Milad Jafari is a young husband, married to his high school sweetheart, a fellow Iranian who stole his heart the moment they first locked eyes. But Milad can’t hug her. He can’t kiss her goodnight. He can’t give her roses on Valentines Day. Because Mojgan Shamsalipoor is locked up – a prisoner in indefinite immigration detention.
As told on tonight’s episode of Australian Story, the young couple both fled persecution in their home countries to find safety, an education and ultimately, love, in Brisbane in 2012. But that freedom was short-lived when the now 21-year-old, a victim of rape and trauma, was denied protection by the government.
“If you put yourself into our shoes you might understand a bit of my feelings,” said Milad. “It is nothing to do with the policies, it is nothing to do with the government, it is just to do with two people who love each other so much and they want to live together.”
Milad met Mojgan at a Bahi’i youth camp in Queensland, while in Year 10.
“I saw her eyes, I went, this is it. I couldn’t talk. I was like ‘Wow’ this is, like, too much for me,” he said. “She said look, I know your feeling and so why don’t you give me your number? And that was like my dream come true.”
But this was no typical high school romance, because Milad and Mojgan are not typical Australian teenagers.
Raped, tortured and beaten by her stepfather in Iran at the age of 15, Mojgan sought shelter in the home of a friend, only to be raped by the friend’s older brother – an encounter he claimed was consensual.
Instead of being cared for, treated and supported, Mojgan was labelled immoral, a crime in the conservative Islamic republic. Her name tarnished and faced with the prospect of being ‘saved’ through a marriage to man 40 years her senior, Mojgan, then 17, fled, making the arduous journey to Indonesia with her brother, then by boat to Australia.
Milad and his family had made a similar journey. But their story is different, as they were forced to flee because his father was an anti-government activist. And that's a big part of the difference between them being allowed to live and work here (they own a car wash business), and Mojgan not.
As Queensland University criminal law expert, Professor Andreas Schloenhardt, explained to Australian Story, "The whole system of refugee protection is based on the fact that it is the state, it’s the government, official entities, that are persecuting individuals from whom they flee. So they flee from a war, they flee from discrimination, they flee from political suppression. Individualised violence by family members as in this case is one that was not envisaged when this protection system was created."