“Omid” means hope in Farsi. Omid Masoumali had no hope when he set fire to himself on April 27 this year, on Nauru. He was in huge pain but without morphine for 26 hours before he was airlifted to Brisbane, where he died in hospital on April 29. He had been a journalist in Iran.
His death was dreadful, and I could not get it off my mind. It took a terrible kind of bravery to do what he did. What we were doing in solidarity with these 1,800 people, refugees, hostages, being held on the prison islands of Nauru and Manus, seemed tame and ineffective. We must have rallies and vigils, and we must write letters to politicians and the media, but we must do more than that when our government is committing abuses like this, flouting international law and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which we signed. Obviously we need to give refugees safe passage here from Indonesia. That way they will not be motivated to take the unsafe trip by boat. And, if they do, we must “process” them in hostels, not prison camps. There is only one thing politicians understand, only one thing that will make our government stop abusing refugees (and the opposition endorsing it): pressure. This can take many forms, and we need to exert all of them, all forms of non-violent direct action. My form of non-violent direct action was to chalk the names of people who had killed themselves while in detention.
We must struggle together for justice for refugees. But further than that, we must struggle for a human rights act and a change in culture so that people, refugees and asylum seekers included, cannot be held without charge or trial, so we cannot have the paperless arrests police have in Darwin, and Don Dale, or the kind of abuses against Aboriginal people we see in the Northern Territory under the “Intervention”.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to all the people who have supported me since I was arrested. I was fined over $3,000 and this will be crowd-funded. I finish with the moving statement by Omid Masoumali’s family:
“Our hope is gone! Omid is gone forever. He was only 24. His father named him Omid because his birth gave hope, excitement, and life to his small family.
As a child, Omid was so sweet and cute. He loved animals very much. He had built up a small shelter in his house where he kept his pets; they were just like his close friends.
Our Omid had it all: warm, friendly, always smiling, witty, and athletic ability. He was a lifeguard and saved a couple of children. Those kids still come to visit us. His friends describe him as a trustful, amiable, warm, and lovely fella. He was happy and joyful, full of life. It was impossible not to laugh when he was around.
Omid had a catchy slogan that everyone remembers: all his goodbyes were followed by this: “Chakeretam, Nokaretam”, a saying in Persian which implies: you can always count on me for everything.
There is no word that can express how bitter is his loss for us. Our Omid is gone, our hope is dead; so unbelievable, so sudden! We were counting on him, like always, like what he was saying every time; counting on a better future, counting on sweet coming moments.
Omid was doing well, enduring hardships for a better future. What happened to Omid’s hope? Who has taken his hope? Who has taken our hope, our Omid? Who has made life so bitter for him? We lost our Omid, our hope. Who has made life so bitter for us? The endless bitterness…”