The conversation that hurts.
He sits uncomfortably when I ask about the trip. He is looking at the floor; his voice breaks on every word.
“Were you scared from the waves and the open ocean?” I ask.
“No.” he answers.
“Were others scared?”
He takes a deep breath “Yeah most of them, some even peed and you know … went toilet in their pants.”
I’m not sure how to take the emotion running though me in that moment. Images of the pictures I’ve seen in the media come in my mind and I show him few to tell me what the boat looked like.
“Because they held guns in our faces.”
“This one, exactly like this one.” I catch the flicker of pain and recognition in his eyes.
He continues, “Over hundred people on this small, old and wrecked boat.”
“Was this the boat you got on?” I felt there was more to say.
“No.” He pauses, “We got on a beautiful yacht and an hour later in the middle of the water we stopped and transferred to the small boat.”
“Why?” I ask confused.
“Because they held guns in our faces.” His fists clinched.
This story that I’m being told hurts more than any other as this refugee is my partner.
When we first met I didn’t know he was a refugee. When he told me he was extremely nervous and worried that I wouldn’t like him because of it. As we got to know each other he told me more of his life, as referred to the life on the other side before Christmas Island.
His life before is only his to share with the world if he chooses to, but he did let me say this; the scars on his body represent his rejection of religion and his rejection of orders to shoot innocent people including children.
We all remember the child on the beach whose life ended on a boat with hopes for a better life, for freedom.
My partner was asked to shoot children just like the Syrian boy. When he refused to do so his life changed and became a living hell. His only way to freedom was a way out of a place that once before was free. While I make plans to see my family back home in few months time, he can only daydream about it. Is that freedom?
In 2013 things turned for the worst in Australia with the new changes in refugee law, leaving over 30 000 people with fear and uncertainty for their lives.
Australian people share their disappointment with the government on social media and they prove to the world that not all of us are as self-centered and racist as the people leading us.
Vast number of these refuges would face death, torture or imprisonment if they returned to their home country. The question is what would we, the Australian people do, if we were in their position? Wouldn’t we take all measures to protect our families? Would’t we run as fast as we can to safety? Of course we would, but it’s easier to say ‘stop the boats’ while we watch the horror on our TV screens.
“Do you feel free in Australia?” I ask.
“Yes and no.” he says. “I’m free from following a religion, I’m free to walk the streets, I’m free to speak my mind.” His eyes tear up, “I can’t see my mum, I miss her so much, I miss my family, I miss my house, I miss home.”
The boat people are; chefs, Olympic medalists, engineers, … people.