rang the security guard to say you’re free, yeah?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And he was talking to me as well, and he said “congratulation, you- you’ve got your visa. It’s a spouse visa” – I didn’t know anything about it, because I never heard anything about it before – “and you are free. The security guard, they have nothing to do with you. From now, you can go anywhere without any security guard.” Finish conversation and they said “we’re not gonna let you go, because we have to making BBQ party tonight – BBQ party tonight in hotel.”
MS WINKELMAN The security guard?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Security guard. “And we have to drink some beer and have good time.” I said “that’s fine, but I’m not really happy about it, because I feel sad for my friend here. If I was alone with you, it’s fine, but it’s not easy for me to be happy when I see my friend here and he’s coming back with you to Baxter Detention Centre.” One of the ladies from Federal Police, she came in the afternoon time and she said “I’m coming to take you to different hotel, because you’ve got your visa and you have nothing to do with security guard. And your responsibility is with us at the moment.” I said “no, they wants me to stay here tonight with them, and I’m actually free, but if you can come tomorrow morning, I’m happy to come with you tomorrow morning and change my hotel.” She said “alright.” She went and we had some party in that night, and next day lady from Federal Police she came and took me to another hotel in Darwin until the Court was finish. And my wife came there. We stay another two, three days more, as a- maybe I can say ‘honeymoon’- and straight away we came to Melbourne and Ballarat.
MS WINKELMAN So, who helped you get released from detention? Who helped you get the visa?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It’s not really easy to say who, because I think lots of people was involved with my visa. It wasn’t only my lawyer, only my wife, or only one friend. Lots of people they working really hard. Julian Burnside, and another few lawyers. Lots of my supporter in Melbourne. Even people in Tasmania, Queensland, Port Hedland, Adelaide, Melbourne. They all supporting me and they did very, very good job. And that’s why it’s not easy for me to say who. Everyone was involved with my situation and working hard. My wife family, like her dad, her step-mum, her uncle, and lots of another people. My friends in Melbourne – if I- if I wanna say the name, it might be cause me five others who – maybe more than five others to say one-by-one, but I just very happy to have lots of nice friends in Australia.
MS WINKELMAN And the spouse visa – what were the conditions for that?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI They gave me this visa because I get married with Australian girl and nearly a year after I release I received a bill from Immigration Department $227,000.
MS WINKELMAN For?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI For the time in five-star luxury hotel in Port Hedland, Maribyrnong, and Baxter.
MS WINKELMAN For time spent in a five-star luxury hotel?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. Like Port Hedland, Maribyrnong in Melbourne, and Baxter Detention Centre.
MS WINKELMAN So they’re calling their detention centres a five-star hotel?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Right.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN And when did you receive that bill?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN When did you receive that bill?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Ah, a year- nearly a year after I release from detention centre.
MS WINKELMAN Right. So about 2005? Middle of 2005?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah.
MS WINKELMAN Right. Okay. So maybe that’s part of talking about what happened after detention, now. I guess the bill was part of that.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI The send this bill to me, and they said the reason, which is I cannot believe – and actually not true, because I can tell you, some people they got their permanent visa from RRT and without getting married with anybody and they are still, even now I’m talking to you, single, they’ve got the bill.
MS WINKELMAN A similar bill?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yep. They got detention date, but they number is different. Some of them is $30,000, some of them is $60,000. I remember Algerian man, he was signed to go back to Algeria from Maribyrnong Detention Centre. They gave him $200-something thousand dollars and they said “if you wanna come back to Australia again, you have to pay this money.” That was first time I saw the bill. “and after that, you can come through. Otherwise you cannot come to Australia anymore.”
MS WINKELMAN This is the Immigration Department?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah, yeah. And when I look at the situation of people who got this bill, I can tell you exactly why I’ve got this bill. The first person, as I know first person, maybe he’s number 10 or 100, I don’t know – but the first person I know – and I’m still friend with him, and we have contact every day – he got this bill, and he’s got his permanent visa from RRT few years ago, and he came out of detention centre with permanent visa, not protection or spouse visa, because he’s one of the people who smashed the fence in Port Hedland in 2000 for first time going to sitting on the street in Port Hedland, and they was arrested by police, and they spend time in Perth jail, between three to six months. And he wasn’t quiet person. Quiet as Immigration view, not my view.
MS WINKELMAN He was not…
MR BAKHTIARVANDI He wasn’t quiet person.
MS WINKELMAN Was not, was not quiet?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No, no. The second one, he was an African journalist. His situation same as first one, but he did different thing. He was journalist and he was always had interview with radio and newspaper in Australia, since he was in detention centre, which is making Immigration really angry. He has got that bill as well. I’ve got this bill because they had lots of problem with me. They transfer me from Port Hedland to Maribyrnong. They transfer me from Maribyrnong to Port Hedland. They transfer me from Port Hedland to Baxter. Because I couldn’t stay quiet. You cannot find anybody between detainees, immigration officer, and security guard, who can tell you I was smash anything in detention centre. I never did it, because I didn’t like to do it. But I was fighting in different way. In legal way. Legal way in my view. Legal way for me, it was every (indistinct) people outside the detention centre, like my supporter in Melbourne, talk to people, they start to handle stuff – stop eating – and find lawyer for people in detention centre. It stop them to sign the paper to going back to their own country, which is making Department- Immigration Department- very, very angry, you know? And it was make me to thinking ‘yeah, between the people that got this bill’- actually, some people who get married, they’ve got this bill as well. One of them, they was complaining against the bill, and they cancel it. And by the thing I heard, they went to Immigration Department in Melbourne, and they said “we’re not gonna pay this money” and they said “you have to pay it” and they said “that’s okay. We’re going to talk about it in media.” One week after that, they cancel their detention debt, because I think the person was very quiet- I really don’t know him, because he was from different detention centre, but they never do this to people who was quiet, who was nice to them. And it’s not easy for them to doing something like that to me – to cancel my detention debt, or to let me come out two years before 2000- err, 2004. And yeah, this detention debt, it’s even not easy to talk about it as a conversation. It’s really stressful, and it’s caused me 151 years to give this money back, to cover it. It means I have to be involved with this situation, this stressful situation, for rest of my life. It means since I’m busy with this detention debt, I have to thinking about all my bad memory from four and maybe half years in detention centre. It means I cannot be free. It means I cannot enjoy my life. It means I cannot be happy. It means I have to working for Australian Government – to pay tax, detention debt, electricity, and rent. It means I never have anything.
MS WINKELMAN Okay – please continue.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Yeah. And some people ask me “what you thinking of your freedom now, and are you enjoying your life at the moment?” It’s hard to say “alright, this is a freedom”, because long term detention centre with hard security make me to thinking, and- ‘everywhere is detention centre’. As soon as I seen that fence around the factory, or everywhere, security camera – my feeling change, because I remember security camera in detention centre. I remember the fence, I remember the razor wire. I might be happier at the moment with the factory I’m working because we no any security camera there. Because in any shopping centre, around any factory, now going to Melbourne or even Ballarat, and I see the security camera – exactly the same as security camera in detention centre – and it’s make it hard for me to say “alright, I’m free and I don’t have to thinking about it anymore.” It’s become something like some part of my body. It’s coming with me everywhere. Like my hand, my arm, my heart, my head. It’s always with me, and I’m not sure one day I can put it away. I was talking to some psychologist and psychiatrist, and they was agree and they said “this is hard for people to forget something like that”. And I had lots of bad memory in my life, like wartime, but since I came to Australia, most of the time I’m busy with thinking about the time I was in detention centre. And the time I’m thinking about my background in my country it is very short. And now always I’m thinking about detention centre, and all the memory I had. All the stress we had. It is not my only situation. It’s actually more than 90 person of people who was in detention centre for long time. And I can tell you now, maybe I’m really strong person, because I’m not involved with any special medication, but people- I mean detainees- at the moment they are involved with lots of different medication, and they couldn’t stop it. They are addicted to different medication, which is chemical and really dangerous for them. And they might be making something changing their feeling, or their head, but they damage their physical body.
MS WINKELMAN Would you be willing to go back to when you were- when you received your visa, and you left with your wife to come to Melbourne. What happened next?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We came to Ballarat, because she was living in Ballarat. And her aunty find this job at the moment I have.
MS WINKELMAN Could you say what the job is?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI This is a chemical factory. We making herbicide for farmers, and we just working with chemical stuff.
MS WINKELMAN And what do you do there?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We actually making different product. I working there at the moment more than I think two years. They are very happy with me, I’m very happy with them, and I’m happy to working there, even though it might be dangerous, because this is chemical. There is no way for me to choose anything else, because if I lost this job, I don’t what I can do with my detention debt, because every single month I have to pay them. And I knew already if I stop to pay it, they can take me to court, and Court can say I have to pay all together, which is I’m paying at the moment monthly, and I cannot do it, and they might be putting this man in jail. And yeah, I have to working in this factory even still little bit dangerous, but there is no choice.
MS WINKELMAN How soon after you left, after you got your visa, did you get that job?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I think maybe two months.
MS WINKELMAN Yes. And then what happened?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI We was living together – ‘we’ means me and my wife – we was living together for I think seven, eight months. And finally for some reason, from her, she decided to be separate. We was separate for more than two years, and after that time, she decided to get divorce. She’s very lovely person, and she was working very, very hard and for some reason, I can’t tell you, she had more stress as I had in detention centre to get me out. She did very hard job – she came to visit me Port Hedland few times. For some people from Victoria it’s hard to be in Melbourne- in Port Hedland, sorry- because Port Hedland weather is very hot and humid. For me wasn’t- was not big problem, because I was living in my country in hot weather city. But it hard for her to have good accommodation there, and security guard not treat visitors very well. Anyway, with lots of problem she came there. One time I remember she came to visit me and – before, actually, going to Baxter – and we was sitting on the visit area, Supervisor came and he said “Ali, do you know today you’re going to pool- swimming pool.” I said “no, I didn’t know, but I’m not going, because I have visitors.” Which is I never go before – they just wants to show my visitors ‘we look after them and we are very nice to them, we take them to fishing, swimming pool, and shopping.’ And I said “no, I’m not going, because my wife” she said tell them I’m going, and I come there and see you there. I said “I’m going.” As soon as I said “I’m going”, he said “do you know if you’re going there, you are not allowed if your wife coming, you’re not allowed to talk to your wife.” I was shocked. There is no rule to stop people to talk to each other in public area. Who make this rule in Australia, or Immigration, or ACM? I get really angry. I just try to control myself to not do anything in front of my wife, because she already had enough problem with security guard, and we’re there and everything. One of the security guard was sitting there as a area security control. He came and he said “what’s wrong, Ali?” I said “he say to me if you wanna go to swimming pool, if your wife coming there, you are not allowed to talk to each other there.” He said “that’s rubbish. We have no any rule, and there is public area.” And I was just always look at my time to be finish to go in and saying something to him, because I was really angry. Finally the visit time finish, I went inside and I saw him and I said “look, I’m going to swimming pool today, alright? My wife coming there, I’m really happy if you or any security guard is man, stop me to not talk to my wife. I’m really happy.” His face was change colour, and when I left, detainees said to him “look, don’t make any problem for him, because he has suffered her from (indistinct) to big lawyer and barrister in Melbourne, and he can do something against you.” Anyway, it was last day of my wife visit, and she has to go back to- next day, she wants to go back to Melbourne. And I went there, they had actually good time. When I come back, I went to see Immigration, and I said “I’m wondering if you can show me a proof about this rule in Australia, or immigration, or ACM company?” He said “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said “you should knows, because I heard something from the supervisor of company who’s working for Immigration Department. That person said to me ‘if you going to swimming pool, you’re not allowed to talk to your wife in swimming pool’. What’s different between swimming pool and visit centre in Detention Centre? She is my wife, and you know. And he know too. Why I’m not allowed to talk to her? I wants to know why it’s illegal.” He said “don’t worry about it. Did you went?” I said “yeah, I went and I talked to her, and we had good time, but I was thinking to let you know I try to control myself to not do anything to him, but you know detainees they get very angry, and they try to bash officer, or bash everything in detention centre. Before something like that happen, you have to stop it. And this is not only thing. You doing something illegal, like me bring some drugs in Detention Centre, and also alcohol, and this is illegal. Not if I went out and talk with my wife. And this is not first time I’m going out with my wife. I went with her to shopping centre in South Hedland. I went with her to restaurant after I get married. And I don’t know why that time was legal and now is illegal.” They change him from supervisor to normal officer. And yeah, it’s a- I don’t know how to forget all this memory.
MS WINKELMAN Since you’ve been released from detention and had work, and have been married again, how else do you occupy your time?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I’m visiting my friend in Ballarat and Melbourne. They sometimes coming to visit me from Melbourne, and most of the time from Ballarat. I’m involved with the Refugee Support Group in Ballarat. They have really lovely people, and they care about refugee and people in detention centre, and people who is out with bridging visa, bridging- different kind of bridging visa, like bridging visa ‘E’, I think. They are not allowed to go out, they have no Medicare, they have no permission to work, and actually I can say detention centre is better for them if they are stay in, because detention centre they don’t need to pay rent, they don’t need to pay anything for medical or they don’t have to working. And outside like that with this kind of visa they have lots of problem. Anyway, I visit them and I play music, I practice music, I had concert last August in Ballarat.
MS WINKELMAN What music do you play?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I’m playing the traditional Iranian music. I play with two different traditional drum- Iranian drum. Actually we had concert last August with 12 of my friend, they came from Sydney, in Ballarat. And it was good. Since that time, people always ask me “when you have another concert? When you have another concert?” And we going to making another concert, this time in Melbourne.
MS WINKELMAN Where was the Ballarat concert held?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It was last August in (indistinct) School, something like that, in Ballarat. I don’t the name of place.
MS WINKELMAN And the one in Melbourne?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI In Melbourne, they going to organise with some hall in Brunswick, and still we don’t know which day. And also involve, I’m involve with for next Ballarat Organ Festival in January, next year. At the moment we thinking to make a music for this concert, and another festival.
MS WINKELMAN How do you view Australia now?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN Just, I’m thinking about the future, your future, and what you hope for your future, and how you’re viewing Australia now, and I know it’s two different questions.
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It’s hard to talk about future. Especially in that time, because I can see lots of problem in the world. And I’m not thinking of my personal future, I’m thinking of nice future for everyone. But by the way some going, and like Australian Government, and American Government, British Government, they doing- they making big problem in the world. And this is- I can not see nice future, because as an Iranian person, I always thinking about next war between America and Iran – which is Australia might be involve. And this is really serious situation, because it’s not easy to say ‘okay. They attacked Afghanistan. Taliban and Al ‘Qaeda come – even they have still problem with them. They attacked Iraq. They kill someone, a Saddam Hussein – it might be not true. And they kill lots of people – as a Iraqi people. Now they can attack Iran as well. For attacking Iran, they have to be very strong, because Iranian Government they are not stupid like Saddam Hussein. I remember before anything happen from America and Iraq, Saddam Hussein and some his Minister said “If anything happen from America, we doing this, we doing that.” And they didn’t do anything, because their hand was empty. And American Government was sure 100 percent they can not do anything – this is Iraqi Government. That’s why they attacked. But Iranian Government, no. They said “If anything happen from America and Israel, we’re not gonna sitting and watching that. We gave them in few second – few second, not minutes – answer.” And their hand is full of special weapon. And they show it in the world. They showed in SBS news, and some different news channel, like BBC, CNN, or might another few one. If anything happen like that, it’s not gonna let anybody to see nice future in the world. Our future, I think, it’s involved with future of everywhere in the world.
MS WINKELMAN And do you have any regrets?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI Sorry?
MS WINKELMAN Do you have any regrets?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI What-?
MS WINKELMAN Regrets, to, kind of, feel sorry about? Have second thoughts about- wish, maybe, you hadn’t done?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI It’s really hard, you know? I wish something already happen, it never happened. I wished Australian Government never keep anybody in detention centre for long time, and release them with lots of problem, you know? But they all already happen. Now we have to start to stop our government stop people from not doing anything like that. I’m wondering ‘why we have to making bad memory for next generation?’ Long time ago, Hitler he was killed Jewish people, now they talking about it – nobody can do anything about it, and it just can make people sad, because lots of human was killed in that situation. We might be ask ourself ‘what people was doing in the time? And they didn’t stop Hitler and his Government to not killing these people.’ In future, next few generation, they ask themselves ‘what people was doing in that time in Australia when Australian Government help American to be involve with war in Afghanistan and Iraqi, keep people in detention centre without any reason, and Australian people didn’t do anything about it?’ And it make them just sad, because in that time makes 50 years, or 25 years, or 30 years – they cannot do anything about. We shouldn’t make sad story.
MS WINKELMAN So, when you think back about your life, is there anything you would do differently?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI No.
MS WINKELMAN And could you say how you view Australia now?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI I’m really sad, because it’s not fair- it’s really not fair for nice Australian people to have a horrible government like that. They are beautiful people, they are very friendly people, they are very kind people. And they need someone to look after them better than now.\
MS WINKELMAN It seems to me that we may be coming to the end of this interview. Is there anything else that you’d like to say before we stop?
MR BAKHTIARVANDI There is lots of thing we can say, but I don’t know when people can see this interview, but if they can see it before election, I just wants them to thinking about the next election to put vote for someone, and after that hate the government or hate themself. They have to careful. This is not joking, this is for reals. If they elected the government, they cannot do anything about it until four years, because Australian country is not like another country like Africa – people going to the street shooting each other and making the government change or something like that. No, you have to waiting for years. It means you have to be in a horrible situation, hard situation, hard life, for four years, and it’s not fair to spend four years’ time because we haven’t good government. Try to choose the government who really care about Australian people. I never been in any Europe country, or any country else, just Indonesia after my country, because in Arabic country I just was in airport for maybe maximum one hour – but I’m sure it’s hard to find people like Australian people in America, in Europe, or anywhere. They are really lovely people. And thank you very much for your time, you’re doing very good job – and also people who are working with you. And I have to say thank you to all the people who support me since especially 2001 when I came to Maribyrnong Detention Centre, and still they help me a lot, and they never get tired. And this is make me really happy to have lots of good friend like that. Thank you. This is one of my instrument. It’s Persian- traditional Persian drum. They call it in Persian ‘daf’ D-A-F, and it’s a very old instrument – I think more than 2000 years old – but not exactly this one, this is new, made by someone in Iran, but the design and first time it’s made – more than 2000 years ago. And another one they call it ‘zarb’. This is also Iranian traditional drum. Z-A-R-B. Another name someone they call it ‘tonbak’. Whatever you call it in these three name, it’s right. And this is- this two instrument is actually some part of my life, and I really love them. They only important thing I have in this home, in this flat – my two drums. I never care about anything else, because I can find whatever I need in Australia, but it’s hard to find these two instrument in Australia. And it’s too expensive for me to order from Iran to here, and also a problem with Quarantine – to pay money to Quarantine because of wood, and animal skin.