Alex saw himself as a ‘warrior’ for sexual equality. Amidst the culture of Iran, the banishment from his family, the persecution and ostracising within detention on Manus Island, he opposed ‘the conservative, cruel and heterosexist structures of society‘ and still liked life itself and wanted to live it.
“I am gay, and this is my sexual identity, I am gay and that’s why I left my country, I announce it loudly and clearly: I am gay.”
Alex was raped more than once on Manus (where, as a territory of PNG, homosexuality is illegal) but prison officials ignored him when he reported these crimes. He ultimately had to return to Iran as a result of the difficult situation imposed on him – the encapsulation of the victimisation within the type of societies from which he’d fled in one small compound must have been an horrendous kind of torture. But, of course, he, escaped Iran once again – this time via a different route. He had no choice.
Behrouz Boochani has written about Alex today in the Guardian and his interview with Alex was a key element of this story in November 2014.
Alex is one man. But his story of persecution – simply because of who he is – and his determination not to deny that are at the heart of what is so cruel about Australia’s policies against people seeking asylum. Alex simply wanted the freedom to live life as himself. And Australia’s government put him in a microcosm of the discrimination he had left and then forced him to return to his original persecution so that he had to start his search again. For a place to just be Alex.
Many of us felt great pride when Australia finally voted to legalise marriage equality. We can feel only shame at how we treated a young man who would have done anything to be celebrating that day in Australia as one of the many within – and who support – the LGBTQI community.
We, like Alex, cannot stop being ‘warriors’ for equality. For fairness. For understanding and compassion.
Alex never did.
I hope he is living his best life wherever he is now.