The Guardian July 3, 2002


"I write 'freedom' 'til I die"

Jyamarz Zahrooni, Woomera detainee number 997, has asked that his story 
be told before he dies. "Tell them my name. Tell them my number", he 
said.

Yesterday at about dusk, Jyamarz cut his hand and collected enough blood to 
write the word "FREEDOM" in letters almost a metre high, both in English 
and in Farsi, on the wall of a building in November compound at the Woomera 
Detention Centre.

Today, Jyamarz cut his hand again.

"I do it again and again. I write freedom, freedom, freedom, until I die or 
until I have freedom for my family", he said in a phone conversation with a 
representative of the Refugee Embassy in Woomera.

Jyamarz has a 14-month-old daughter, who was two months old when he arrived 
at Woomera, ten months ago, along with his wife.

Jyamarz is Sabean Mandian (a follower of John the Baptist) and he comes 
from Iran.

Sabean Mandian people are called dogs, impure, and dirty in Iran, and they 
are frequently detained by the Monkerat (religious police) for questioning.

Jyamarz told that prior to his flight from Iran, two members of his family 
 his fianc and a cousin  disappeared after being "questioned" by the 
Monkerat.

The official reason was that they had both converted to Islam and wanted 
nothing further to do with their former families.

Jyamarz later married, and during his wife's pregnancy they discussed her 
future. Although Sabean Mandeans are heavily persecuted in Iran, Jyamarz's 
wife was in much greater danger, because she has theoretically "converted" 
to Sabeanism from Islam, a crime punishable by death.

Jyamarz, his brother, and his wife made plans to sneak away to Australia. 
His brother left first, and ended up at Woomera detention centre.

Shortly after the baby was born, Jyamarz and his wife boarded a boat headed 
for Australia too. They baby was less than two months old when they arrived 
in Darwin.

He also has a sister who had earlier been able to come to Australia by 
plane. The sister now has citizenship. His brother was given a temporary 
protection visa eight months ago. But Jyamarz and his wife have been 
rejected.

He spoke with authorities today, after his second attempt at self-harm, and 
dramatically illustrated his point. He says that he requested food: bread, 
milk, chicken.

As he expected, the authorities quickly produced the items requested, 
thinking that he would be the first person to go off the hunger strike.

He said, "I lifted the milk, and I put it in the rubbish. 'I did not come 
here for milk', I said. I lifted the chicken and I said, 'I had chicken 
before in my home country. I did not come here for chicken', and I put the 
chicken in the rubbish. I did the same with the bread.

"I said, 'We don't come here for a room. We don't come here for clothes. We 
don't come here for handouts. We come here for freedom to live and to make 
a good life my family'. I said, 'If you understand, you tell all people 
outside.'

"They told me. 'It is not our problem'.'

Jyamarz's voice was raised to a shout.

"They say it is not their problem?" he asked me. "If die anyone in here, is 
it not a problem for Phillip Ruddock and John Howard?"

And he returned to his earlier promise: "I write until finish my blood or I 
get freedom."

He said that he loves his wife and daughter very much, but that he has no 
mental energy to play with his daughter. His wife cries every night.

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