Frank was a dentistry student. When he came home from lectures every day, his mother would smile with pride as she put the dinner on the table. Frank’s little brother would talk about football and football players. And playing football. And Frank liked to see the little boy’s face open up with innocent childish joy. Especially because outside their home, things weren’t that easy. It was a rough place to live. Conflict. Division. About things that no one could change. Feelings and ideas that people were brought up within. Things that just were.
Frank’s mother worried about him. He knew that. He had lost his own childhood in a way that made his studies something even more of an accomplishment. An awful incident where he had been taken when he was only ten. Kidnapped and threatened with death every day for months. She had thought that she had lost him then. So that when he had been released, she had promised that she would look after him in every way, protect him from every danger. He didn’t want to be babied but he understood his mother’s concerned looks and tight hugs. And there were times when he himself felt he didn’t want to leave the house for university. But he knew that ahead was the only way. Not stuck in a place that could still wrap him in his 10 year old terror. So he moved ahead. Studying. Playing football sometimes as if he still had his little brother’s freedom. Moving past the conflict all around to get to somewhere positive. Somewhere where things might not be so hard.
But Frank wasn’t blind to what was happening. To the likelihood that more awful things could happen to his family. That he wasn’t the unlucky one. That they were all unlucky and that his mother or his brother could be next. And he knew that his family were in a place that would only get harder.
So he began to talk quietly with his mother over many nights. And they tried to find a way that they could go somewhere and be safer … the right way. But Frank knew that they couldn’t apply for passports or get visas because then people would know that they were leaving and that would really bring it all down upon them. So they had to go with very little when no one was expecting it. And travel on foot for a long time. Then on a boat. And then more walking. He knew there was a place that was safer than the place they had all been born into and so he moved towards that – sometimes carrying his little brother on his back, always helping his mother with her load. And when it came to moving from country to country because they had no travel documents, they had to do it any way they could. Whether Frank was comfortable with it or not. He hated doing things the wrong way but the right way would lead them back to somewhere none of them would survive. So they did what they could. And finally, they got on another boat by paying with the last of the money that was to have supported them through his studies until he could earn a living as a dentist. And they began a journey across more difficult water to a place that Frank was sure there would be freedom.
His mother was sick … things that she wouldn’t talk about but it was clear that all the travelling and stress had made things worse. Still Frank knew he had to keep her moving – to take her to somewhere that she could get help, where they wouldn’t be in danger, that they would be allowed to live peacefully … study and then work. And maybe sometimes play some football.
And when they landed on the shore of the place he had dreamt of, Frank told himself that this was the beginning.
And it was.
The beginning of five years in an island prison. Because the place that was to let them live in safety shut its doors tightly. And put them away. With no answers and no future. Even though their detainers knew that Frank and his mother and his brother had been in danger. And that they’d had no choice but to leave the way they had. And travel the only way they could. And so the place that was to save them showed them that they were nothing, worse than nothing. And Frank was lost again. Held somewhere that was so far from the simple haven he had struggled towards. Stuck in a place that wrapped him in his 10 year old terror. And began to smother his brother in the same panic. Watching clinicans’ urgent requests for medical transfer for his mother denied from behind the still closed doors.
A young student. A child. A mother. All of them. In purgatory. Looking every day at death. Because they had tried to be a family in peace.
This haven was called Nauru. Frank’s real name is Fariborz.
Because he didn’t quite reach five years in Australia’s offshore detention.
Because he killed himself before that milestone could arrive.
You can read more about Fariborz Karami, his little brother Ali and his mother Fazileh in the following news bulletins (click on the links below to go to the full original reports):
A 26-year-old Iranian asylum seeker has died on Nauru, reportedly by suicide. He had recently married. His wife and mother were both hospitalised on Nauru after his death and his 12 year old brother Ali was taken into care by camp authorities.
… For five years you incarcerated me and my innocent children in Nauru and ignored us. I know that your violence and cruelty is deeply rooted and against that I am a powerless woman. You even deprived me from having a mobile phone, lest I speak up? But I always told you if any harm befell my children, I wouldn’t remain silent. Since Friday, you have kept my son’s corpse in IHMS’s fridge, to look for his murderer? Since then, have you not smelled your own hands? My 26-year-old son had his last breaths in your mouldy tents and closed his beautiful eyes to your abomination, injustice, and disgusting policies. You even hesitate to provide him a bottle of cold water. For five years, you tortured his athletic body under deadly heat. Now, you confiscated his dead body and keep him in a cold place. You don’t allow me to bury him and entrust him to eternal peace with his beautiful face and body. …
Compassionate Australians mark this shameful milestone by remembering the human beings who have suffered
Your freedom is our responsibility until it finally belongs to you