Union activist, jailed by the Australian government since October 2000 – Daryoush Hooshmand Nejad is an electrician and union activist who fled to Australia from Iran over four years ago. He was fleeing for his life from the brutal Iranian government. Instead of being given refugee status, however, Daryoush has been locked up without charge or trial since he arrived in Australia in October 2000.
Daryoush wrote this letter in 2003, while he was in the Port Hedland
detention centre in Western Australia:
I am 43 years old, married, and have two daughters in Iran. I am a technician
and was working at an oil refinery in Iran. I had a good and happy life with my
family, but because of some difficulties with the Iranian government I had to
leave my country and my family.
I was working with a labour union and was asking for the rights of the
workers. On 5 July 2000 there was a big demonstration against the government in
Abadan city about the difficulties with the drinking water.
I was a leader of the labour union and was supporting that demonstration.
However, there were clashes between the police and the demonstrators and there
was big damage to government property.
So the Iranian government, which operates on strict Islamic rules, ordered
the arrest of the main people who had organized the demonstration. They arrested
lots of people and put them in prison, torturing them. Some of them were killed.
I was on the list of people ordered to be arrested and I believe I would have
been tortured and killed like some of my colleagues. So I left my country and my
family behind and came to Australia to seek asylum.
I thought this would protect me and my family, but unfortunately the
Australian Immigration Department put me in a detention centre at Port Hedland
surrounded with layers of razor wire. I am isolated for an unknown time. The
treatment that I and other detainees have received is inhuman and unacceptable.
My application for a protection visa was refused with no rational and logical
reasons. It seemed refused on the department’s personal opinion and not
The Australian Government has now reached an agreement with the Iranian
Government to forcibly send all Iranians in detention centres back to Iran. This
is a terrible breach of human rights. All of them will face death, not because
of their political problems with the Iranian Government, but because of the
serious issue that myself and most of the Iranian detainees have changed their
religion and become Christian. According to the strict rules of the Iran
Government, if someone converts their religion they will be killed so it is
clear that if they are forcibly returned they will be killed by the Iranian
I am closing this letter with a request that all human rights organizations,
Amnesty International, unions and Australian people, help save us from these
conditions be sympathetic to our situation.
With best regards
Daryoush Hooshmand Nejad (Bx1173)
Daryoush Hooshmand Nejad worked as an electrical technician in an oil
refinery in Iran for twelve years before he fled Iran in 2000. People in the
industrial city of Abadan, a major centre for Iran’s oil industry, had
been suffering from chronic shortages of drinking water. The effects of a
drought were made much worse by the incompetence and corruption of the local
government. When people protested in July 2000, the authorities shot dead two
protestors and riots erupted.
The Iranian Government, one of the most repressive in the world, responded
with a massive crackdown on the organisers of the protest. Daryoush is one of
many who were forced to flee for their lives or be killed.
Like many others, Daryoush has been failed by the cruel and often bizarre
rules administered by the Australian Government’s immigration department.
Now, like other refugees from Iran, he is facing the prospect of being forcibly
deported back to the country from which he fled. Two other men, brothers who
fled after the Abadan riots, were returned to Iran by the Australian Government
in August 2001 and April 2002. Family members went to meet the first man at the
airport, but he never came out. His brother has also disappeared.
Daryoush is one of 68 Iranians held in immigration detention in Australia.
The Government has over 100 refugees like Daryoush locked in Baxter, along with
around 150 other people. All the refugees have been detained for over three
years, some for up to six years – simply for fleeing to Australia to find
safety. Another 54 refugees are still jailed on the island of Nauru, and some
dozens more in Australian Government funded internment camps in Indonesia.
Daryoush has struggled for his freedom since being locked up by the
Australian Government. Before Christmas 2004 he was involved in a hunger strike
at Baxter detention centre. Like many others in Baxter, Daryoush suffers from
serious stress and mental illness as a result of his long and unjust
As unionists, we know that we all go forward together or we all go back
together. We know that the Australian government is attacking refugees to
promote racism and divide us from our fellow workers.
We are serious when we say “an injury to one is an injury to
all”. Today we must give solidarity to our union brother in Baxter, and
the many more refugees who are in his situation.
Propose a motion in your union to demand that the Australian government
immediately release Daryoush.
Then ask your union to send a letter to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone
(Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 Australia) informing her of your
union’s support for Daryoush’s release and bid to stay in Australia.
Please send copies to AAWL
Attend rallies to support freedom and justice for refugees with others from
Bring your union flags and banner. Check www.rac-vic.org for the latest information.
Organise to have a refugee speaker at your next union meeting to find out
more about life in the detention camps and different ways to support the
campaign. Call AAWL on 03 9663 7277 to organise this.
Contribute to the AAWL refugees project to support freedom for Daryoush and
all refugees in detention: Commonwealth Bank BSB 063123 Account: 10034866