«“Por amor” aguantamos insultos, violencia, desprecio. Somos capaces de humillarnos “por amor”, y a la vez de presumir de nuestra intensa capacidad de amar. “Por amor” nos sacrificamos, nos dejamos anular, perdemos nuestra libertad, perdemos nuestras redes sociales y afectivas. “Por amor” abandonamos nuestros sueños y metas, “por amor” competimos con otras mujeres y nos enemistamos para siempre, “por amor” lo dejamos todo… Por eso este “amor” no es amor. Es dependencia, es necesidad, es miedo a la soledad, es masoquismo, es fantasía mitificada, pero no es amor».
(Coral Herrera Gómez)
Last week I went on a 72-hour hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of refugees in Australia. You can read more about my reasons for taking part here.
But more importantly, we need urgent action. We need to flood our members with letters opposing this brutal treatment of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Here is an example of my a letter my boyfriend sent to Peter Dutton’s office. If you are moved to do the same in contacting your local members as well as Dutton, please let us know by posting your letters in the comments below.
Dear Minister Dutton,
I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Australia’s polices towards refugees.
No policy objective can justify the terrible conditions in which we are detaining men, women and children. Every day I read another publication detailing instances of abuse and neglect in the detention centres we set up, we run and we have control over. These are no longer isolated cases, they are systematic to the whole way we handle refugees. I’ve seen and read first-hand accounts of how the contractors and staff that we pay for are the ones perpetuating this abuse. Our policies place people in detention for months and without recourse. The hopelessness this creates is the direct cause of the high rates of mental illness, self-harm, attempted-suicide and the ongoing hunger strikes I see reports on almost daily. You cannot convince me that a system that leads to such desperate behaviour could ever come close to meeting our human rights obligations. This is compounded by the large numbers of children also being stuck in the middle of all this. How can we justify treating vulnerable people in this way? Regardless your party’s policy how can you feel comfortable with this? There has to be another option.
I’m a 26 year old professional working in Sydney and I’m growing more and more disengaged with the type of nation we are becoming. We have placed vulnerable people in a hopeless and powerless position and our handling of their care is leading to abuse. I don’t want that done under my name. I don’t want my tax dollars paying for peoples’ abuse. This is as important as an issue can get.
Minister Dutton, I’m asking you to please take my concerns sincerely. I honestly feel this issue goes beyond your obligations to represent your party’s policies. As immigration minister you have a huge influence over the treatment of these vulnerable people. No policy of determent can justify how poorly we are treating people in our care. I ask for immediate efforts to be made to improve the conditions at detention centres, for more transparency and for an approach to refugee policy that honours our obligations to human rights and doesn’t leave these people in a hopeless limbo.
Yes, yes all the yes.
This is not the story of your life. This is not your version of the best-selling novel everyone’s talking about. This is that one tangle of somewhat imagined, somewhat overheard, somewhat experienced events your spirit relates to with authority. Of all the stories you could tell, it’s the weird one. The one whose emotional terrain can bring you to tears. The one that keeps you awake at night scared that maybe, if it were published under your name, so-and-so might get upset and speak ill of you.
- We need help from Humanitarian nation, we are Human. We came here for peace and safety not being in the Cage.
- We are Human like you.
- 19 Months process not fair.
- We believe on God, on you. (On their Shirts written)
- Awaiting for your help. (On their Shirts written)
- Freedom, Freedom
- Will I be free one day. (On their Shirts written)
Warm and best wishes for you.
Hazara Afghan Asylum seeker,
Darwin, NORTH-I, Detention Centre, Australia, January 25, 2011
I have not eaten in 50 hours and I have a quiet fury raging inside of me, deep in the space where sustenance usually lives.
Fury sustains me.
It is unreal, perplexing, rage-inducing how utterly wild people get when you tell them you’re doing a hunger strike for refugees. So many of these holier-than-thou smug dude bros emerge with their opinions. ‘What’s the point’, they decry, ‘like what is it even going to change right this second immediately because of your actions’ they say, from their smug, privileged lives where they have never had to know suffering, never had to question themselves before leaving the house at night simply because of what is between their legs, how society is completely conditioned around the premise of devaluing you as a human being, to never think twice and try to determine if the person in front of you is a racist scumbag who would do you harm and wish that you and your family had never stepped foot in a country that does not belong to them.
No, no, no, why would you put yourself in such an uncomfortable position when it won’t change anything! They say, smugly, self-assured, always right, never wrong. Look at how they literally whitewash every narrative. ‘Manus will close because the boats have stopped!’
The White Australia Policy never died, White Australia never died, it lives in these people.
They’re so incredibly buoyed down by their own egos and the bodies that carry them. As though their body is paramount to all things and all life! Proof that they are alive! It rules all! Their bodies are everything, because in their minds they are everything. The physical body puts them into a world of such incredibly intense privilege and they hold onto it with a despicable desperation.
But the body is nothing more than a vessel. And if you have no power over your mind, if you cannot discipline yourself for a brief moment in time in an effort to help others, if you cannot grasp the fact that we are so fucking insignificant, then it is only you who has everything to lose. And those who can rise above the body, the ego and the mind – we have a world to gain.
These people lack the discipline to rise above their egos, to transcend those egos and realise that there are some things worth fighting for in however way you are fit and able to fight. Some people opt for non-violent forms of protest. Some would argue, Gandhi among them, that this is the most courageous path. But Gandhi also said that if people are invading you, if they are coming for you and your family, then you have every right to fight back and fight back hard. It is that powerful, non-Hollywood version of Gandhi that I aspire to.
Maybe they think it’s all for nothing (‘I don’t believe that Joseph’s week of hunger strike means anything. I don’t know if this achieves anything. It is barely better than sitting down and typing into a thread on the subject). A man is about to die and this wise guy thinks that his ‘comment in a thread on the subject’ is on par with someone denying themselves food for 72 hours, someone who actually has multiple platforms with which to express herself. They have had power all their lives, that they cannot recognise when someone else takes that power from them and fucking runs with it.
Let me make this absolutely clear. If you can make only one person – just one person – think differently about this situation — well that is one more person than there was previously. For me that is everything. For you? I don’t care care what it is. Because it is not about you. It is not about me. It is about them, this is their narrative.
This non-violent form of protesting is not just about change or changing the powerful. It is to mobilise action in the ordinary citizens, to raise people’s moral conscience, so we can act quickly. It is to not let this man’s death be in vain. It allows those without power to reclaim the narrative. My actions are not even a fraction of an echo of that, but if it means you are reading this right now, then that is better than doing and saying nothing.
No more of this, Australia. Rise the fuck up.
I have not eaten in 50 hours and I am fucking livid, wild with rage.
For the next 3 days my brother and I will be joining the hunger strike in solidarity with the Darwin protesters (our friend is one of them). A few people seem perplexed that I’m doing this and I will write about my reasons soon enough in a longer piece. A journalist in Darwin has already contacted us about it.
But mostly we need immediate action for the Iranian asylum seeker on the brink of death. He has been on an extended hunger strike for more than 89 days. He is wheelchair bound. He has lost 40% of his body weight and his organs are eating his body. He has been in detention for four years now and he has given up all hope. Whenever I hear about his case, I think of my friend and how he is now 9 days into the hunger strike and how similar their cases are. I think about how much he wishes for his freedom and how much he regrets ever coming to Australia, save for the fact that he got to know ‘so many kind Australian people, the best people in the world’.
I know the precarious mental state these men are in and I know the callousness, the cruelty and the depths to which this government can sink. And I can’t live with that. I don’t want to know anyone who can. I am so deeply ashamed of my country.
When the world and future generations ask what we did to stop these atrocities, our answer should be ‘everything’.
You can support me in a number of ways – by donating to one of the tireless organisations in support of asylum seekers and refugees. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) would be an excellent start. You can write letters. You can post about what’s happening. You can make some noise. I would greatly appreciate any and all efforts.