ben moretti on Sun, 7 Jul 2002 23:31:15 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Worst of Woomera - Part 1 - Hope?

[Here is part 1 of the online book "The Worst of Woomera, by Dave McKay 
(as related by Cherry McKay and Robin and Christine Dunn) email: Ben]


On the way to Woomera, we in the HOPE caravan discussed strategies. We 
were pacifists, wanting only to give hope to the detainees through our 
presence. We had brought a huge kite with us, capable of supporting a 
thirty metre long banner with the word FREEDOM on it.

Visual contact with asylum seekers was impossible from the arbitrary 
line in the sand that the authorities had scratched, some 500 metres 
away from the centre. But the kite was big enough and flew high enough 
to be seen from inside the centre. A cheer went up, first from the 
demonstrators, and then from the detainees when the banner unfurled high 
above the desert landscape.

Then some demonstrators stepped across the line in the sand. There was 
no reaction from the authorities. Hundreds of people moved toward the 
normal camp boundary, unhindered. Our law-abiding group looked at each 
other, shrugged, and trudged after them. Twenty minutes later we were 
talking to detainees face to face, through the compound fence. 
Amazingly, no one had stopped us.

"You Mafia!" a detainee shouted at us in anger.

I was shocked.

"You come for fifteen minutes, then you leave. Are we animals in a 
cage?" he screamed.

How ungrateful! Yet, I could not escape the truth in what he was saying. 
Many of these people had been trapped here for more than two years. How 
could our holiday weekend make a difference to their miserable existence?

And then the breakout began.


Fifty people fled the Woomera IRPC on Good Friday, 2002. Truman was 
number fifty-one in the queue.

"You call it Good Friday," he said. "For us it was bad Friday." 
Prisoners had been warned that those who remained would be punished if 
anyone escaped.

Guards trashed rooms, beat inmates with batons, handcuffed the men and 
forced them to kneel all night on the dirt floor of the compound, tear 
gassed people who had nowhere to run, and used pepper spray on women and 
children at close range.

But Truman says it was better than in Iran. There, he demonstrated 
against the Government, and for that he will be arrested, tortured, and 
possibly killed if he returns. Unfortunately, he cannot prove it with 
documented evidence. It's as simple as that. Deportation, he says, is 
inevitable without documented evidence.

I try to tell him that escape is not the answer. That he would almost 
certainly be arrested if he tried, that he could die of thirst in the 
desert, that life on the run is not the same as real freedom. But he is 
not listening.

"We must have another demonstration," he begs. "Next time I will make 

Truman weighs up all that I have said against what he says awaits him 
back in Iran, and there is only the one option for him. He is polite, 
positive, appreciative of all that Australians have done for him. But 
for him it is escape here or death in Iran.

His only crime is that he cannot prove it.

*For security reasons, real names are not used.

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