Latif* lived on the border of Aghansitan and Pakistan, he writes from Manus Island.
“I am a Shiite Muslim and my native village, Samir is in Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan. Civil bureaucrats administer the area, but must do so with consultation with the Maliks (Tribal Elders).
Our family was always active in the affairs of the area and were well educated back as far as my great-grandfather who was the first Tribal Graduate who served in the British Army as a Lieutenant. Sectarianism and extremism have been historical realities in the area and as such the Sunni extremists made life difficult for us. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan further escalated the sectarian strife in FATA and North West Frontier Province as they severely targeted the Shia’s minority and supported the majority Sunni Muslims.
After September 11, when the USA and her Allies led the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, many terrorists entered Pakistan via Kurram Agency. In 2001 a group of 156 Al-Qaeda and Taliban men were captured by the local Shias with the help of Kurram Levy Force and the terrorists were handed over to Pakistani government and subsequently to the USA.
On December 19, 2001 when these Al-Qaeda captives were being transported from Kurram to a detention centre in Peshawar, they grabbed guns and fled. Once again the local Turi Shias fully cooperated in apprehending the escaped prisoners and my grandfather, Malik Yousaf Ali, (an influential tribal Malik (elder) and senior member of Tribal Shia Jirga), mobilised tribesmen and played an important part in the arrest of the these terrorists.
Unfortunately, the Sunni extremists of Kurram Agency and Waziristan provided shelter to the terrorists form different countries in FATA and reorganised them in the Sunni majority areas. Since then FATA and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan have become safe havens for the terrorists.
The terrorists started to target my family due to the role my grandfather and father played against the extremists’ elements. My father was the vice president of the Turi-Bangash Supreme Council and he also mobilised people against Talibanisation and extremism, as well as promoting enlightened moderation.
The extremists made several attempts on our lives and we lost family members. We regularly received threatening telephone calls and written notes. I had to stop studying and my father had to close down his profitable business. We were always worried about the threats we were getting from radical Sunni Muslims and Talibans.
But life goes on and we had to go outside and carry on living. It was on 24 May 2007, when I came out of my home and was on the way to the market that I was confronted by armed men. After a short altercation about my beliefs, I was fired upon and shot. I became unconscious and luckily a passerby rushed me to the emergency ward of the nearby Hayat Shaheed Teaching Hospital. It was reported to the police but no action was taken against the terrorists.
After that incident, I was confined to the four walls of my home and had no other option but to leave Pakistan and seek asylum somewhere. I came to Australia by boat in August 2013. I had never imagined travelling by boat to Australia, as I knew the perilous journey, but I was becoming extremely frustrated with the unwillingness of the Pakistani government to protect us.
Aside from the physical attack on my life the extremists made several attempts on the lives of my other family members. In 2005 terrorists attacked my uncle who was driving with his daughters, their car was severely damaged and were badly injured and taken to Sadda hospital. In 2008, unknown extremists tried to kidnap my uncles, several attempts were also made on other family members. My uncle who was a lecturer in the Department of History, University of Peshawar had to quit his job.
LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud explains what you need to know about Manus Island (post continues after audio...)
I have prayed every single day for my death as I am too tired to fight this situation. I regret getting on that boat but, I had a little brother and sister, they asked me to get them to a safe country and safe life but I failed them.
My family is very worried about me and even though I am in great pain I tell them that I am alright because my mother loves me so much and she will cry and I cannot see her like that. When I told my mum I learned to cook some Western dishes she was shocked that I am able to cook – to her that’s a miracle.
I have two elder sisters they are married then it's me, then the twins. Our mother put everything she had into us but she loves me the most because I was the first boy of my whole family. I was given so much love from everyone and now I am starving without food and water.”
Nabi* has been on Manus Island for four years. He writes “I am Rohingya from Myanmar, we fled from Myanmar because the situation was very bad for the Rohingya people, I fled to Malaysia, then Indonesia, then Australia by boat.
"Boat trips are hard; you can’t stand up, you are scared to drown, people get sick in the boats, people are angry in the boats, people cry in the boats but I had to take that boat, I had to flee because I am Rohingya and stateless. I could not get a passport without any documents so I had no choice except to flee by boat.
I am 27 years old, have seven brothers but I haven’t seen my family for five years. I love football and am a die-hard fan of Real Madrid. I would really love to go to their stadium and watch a match. That’s my biggest wish but right now I’m worried I won’t survive.
We’ve been suffering for more than four years, but now this camp has closed we have nothing. I would love to go outside if I felt safe but I don't, so I choose to stay in even though I'm hungry.
If I stay, I can survive, if I go, I will get food but I won't survive."
These men are depressed and scared, it takes great courage to share their stories and we implore you to open your hearts and imagine, just for a minute, what you would do if you were not born in this lucky country?
*Names have been withheld to protect the individuals. Story compiled by Lana Hirschowitz.
Here's what you can do:
You can also write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and your local MP, letting them know that you want to live in a compassionate nation that welcomes people who are fleeing violence and persecution.
Mums4Refugees has launched a Message In A Bottle campaign to humanise and personalise the men seeking asylum on Manus Island. The letters will also be posted on walls and telephone poles in suburbs and towns around the country.
The campaign is intended to give a voice to the nameless mothers of these men, who are fleeing persecution from a number of countries. Most of the men (450) have already been found to be genuine refugees by the Australian government. They are now without food, water, and power. The UNHCR has stated that the new accommodation supposed to be provided by the PNG government is not ready. The men seeking asylum do not feel safe moving out of the old centre, and with good reason. They are now being starved, with no access to medication, medical aid, water or power.
The Message In A Bottle letters will be also be signed by the member of Mothers 4 Refugees who will deliver it and hand it to their local Federal Member of Parliament, to let them know that there are many constituents who care about these men.
We will not forget them. We are mothers.
Each of these young men has a story. Each of them has a mother. In the absence of their own mothers, Mums4Refugees are stepping in and pleading with the Australian government to help them.
More information email [email protected] or check out http://Mums4Refugees.org.au