Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s blood flows over all of us

Faysal Ishak Ahmed died on Saturday or was it yesterday … or was it six months ago. Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 27-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, collapsed inside the detention center on Manus Island, the dumping grounds for those refugees and asylum seekers who seek haven in Australia. This is the same Manus Island where 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed two years ago. Eight months ago, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared the detention center illegal. Papua New Guinea and Australia have “agreed” to close the center, but, to no one’s surprise, no time frame has been set. Faysal Ishak Ahmed did not collapse nor did he suffer a seizure. He was killed, and his blood joins the blood of Reza Barati; their blood flows everywhere.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s story is all too familiar. For at least six months Faysal Ishak Ahmed complained of chest pains, swollen arms and fingers, high blood pressure and a pain at the back of his head, seizures, blackouts and breathing difficulties. He begged and pleaded for medical care. Fellow prisoners begged and pleaded on his behalf. He wrote letters; fellow prisoners wrote letters. He deteriorated; he received no medical care. When he finally died, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection stated a refugee “has sadly died today from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Centre”. There is no sadness like sadness. Jesus wept, the State shrugged.

The story continues. Manus Island prisoners rebel for a while. Letters are written, protests are lodged, pictures and drawings emerge. In Sudan, Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s parents say they want their body returned to them. They also say that they have not been formally informed of his death by anyone from the Australian or the Papua New Guinean governments. The State’s great and deep sadness continues to oppress the vulnerable and the hurting.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed is just another name, just another death, in the litany of neoliberal global ethics in which he must bear full responsibility for the site of his birth, the color of his skin, and the nature of his faith. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that he spent three years in prison on Manus Island. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that he ever asked anyone for help, safety, or haven. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that he begged for six excruciating, agonizing months without any attention. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that the medical staff consistently claimed he was malingering and returned to his bed. It’s his fault, it’s altogether Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that his blood flows over all of us. We are innocent, we never saw him, we never knew. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault.

 

(Photo Credit 1: SBS Australia) (Photo Credit 2: The Guardian)

Reza Barati’s blood

Reza Barati died last week or was it yesterday. Reza Barati, 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker, was killed in an `encounter’ on Manus Island, the dumping grounds for those who seek asylum in Australia. Prisoners protested the lies they were being fed, the conditions they were forced to endure, the ongoing abuse. Guards rushed in, rushed out, rushed in again, and then the protest turned into `a riot’. According to eyewitness reports and an initial police report, when the guards, employees of G4S, rushed in, violence erupted.

Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, is Australia’s new final solution to the asylum and refugee problem. That there is no problem is irrelevant. Australia is not being overrun by asylum seekers.  As with other nation-States choosing punishment as a default response to asylum and refuge seekers, Australia is the problem. Not the seekers.

Liz Thompson worked as an asylum claims processor on Manus Island. She knows the situation, and she says: “It’s not designed as a processing facility, it’s designed as an experiment in the active creation of horror, to deter people from trying in the first place. These guys are smart, they know what’s going on, they know they’re being lied to, and having that stuff come to them from Immigration, from us, is just part of the active creation of horror. That’s what Manus Island is: it’s the active creation of horror in order to secure deterrence. And that’s why Reza Berati’s death is not some kind of crisis for the [immigration] department – it’s actually an opportunity, an opportunity to extend that [deterrence] logic one step further, to say, ‘this happens’.”

Across Australia, people have protested and held vigils. Artists have withdrawn from the Sydney Biennale because its principle corporate sponsor profits from “offshore detention.” Call it torture. On Christmas Island, asylum seekers have gone on hunger strike. When asked why, they answered, “Reza Barati’s blood.”

Meanwhile, outside of Australia, the news media, particularly the English language news media, has been silent. Search for Reza Barati, and you’ll see … or you won’t.

Instead of silence, let us hear: “In this desert of silence that now passes for our public life, a silence only broken by personal vilification of anyone who posits an idea opposed to power, it is no longer wise for a public figure to express concern about a society that sees some human beings as no longer human; a society that has turned its back on those who came to us for asylum – that is, for freedom, and for safety. And so, with our tongues torn we are expected to agree with the silence, with the lies, and with the murder of Reza Barati… There are no more fairy stories. The cane toads grow fatter. And Reza Barati’s corpse lies in a Port Moresby morgue with a large hole in the back of its head as inexplicable, as shameful as what our country has done.”

Cry the beloved country, cry the beloved world in which it exists. Reza Barati deserved better. We all do.

 

(Image Credit: Refugee Action Collective)