'No Woman Has The Right To Have A Voice'


This week New Matilda published letters written by Iranian women in detention on Manus Island. Today we publish five more letters by women from Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Read part one of Letters From Manus here, and part two here.

For security reasons the authors have not used their names or disclosed some particular forms of individual persecution which relate to their asylum applications. They received translation assistance.

Letter from a 30 year old Hazari woman from Pakistan.
I am a 30 years old Hazari woman from Quetta in Pakistan, the city that terrorists have turned into a place of violence. Here the days are like nights, dark and black. It is a city where mothers are grieving the loss of their children, where many women are wearing black in mourning from losing their husbands. It is a city where children are deprived of their fathers.

Quetta is a city where there is no peace, where my husband and I have fled the country to live in peace and safety. We travelled to Australia to do this and seek refuge, thinking that still there are people who value humanity and human beings. But through my experiences in the Refugee Camps I have lost my hope that I can be heard or helped.

I want to shout even for once in my life and to see if there is still someone who is valuing humanity and our lives. Is there anyone who can show me that humanity hasn’t died. Can I still be hopeful?

I am still reaching out my hands to people. Please help me!

Letter from 38 year old Iraqi woman with husband and two children
I am a 38 years old woman from Iraq. I am currently staying in Manus Island Camp along with my husband and two children. From my childhood I have always had a hard difficult life. I lost my father when I was three months old. One of my brothers was imprisoned by Saddam Hussain, and the other one was a fugitive.

Two of my uncles and a few other family relatives have been killed by Saddam. I have never had a good childhood or peace or happiness. Due to difficulties we migrated from Iraq to Iran with my family. In Iran I married an Iraqi man.

We had a hard time in Iran as foreigners. We had no rights. We were not allowed to trade, buy a car, or have any entitlement to own property. We never had social security or any help from government. We had no right to work. We only had permission to be there, nothing else. The life was so hard but we could not go back to our country. We were stuck there in this terrible situation.

This situation continued until Saddam Hussain was overthrown and the government in Iraq changed. We decided to return to our country. Many of our relatives had been killed and the country was in a civil war. There was no safety. It was possible that we could leave our house in the morning and never return. We could be kidnapped or killed in a road bomb.

My family and I are Muslim. There are religious parties in Iraq that are fighting each other and making the country very unsafe. We always live in the fear of getting killed in this conflict.

My children always live in fear and stress and as a mother it was heartbreaking to see this. This was only part of the problem. I had to leave Iraq again based on different reasons also. First we came to Malaysia, then to Indonesia, and finally with a lot of suffering and hardship we came to Christmas Island. Then we were transferred to Manus Island and we are being kept here in uncertainty. My daughter has a blood disease. There are no facilities or medical treatment available.

I am a mother. Despite the fact I am sick myself and have mental problems, I have to be constantly concerned and worried about my children, so there is little time or energy to care for my own needs or situation.

Please help us and save us so we can start a new life in Australia.

Letter from 24 year old Afghan woman
I am a 24 years old woman from Afghanistan. I used to live in a place where women had it very hard. If only a centimeter of our body was shown in public we would be persecuted for that. I had difficulties even for studying or going to school as study is considered like a crime for a woman. I would not even be allowed to leave my home alone. A man from my own blood or my husband would have to accompany me.

If I became sick only a female physician could check me out and a man would never be allowed to do this for a woman. In Afghanistan women even don’t have the right to choose their own husband.

Afghanistan is like a state of ghosts. No woman has the right to have a voice. I had no security and safety for my life and now I have tried to escape from all that. I was thinking that I would come to Australia where the rights of women would be defended properly. But they have brought me here…

I was even forced to leave my little girl behind in the harsh situations and unsafe environment of Afghanistan. I did all this in search of peace and security for her. But now, even my own situation is floating in the air. I don’t know what is going to happen for me. I am very worried about my little girl and I miss her a lot. I ask you please if you are a woman and a mother if you can feel my emotions please help me to be able to see my daughter once more. I would love to give her a big hug and start a new life with her away from the danger and insecurity of Afghanistan.

Letter from 34 year old Afghani woman
I am a 34 years old woman. From very early on in my life women had to always be isolated from society. As a young girl I never had the right to participate in social gatherings the way I would have wanted to. In very hot days of summer I had to be covered with very illogical attire, which I had to put on.

The sufferings of us women were not just limited to only a few things. The eyes of young men who were sexually oppressed by the Mullah regime would be constantly following and suffocating us women and we were constantly in danger of sexual predators.

After that period when we grew up and created a family for ourselves we thought our problems would be finished but it was completely the opposite. Due to the predicaments that happened for my husband the authorities started persecuting my children and myself. Threats were an everyday thing in our lives. We had turned into nomads, moving from one town to another which resulted in us finally putting our lives in our hands and stepping into a journey of immigration.

We accepted all the hardships even though we could lose our lives in every step of the way. God helped us and we finally arrived on Christmas Island. We spent two months there. Even though I was a very quiet person, still they bought us here to Manus Island. It is now four months that we are in detention centres. I am suffering from many emotional and psychological problems.

My biggest worry is for my children. I don’t know what will be in the future for us. We came here with thousands of hopes and with the thoughts that we are coming to a free and just country. Life is very difficult here. I am a mother and I can see that my children are living in a harsh psychological situation. Please help me and my children.

A group letter written by several Tamil women from Sri Lanka

Young people were tortured, girls raped.
We, the Tamil refugees living in Manus Island would like to bring to your kind notice that due to the war that took place in our motherland, Sri Lanka, for the last three decades our lives have been severely affected. Due to the harassment by the army we lost our relatives, our wealth and stayed in many refugee camps without knowing what action that we have to take. After some years we went back to our place to live when the war was settled.

Then the army started to kidnap our youths with the help of unknown persons. They also misbehaved and tortured youngsters and girls were raped. There was no law and order in our country and we had no rights to question them and report our fates. We knew our lives were in danger and came to you seeking freedom and safety.

There was a law to say that those who arrived after 13th August 2012, no processing will be done in Australia, but will be processed in another country. However, we accepted your instructions and without making any problems we came to Manus Island. Although you sent a selected crowd to Manus and almost 2 months passed and still we were waiting with no news. Due to this, ourselves and our children, day by day, are undergoing a difficult situation with stress and psychological trauma.

We came to know that some people who arrived in Australia after our boat’s arrival were given temporary visas and allowed to stay in your country. We don’t know why you have sent us only to Manus Island, hence, we earnestly request your good selves, with our broken hearts, to make the processing as early as possible and we are hoping to hear some good news from you soon.

Note: More about human rights abuses against Tamils can be found in Trevor Grant’s New Matilda report on Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr and Shadow Minister Julie Bishop’s visit to Sri Lanka.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.