Abyan Contradicts Dutton And Turnbull In Interview With Former Liberal Staffer


The refugee removed from Australia on Friday says she still wants an abortion. Max Chalmers reports.

An Australian working at a major media outlet appears to have been allowed access to Nauru for possibly the first time since the country effectively banned foreign journalists in early 2014, with The Australian newspaper today running a front page story on the refugee returned to the island after requesting an abortion in Australia, known by the pseudonym Abyan.

The story, authored by former senior Liberal staffer Chris Kenny, reveals the 23-year-old Somali woman is standing by her account of the now heavily covered incident that saw her suddenly deported from Australia, despite her lawyers insisting she still wished to have an abortion.

While the Department of Immigration, Minister Peter Dutton, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have all publicly stated Abyan was only returned after indicating she did not want an abortion, the 23-year-old told The Australian she was still seeking one, and would now look for options outside of Australia.

“Yes, I still want an abortion,” she was reported as saying. “But I don’t want Australia, I want to go to another country.”

Abyan’s account aligns with that given by refugee advocates and her Australian based lawyers, who have said she indicated clearly to them she still wanted to undergo the operation, but first wanted to consult with a counsellor due to her own severely deteriorated health condition.

“I was physically and mentally sick,” she was quoted as saying. “I wanted to make sure I could make my health good first. I did not say ‘no’.”

Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton has heavily criticised her advocates, despite a letter authored by Abyan appearing to confirm she still wanted an abortion on Monday.

“The advice to me was absolutely clear, that the lady after all of this consultation had decided a particular course of action and I’m very, very concerned about the privacy of this lady but I’m dragged into this debate to clear up what I think is a political motivation by some of the advocates in this sphere,” he told the ABC’s Fran Kelly on Monday morning. “So I’m angry this lady’s privacy has been exposed but none the less if her lawyers are prepared to put this issue out then I feel a responsibility to respond.”

In the interview Dutton declined to explain exactly how Abyan had communicated her position.

In a dramatic Federal Court appearance on Friday, Abyan’s lawyers attempted to win a short-term injunction preventing her from being returned to Nauru, only for government lawyers to inform the court the woman had already been deported. With no earlier flights to Nauru available, she had been sent to Honiara before the matter could be heard, and has now been returned to Nauru.

Dutton has left open the possibility Abyan could return to Australia, though she is already around some weeks passed the optimal period to terminate a pregnancy, according to her lawyers.

Abyan, who reiterated her claim she was pregnant as the result of a rape in her interview with The Australian, is not able to receive an abortion on Nauru, where the procedure remains illegal.

While Abyan’s contradiction of the Minster and his department’s assurances are significant, equally astounding is the existence of the report itself.

Nauru has seen an increasingly severe crackdown on civil liberties, freedom of the press, and democratic procedures in the past two years, as the government headed by President Baron Waqa has brushed off serious allegations of corruption while deporting members of the judiciary and banning the return of members of opposition parties.

In response to the deterioration of the rule of law, New Zealand has suspended its aid to the country’s justice sector.

Just one week ago, Save the Children staff on the island were raided by police, reportedly over suspicions they had helped blow the whistle on abuses in the island’s immigration detention centre.

In early 2014 the government upped the application fee for foreign journalists wishing to visit the country to $8,000.

In spite of that deterrence, several senior journalists and major international news outlets have made repeated efforts to visit the island and agreed to pay the fee. When Al Jazeera recently agreed to pay the money and tried to lodge an application for its journalists to visit the island it was initially ignored, and later told by a Nauruan official that “all media application [sic]is not approved”.

Not so for The Australian’s Chris Kenny, it seems, a former Chief of Staff to Malcolm Turnbull, staunch supporter of the Coalition’s refugee deterrent policies, and one of the leaders of the attacks on Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs.

In a tweet this morning Kenny appeared to confirm he was on Nauru, and continued a favourite line of attack.

Aside from being able to inspect Nauru, Kenny’s other notable contribution to press freedom came in 2013, when he sued The Chaser after the ABC satirists televised a joke that depicted him having sex with a dog.

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.