Location: Manus Island Detention Centre
Country of origin: Iran
Risk: Death and imprisonment from Iran government. Physical and mental abuse in his current conditions
Advantage: Official refugee status
Opportunity: Private sponsorship to Canada. Interested? Here’s our fundraiser!
“I was very frightened. One minute I was discussing the new computer system and a potential salary raise and the next I am in a garage somewhere being beaten. I had never even been in a police station before then. I had never had any trouble with anyone before.”
Born and raised in a middle class family in Iran, Vahid enjoyed a quiet, ordinary life. A single man, he lived with his parents and worked at a big university, and for years served as the supervisor for its telecommunication system.
In 2013, he left work for a few days. When he came back, he was told to report to the security office. There he was told that the school was happy with his work. They wanted to give him increased responsibilities, as well as a salary increase.
One of his new responsibilities was to manage a new telecommunications system. Its purpose was to protect the country. The system could tap into phones and record conversations, not only of people he knew personally, but of anyone at the school. He said no, that he could not accept the offer.
“Many people inside the faculty were colleagues and friends that I respected and liked. I knew this arrangement put many people’s lives at risk.”
By this point, it was late in the day and the last bus had departed. One of the men from the security office said they would drive him home. When he got in the car they put a gun to his side and a hood over his face. They drove for 45 minutes to an empty building where three men beat him, punching and kicking him – but on the body, where the damage would not show.
One of the men said he had a big mouth, and now that he knew about the surveillance equipment, he had no choice. He was part of the system.
When they took him out of the garage, they said they could take him back any time and get rid of him easily. They dropped him off at a public square.
His brother, when he saw him again, was shocked by his appearance, and said he should report the attack to the authorities.
“But I was powerless – as is anyone in Iran who comes up against the security forces. You cannot complain about the organization to which you have to make the complaint against.”
He thought back to 2009, when a colleague at the university was suspected of participating in political activities. The security forces took him away and when he returned he was a different person. He had been beaten so severely he was brain damaged. He never worked again.
Vahid was terrified to go to work, but his brother insisted he should to avoid arousing more suspicion. For three to four weeks, he returned to school, despite his fears. The security forces asked him to centralize the phone and computer system so everything was routed through the main office.
“I had put a lot of my time and life into this job. I had worked there from the age of 23. I had never done anything wrong in my life but when I came to this point I didn’t like what they were doing. I wasn’t sleeping. I was in a very bad mental state. It was destroying me.”
Knowing he could not continue on the job – and that his life was in danger if he stopped – he asked his brother for help. His brother recommended he follow the same route as a cousin who had also faced threats from the Iranian security forces. He could go to Australia.
In June 2013, he bought the ticket and worked until the day of his flight, scared of being caught at any moment and brought back to the security office.
On June 3, he flew from Tehran, to Kuala Lumpur, and on to Jakarta, Indonesia. He was safe. After two days he called his parents, who said the university security forces had visited the house and demanded to know where he was. His parents said he was in North Iran.
He stayed another 22 days in Indonesia, waiting to go to Australia. During that time, the security forces visited his parents again and said they had created a file on him. He had done something wrong, the men said, related to security and against Iran’s national interest.
According to his brother, the family home was under surveillance.
It was then that Vahid knew he could never return to Iran. He was a marked man.
A passage to Australia
On July 21, the day he was waiting for arrived. The boat was ready for his journey to Australia. A harrowing four days later, packed on a boat facing high waves and other dangers, the boat arrived on Christmas Island.
The respite he was hoping for did not materialize, however. A new conservative government in Australia had taken power, and wished to make an example of the country’s ocean-crossing refugees.
Instead of being brought into custody and placed in the Australian refugee system, Vahid and the other refugees were placed in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. He arrived on August 16, 2013. He has been there ever since.
Entrance to hell
The centre on Manus has the same relation to ‘processing’ that summer camps have to prisons. Rather than being given their due process under the Geneva Convention, the refugees have been kept there, for six years, in a state of horror and deprivation.
In his first year on Manus, Vahid watched as locals entered the detention centre and attacked the refugees. The security guards had conveniently vanished to allow the violence take place.
In the ensuing years, Vahid has witnessed murders of detainees by security guards, death from untreated medical crises, and four suicides. The only way out of the camp, for most prisoners, is death.
“I have grappled with returning back to Iran and risk being killed, as a better alternative to staying here.”
A better option
We can help. Canada is a country that welcomes talented people like Vahid and gives them the chance at a new start, a new opportunity to taste freedom and live again.
Since Vahid has full refugee status in Papua New Guinea (in a document dated July 5, 2016), he qualifies for Canada’s private sponsorship program.
He has skill and good English, and would make a fine professional, with a little love and support. Let’s give him that chance.
How you can help
There are 3 parts to a private sponsorship to Canada:
- The application, already in progress.
- The finances: $16,500 CAD is required to be put in a secure bank account for Vahid’s use when he arrives. Fundraising has already begun
- A sponsorship group: caring Canadian citizens. This is where you come in!
We already have five terrific sponsors on board. Based in Toronto, they include:
- Richard Castiel
- Sonia Castiel
- Laura Beth Bugg
- Bryan Gaensler
- Natanya Mandel
- Stephen Watt
If you’re interested in being a sponsor or helping to fundraise, please contact Laura Beth Bugg, a volunteer in Toronto who knows Vahid well.
Or contribute directly to Walk Like a Refugee, which is raising funds to sponsor Vahid.
Or reach out to Stephen Watt, also his friend, who has experience with fundraising and private sponsorship. He’s reachable by
- His own Facebook account or through the Hand-to-Hand: Helping Newcomers page
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- WhatsApp at +1-416-904-3467
Together we can make a difference, and give this good man a new start. Please reach out – and share this post!
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