A Hero’s Journey: The Story of Ben Moghimi [in full]

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Ben Moghimi (image via @CarolynJanson)

This is Iranian refugee Ben Moghimi's story, written in his own words. It is published here it in its entirety. 

Hi my name is Ben Moghimi and I was born in second of July in 1992 in Iran Tehran. I have one sister back home who is 15 years old. I left Iran because I wanted to be in safe place, I didn't want to die, I had a lot problems.

In IRAN it's illegal to convert religion as I was born in Muslim family I had to remain Muslim. When I was 17, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.

I had difficult childhood, living in poor situations, my dad left us for 5 years when I was 5 years old then came back when I was 10.  I went to school after school there was no one to help with my homework and teach me things, as my mother is an illiterate person.

Everything was difficult for me. When I was 16 years old, I didn't continue high school because of our poor family circumstances. I had to sell plastic bags to shops and earn money for myself and my family. Everything was hard; I hadn’t tasted the sweet time of being a teenager. It seemed I only tasted the harsh it was a bitter time of life.

Here is little background about my family

My mum's family were living in a rural area in North West of Iran. They didn't let my mum study in the village, instead they taught her how to weave carpet, so she helped her mother to make the carpet by hand and then sell it.

Then after years they migrated to another place, which was like a little town.

Then, once upon time… a gorgeous handsome kind genius man had a trip to that town and he liked my mum, so they requested permission to marry from her parents and they went through our traditions which is so important amongst us.

My dad's family were living in Capital city Tehran, my grandfather was a migrant to Tehran from North West of Iran during Iran's revolution (instead of immigrating to USA or Australia, in that time they migrated to the capital city Tehran).

So my dad was working with his father, selling plastic products, my mum was living with them. My mum was teenage girl, I guess under 18, so, after a few years, in one dark night they created me.

They had a lot of difficulties and my grandfather didn't help my dad much so he needed to work for himself.

After a few years, when I was five years old, my dad decided to leave Iran and go to South Korea for work, he wasn't safe in Iran.

So when dad was away, me and my mum were living in my grandfather's house.   

We were forced to live there, amongst men who don’t let their wife work. (Fuck that tradition.)

So my mum always had arguments with my grandmother.

I still could hear her screams, although my dad sent money monthly through the currency shop. I believe my grandfather stole a lot of my dad's money.

My mum wasn’t allowed to go to the currency shop, so my grandfather with another uncle attended there and they would take money and put in "their" bank account or travel to city to city for holidays.

But …..

They bought one apartment for my dad.

They gave some monthly money to my mum.

I also remember how, in front of our eyes every weekend, my father’s family they would go on a picnic but without informing me and my mum.

I was little at that time — five, six, seven and eight years old.....

Because of those difficult times, I could never forget those times.

I learnt to not be like them.

I learnt, rather than kicking one kid's ass, hold the child’s hand and buy ice cream for him or take him or her to play.

I learnt be real human not pretending like I am human.

I can't talk alot why I left Iran.

I am scared for my family's safety.

Because this story going to be published.

I don't want to put my family in danger.

But I will write when I left Iran and how many countries I travelled until I got to Australia.

I left Iran in 5th of June 2013

My family were at the airport, it was hard to say goodbye, I was only their 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 only her brother. Since thn, five years ago, 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 airplane around 11pm at night, it was my first time I have ever been in plane. Everything was strange, the flight attendant told me: “your ticket is first class you should sit in a good place in the plane". She showed me my seat, it was so comfortable, I felt like I am a king of Iran.

After a 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.

Malaysia was my transit place, after a few hours I had to get into another airplane to Indonesia — Jakarta. When I was hanging around at the airport in Malaysia, I was astounded. Iran was so different from Malaysia and everything was new in my eyes — like people's clothes! Like shops! OMG, especially spicy food which I really don't like (I rather stay hungry, then eat spicy food!) After a few hours, I had to ask where do I go? I mean which plane? Which gate? I didn't know how to talk in English so everything was so very difficult to ask and I didn't know how to communicate with other people. I am glad body language always works so well.  

Finally, I did find which gate I should go, then I found the airplane!

After a few hours, the plane landed in Jakarta. It was dark moonless night. I had got my visa before travelling to Jakarta, so I was shocked when I got to the gate and the police officer looked at me with creepy eyes and asked: “Where are you going”?

I was only told show my passport at the hotel where I was  going to stay, so I didn't know what I should say back, I quickly saw someone who was Iranian and he realised I was stuck ! Then more and more Iranians gathered at the gate who were also supposed to go to Jakarta, but unfortunately we didn't know what was happening!  

The Iranians guys informed me:

“They are going to take a bribe from us, until then they will not let us go into Jakarta! They knew many of us going to Australia. “If we don't give them money they will deport us!”

Some police officers took us to one tiny dirty room beside the gate, I was nearly to have heart attack!!!

After a short time, one of them came into the room and asked for money without any topic! The Iranian guy who knew English asked: “Money for what?”

The police officer replied:

“We are aware of you guys going to Australia by boat. We are also aware you have to go and you can't go back to Iran and we aware if u go to Iran you will die so if don't bribe me I will deport you!”

We were nine young men. We were so scared! We didn't want to get deported!

The officer put our passports in front of us and said “Put your money in middle of this. l will come back and collect them." So we put a little of money, like $100 from each of us, when he got back he checked the passports but it wasn't what he expected!

He increased the rate to USD$1,000USD ($1,315.83 AU) for each person! I only had $1,000 with me! I thought if I pay $1000 I haven't had any more left. We negotiated and brought down the price to $500 each, however we were angry at paying the bribe. We were going to Indonesia legally by our passport and Visa. But because they were such nefarious police officers they took a bribe from us to buy food for their kids with dirty money! 

We passed the gate after a few hours and we called our smuggler, he sent someone to pick us up by car. After a short time, we arrived to an apartment, someone came to us and said “I am your smuggler’s person, I have been told to show you your place to stay until you got in the boat then arrive in Australia." We were 9 people we stayed at that apartment for almost ten days.

Then, from Jakarta, he moved us to Kendari — another island which was his spot to send people by boat to Darwin, Australia.

On 28 of June in 2013, for the first time in my life, I got into a boat

On 28 of June in 2013, for the first time in my life I got into a boat. Everything was scary – the boat, the dark night, the people – everyone felt petrified. Our smuggler told us: “There is everything inside the boat: food, fruit, water, everything."

When we got into the boat, there was nothing.

After a few hours, the boat started to move; the boat, at least, was nice and clean. Around midnight, when we were in middle of Ocean, the captain told us that one of our engines was broken so we can't go anymore, he said we need to change the boat. After a short time, one boat came near us and they put ladder between the boats we had to exchange the boat. We did it. The other boat started to move.

We were told sit next to the engine, with bugs and smoke which was coming from the big engine. I can still hear the voice of the engine, very loud. Some guys were vomiting next to where they sat, everyone was crying so hard – old, young, middle-aged – everyone was scared because of the roaring of the thunder. (I have to say I am crying as I am writing because I am remembering my past.)

When the wind suddenly took the canopy away from above us, I saw the dark sky becoming red with rolling big thunderstorms, and I was constantly crying and loudly asking God for protection, asking God: “if I die here, look after my family, my sister” asking God to clean my mum's tears. Asking if he would send his angels to be around our house.

I thought our boat is going to sink, it felt like that, with the high waves and we were on the only piece of wood, if our boat sank in that situation no one could ever find our dead bodies.

The ocean was angry and screaming all the time.

We were thirsty. ... Our lips were dry... Our eyes were tired of crying.... Everything was hard and unsustainable..... Unforgettable experience. ... After approximately two days one of our engine broke down, the captain said we have to go an island near here and exchange the boat, then after that we would go back on the way to Darwin, Australia. We said, no problems, please go.

We trusted him, unfortunately.

After another two days one of our water pump broke down and we had to get water out by buckets and keep the boat safe, we all were exhausted. But we had to do that, otherwise the sharks coming around us seemed hungry and I was sure they would love to taste Iranian meat. LOL

Then, after almost two days, we arrived to an Island, we couldn't go forward because of huge black corals so we had to stay next to other boats. The Island was tiny but gorgeous from afar. The captain said we will get one of those boats and travel to Australia. After a few minutes, he said I have to go talk with one of them then I will move soon.  We said, “yes please go make it quick”.

We didn't know what's going to happen.... We all needed to arrive somewhere safe quick. After while he called other two junior captain assistants to come have lunch with him.

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 were going down and down.

It was 2nd or 3rd of July, 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 45kgs or 50kgs 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.

We got on his boat and arrived to Bau Bau Island in Indonesia, where police arrested us again. They handed us back to first place where we started. Once again we came to Kendari. It was 13 of July 2013. Some people stayed there, some more went back, I told my smuggler “send me to Australia by another boat”. He said: “Okay, sure."

My second trip by boat started to happen in 8th of August in 2013, with another 130 people families, men, children and pregnant women. It was six days later, on 14 of August we arrived near Darwin’s water and the Australian Navy arrested 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 to July 2017

I just wanted to be alone.

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 her when I call her.

This one was what I wrote last year on my birthday, August 2016

(This year I wasn't in mood to write anything.)

Hi, my darling advocates and friends, as you know this is my third birthday in here as political hostage. I dont know, I am 23,24,25.

Since this morning a lot of gorgeous people, like you, sent their wishes to me and I put them inside my heart with all their love. I was crying when I received those messages, because last year I thought I will be free and I will taste of freedom.  

But I am still in a cage as political prisoner of Australia. In all the world, the best thing for everyone is their birthday, but in Manus Island concentration camp its the day of torture because you wish you never were born into this world.

You know, dear, I wish I never born but I am still alive! I am sending you all my wishes and best of happiness to all of you who care about me and other guys in here. 

I wish next year everyone would be free and we will have good celebration together, if the Australian Government release us from here to a safe place.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Moghimi

Manus Island Detention Center.

This was when I was listening to one Persian song and I translated it in my mind and wrote it

(Reza Berati was the guy who died by the hands of Australian Securities on 17 of February in 2014.)

I supposed to die that night also, but unfortunately I am alive now, I wish I were to die instead of him.

Hi buddy (Reza Barati), can you hear me? Tell me are you enjoying your freedom in heaven? I've heard you are in good place in heaven I heard there is no securities, high fences, faded flowers, broken faces.

Its great that your freedom ended you up in heaven! Here at Manus concentration camp, the place where they killed you because you were refugee and human (it appears that's what Australia does to people seeking refuge), nothing has changed. Initially, a few more guys joined you such as Hamid and Faisel. Australia killed them also!

Sun comes up and says hi behind the wire everyday and goes down, days are passing as our health is failing and, Reza, securities are still giving that nasty look!

Reza, let me get this straight, we have no hope,there is not a gleam of hope, there is high rate of depression, however everyone feeling nostalgic, Reza, we are still in same place where you passed away, your face is front of us.

Reza, the securities who were here on 17 of February in 2014 (those people who thought here is a slaughter house), many of them still work in here.

Reza, one more thing, the person who killed you, he escaped for second time from gaol.

Reza tell me from your place: is it good or bad?

Do people get their eternal freedom?

Can you hear the voice of your tears falling down?

Can you feel you are a human, or is Australia there too and does it let you be free?

Reza, I remember you were an industrious student to learn English, can you continue to practice there?

Reza are there any racist stakeholders?

Please, are you safe there, or has Australia even taken your safety away from there too?

Reza, please tell me more from there! Are you still feeling like the ball in a soccer game?

We still feel like the ball!

Reza, it's all our fate to be here then get our freedom in here and come next to you.

Reza, recently they started new game, go to USA, many of us wish we were to die with you!

Reza, can you sleep properly? Do you take sleeping pills? Now in here, many of us can not sleep without sleeping drugs.

Reza, do you remember you told you the people who work in here they have a rock in their heart and they are not humans?

Reza, they still enjoy themselves with your blood money, their hands are full of your blood and that of many of us. Reza I don't know how they can feed their kids with this blood money?! Buddy# Reza Barati# Rest in peace#

This one was for my anniversary after when they were supposed to kill me — February 2017

Hi everyone, tonight is the third anniversary of when I was beaten to near death, on the 17th of February, 2014.

Last night, I had an awful nightmare in which I was in a war.

In it, Australia was killing all of the refugees in the Manus Island Detention Center. Wilson Security, on the behalf of the ABF were telling us: "Go back to your country and die there or fight with us and die here. You are refugees; you have no power and you are no one".

On this night a few years, I was almost beaten to death by PNG and G4S security in the Mike compound. I want to try to forget this horrible day, but I honestly can't. I am eating meals in the same place where they tortured me every single day. I am walking on the ground where they killed my friend Reza Berati.

Is that how Australia welcomes refugees? Is that how Australians are?

Wilson Security are the most arrogant people; they have been paid and brainwashed to kill each of us. A few weeks ago, when one of us died, one of the Wilson Security made a comment:

"My Christmas is when one of the refugees from the Manus Detention Centre gets killed. That's when I have a big celebration when someone in there has died."

Is that why Australians are having their Christmas celebrations? Reza earati was one of the kindest and smartest guys you have ever met. He was trying so hard to learn English and communicate with people, but the Australian Government didn't allow him to live and communicate with people. They brutally killed him. I still remember his face: full of blood when the G4S guys were carrying him away. Is that how Australians welcome, and then kill refugees, other Christian humans in detention? Because they are only refugees? How can I forget the black spot of the Australian Government in my heart? How can I forget the screaming of my friends as they yelled: "Don't kill us, we are innocent, we are refugees!"? How? Please just tell me how? How can I forgot the walls full of blood? How can I forget the sounds of the guns on the 17th of February? Why were they shooting innocent refugees? How can I forget the places where the bullets went through the walls and rooms?

The Australian Government have tortured us since the very first day. They wanted to kill all of us on the 17th of February in 2014, but only Reza Berati got his freedom that night. Many of us, especially me, wish that I too had passed away that night rather than being alive and receiving more torture from the Australian Government. Because I am "only" a Christian refugee, I wish I died that night, rather than having to tolerate this stressful and indefinite life in this concentration camp. I am only 24 years old and I have wasted four years of my life in this hellhole already. Should I also have to waste my future? RIP# Reza Barati# Happy Freedom Reza Barati #

This is what I wrote New Year's Eve 2016

Happy New year to everyone. I have had a lot of lost opportunities because of my current condition and location. I have had difficulties, sadness, bad luck and pain.

I can honestly say this year: it's enough for me, I can't tolerate any more of this year.

This year more things have fallen apart and, with them, little pieces of me. I lost one more year in an Australian concentration camp on Manus Island for no crime, only for being human. But, of course, we are all political hostages. I have broken down so much and sometimes I have cried in my single cell.

In this year, the Australian Government tried to teach me how to treat people like animals, how to put cracks in their souls, how take chunks of their lives away, how kill them one empty day of deprivation at a time, how to make them regretful of being alive, how to make them suffer.

They didn't teach me anything good, they just taught me bad things.

But I'm so proud to say that I didn't learn from them because I don't want to be like Australian Government. They have my body but they can't own my mind.

You know what is in my thoughts?

I am as strong as mountain, looking forward to gathering more knowledge, I have readied my mind for new things in the New Year. I have made more space in my heart for people who truly care.


I trust this year will be much better than 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 (the years I spent in detention on Manus island concentration camp), because 2017 is the year of my freedom, and my brothers and sisters in Manus and Nauru. I truly believe this New Year will bring me luck positive things, happiness, more knowledge of God. I trust with all my heart Jesus Christ has my back and he will never let me break down. He is the only owner of my mind and body.

New Year approaches me with new hopes, aspirations and commitments that I need to carry out to fulfil my dreams. "New Year”, whenever I hear these words, I remember about New Year celebrations, gifts, parties, wishing people around us at this amazing moment with all their friends and beloved ones on this special day, but in this concentration camp, our gifts is sleeping pills, antidepressants, our parties are when we most live in limbo, our celebration is looking at young men's faces broken by detention older than their years.

In these days, people are quite busy with their work, family, and other stuff but in here there is nothing to do. We should just wait and see what ABF's new plan for torturing us is. On this special occasion, it is possible for some lucky people who are free in this world to meet each other and share the valuable moments with one another, but in here there are no valuable moments. If you hang around, you might be lucky enough to hear the voice of someone crying in another room. We all have beloved ones, but we can't visit them because we have been forced to stay here until we die here like Reza, Hamid, Omid, Faysal and many other victims of Australia's dirty policy.

Friends, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles — you have improved my life so much with your love, kind words and chats as we enter new year. I wish from the deepest part of my heart for happiness and joy and happy new year for you all. May God bless each of you in this new year. Thanks for being part my journey.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Moghimi


Manus Island Detention Centre.

Manus refugees await U.S. resettlement deal

With the US-Australia refugee deal in chaos, the real victims on Manus and Nauru live in anguished hope.


This link above is me when I was in The Saturday Paper.

Edition #142, February 4 – 10, 2017

A future vision

I learnt English when I arrived at Manus Island. I spent nights and days and I learnt how to write and read things here.

I remember my past.

It’s not easy for me to remember.

My belief in Jesus Christ kept me going day by day.

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.

Right now, I live in small room inside the dark cage where there is so many Australian Securities who have been told to be aggressive with us.

I would love to study and travel, and I also love hiking.

I am sorry I can't write more!

Each time when I wrote those stories, I should take a lot of pills at night to sleep.

As I said, it’s not easy for me to remember my past.

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