"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.