“I always try to look for the beauty within” states Amin Afravi, an Iranian-Arab human rights activist who has been detained in Australia’s detention centre for over seven years and was recently transferred to Kangaroo Point in Queensland where he is supposed to be receiving medical treatment.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this interview, I have interviewed many people of refugee and immigration background for my academic research. But this was different.
Amin has been seeking rights and to live in peace not just for himself, but for everyone that he befriends. Growing up in Iran where his wife and 10-year old son lives, Amin has always been active in the fight for Human Rights. “Are we not all Human? Everyone deserves respect and dignity based on our shared humanity.” He couldn’t be more right. Yet, despite his hardships, Amin still seeks to see the good in everyone he meets, “I see myself as a therapist, I try to help and fix people if I can.” So, I was not surprised when he told me he dreams of being a mechanic, fixing motorbikes once he is free. “I like work that keeps my hands busy, it keeps me happy.” I tell him he has an engineer’s mind, always calculating ways to put things together “I can’t sit still and work behind a computer all day, there is no meaning in that, I don’t know how you do it.” Again, he couldn’t be more right, I don’t know how I do it. Amin’s philosophy on the nature of life is inspiring and made me reassess my own decisions.
Despite Amin’s sense of honesty and humility, I soon realise that this way of thinking did not come easy to him. Forced to stay inside day in and day out was bound to create mental and emotional suffering. But Amin tries to remain hopeful. “I am already in prison, so there is no point of making another one in my mind.” Amin talks of his dream to be reunited with his family and what he sees in his future. He talks about seeking freedom and peace, “there isn’t a lot in the world that we need to make us feel happy, our families, home, freedom to be able to control our own lives and a peace of mind is more than enough.” He talks about the importance of honesty and keeping fulfilled life and making sure that we try in the fullest capacity to help everyone, regardless of our current situations. If we help others, we help ourselves, and that in itself, can make a big difference in this world.
I asked him about his favourite memory and what his greatest achievement is, with a big smile, Amin tells me about the day his son was born, and his life’s pleasure has been to watch him grow. “the last time I saw him was when he was three, it was his birthday a couple of days ago, he turned 10 and we celebrated over the phone, but I don’t think he recognizes me as his father, but I try to always keep in touch as much as I can.” We then discuss the importance of communication and how refugee voices are being suppressed.
“Communication is important, how are supposed to learn? I talk a lot so that people can learn about us and our situation, and just like them we are also human beings, change isn’t going to happen if we don’t see each other’s humanity.”
Amin’s incredible wisdom has never been more pertinent in a world that is lacking a sense of humanity. We know the plight of people like Amin, but it is also important to recognize that these people are human beings and not just a story to justify whatever agenda and then be forgotten, these are people. Amin is right in many ways; we do need to communicate have more conversations. Instead of talking on behalf of Amin, I can help elevate his voice and fight as an ally, because just like Amin said, no one should decide on who deserves to live in peace and freedom, it is an unequivocally a human right.
Written by Amar Mustafa, volunteer and Archaeology student at Monash University.