This is the story of Iranian refugee Ben Moghimi, held on Manus Island for four years next month. Ruth Forsythe reports with excerpts in Ben's own words.
'If the hero survives, they may achieve a great gift (the goal), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The gift may be used to improve the world.' ~ Joseph Campbell
Ben Moghimi is a person who accepted the call to leave the mundane familiar world and face a road of trials.
Ben begins his journey in a place he has no desire to be.
Here are some extracts from Ben’s story.
Hi, my name is Ben Moghimi and I was born in 2 June in 1992 in Tehran, Iran. I have one sister back home who is 15 years old. When I was 17, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.
In Iran, it's illegal to convert religion as I was born in Muslim family I had to remain Muslim. I left Iran because I wanted to be in safe place. I didn’t want to die.
I left Iran on 5 June 2013.
My family were at the airport, it was hard to say goodbye, I was their [only] son and my mum and dad cried so much. I told them "Mum, Dad I’ll be fine, please stop crying everyone is looking at us, please stop.”
The airport's walls were witness of river of tears.
My sister didn't know what was going on, she was little, it was hard for me to say goodbye to her because I was her [only] brother. Since the five years until now I still can feel and hear her last voice say, “My brother I love you, please look after yourself”.
When I passed the gate successfully, I could no longer stop myself from crying, I suddenly brought up all my tears and someone quickly told me, "Is it your first travel by aeroplane?" I said yes and I had to say goodbye to my family, the kind stranger said, “When you go back from your holiday again you’ll see them". I didn't tell him I had to leave Iran and I can't come back to Iran anymore, he wasn't aware that I was escaping!
The magnitude of my emotions were increasing and I cried more and more.
I got into the aeroplane around 11 pm at night. It was my first time I have ever been in plane.
After while the plane started to move, I was desperately anxious because I honestly felt petrified. The aeroplane took off, my eyes were closed and I was praying so hard to ask Jesus for protection for a safe trip.
He helped me. Everything got through well. After around seven or eight hours I arrived to Malaysia. ...
'When I call my mum she starts to cry, so I have to hang up, then run away.'
Initiation or path of trials
... We were starving. But we tolerated it. As the sun was going down, those boats started to move away.
Our captain and his assistants were in one of those boats, we thought they are leaving us then come back.
Yet they left us behind and never came back.
The sky was getting dark and we still were throwing water out of the boat. When we all got tired we said to each other let the water come inside and we should sleep on the deck. We slept, when the sunrise happened we started to wake up and move and suddenly the boat started to sink and we realised that half of the boat was full of water and we freaked out.
We got our life jackets and dived into the ocean. It was so deep. I was sweating while I had a life jacket on I was so petrified. We started to move toward the island in one line. When I looked back the boat was going down and down.
It was the second or third day of July in 2013, I guess.
We reached to that little magnificent island — we thought there would be people living there or fruits or something. But there was no one and nothing.
.... Hours passed we were thirsty and hungry. I guess I was 45 or 50 kilos in that time and I was almost 21 years old.
We started to eat leaves, hunt live crabs, when the rain came down we opened our mouths to the sky to drink. All of us were crying and begging God for help. All the time I asked Jesus Christ for help for miracle happen. I was pleading him for help to pick me up and help everyone.
After a few days, the miracle happened!
The tears of joy started quickly. I thanked Jesus Christ as suddenly the one fishing boat came to us nearer and nearer. The boat driver said I can help you to get somewhere.
He then asked for money. $50 each.
I had $100 around my neck — I was able to pay for someone else too.
My second trip by boat started to happen in 8 August in 2013 — with another 130 people families, men, children and pregnant women. It was six days later on 14 August we arrived near Darwin’s water and the Australian Navy arrested us.
This is the moment when we saw Australian Navy aeroplane who came to rescue us.
The Immigration sent us to Darwin Detention Centre.
We were there almost two weeks. Then on 28 August 2013, at midnight, high securities came with force like I was a criminal, although I only asked Australia for protection and help because I am a refugee.
They sent me and 39 others to Manus Island.
Some snapshots of life on Manus — from August 2013-July 2017
I talked to my family once in one month
When I call my mum she starts to cry, so I have to hang up, then run away.
I keep telling my mum how good it is here, I have good food, clothes, bed, and it’s safe.
But none of them is right
I had to lie to keep my mum happy
If she found out I put my head hungry on the pillow she won’t stop crying....
If she found out here is not safe she won't forgive herself
If she found out I was beaten to die by Australian Government she will be deeply depressed.
So I have to lie to her when I call her.
I asked Ben why he chose Australia to seek sanctuary.
“When I was younger, I heard Australia is such great country and supports all humans. I heard from my friend and saw this on TV.”
One could be forgiven for Ben’s misunderstanding about Australia’s immigration policies when, as recently as 10 July, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accepted the 2017 Disraeli prize. The Benjamin Disraeli prize was awarded for the PM’s "strong non-discriminatory immigration program" and his stance on "immigrants in Australia integrating successfully into the country's mainstream”.
The Irony is that Ben has been held on Manus Island detention centre for the past four years along with 820 other people seeking asylum.
In 2014-15, the maintenance of offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru cost $1.1 billion; in 2013-2014, the cost was $1.2 billion.
Unless you are a First Nations person living on this continent we now call Australia, then it is a certainty that either we or our ancestors all heard the call and made the hero’s/heroine’s journey by boat and/or by plane to get here — in the process leaving behind the familiar/unbearable to journey here to the unknown in search of a better life.
The goal and the gift
The goal Ben was seeking was the freedom to live in peace and the gift Ben brings back from his journey for all of us is his story. The message of Ben’s story is a poignant reminder not to sit in silence or fear and is reflected in the song 'You're the Voice' by John Farnham.
Read Ben Moghimi's full 5,000-word story here.
To read more about recent events in Iran, Ben’s country of birth, see the Amnesty International Report 2016/17.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Manus refugees await US resettlement dealhttps://t.co/mVkcp1yO51— Melissa Sweet (@croakeyblog) February 3, 2017
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