September 4, 2014

Twirling towards freedom

Hamid Kehazaei and the whispering in our hearts

By Michaela McGuire
Hamid Kehazaei and the whispering in our hearts

What is saddest about the brain death of 24-year-old Iranian man Hamid Kehazaei is what could have saved him: a pair of shoes, or some basic medical treatment. Perhaps just a bandaid.

A bandaid.

What is most infuriating are the reports of the time it took to provide Kehazaei with adequate medical attention. The former director of mental health services at Manus Island, Peter Young, describes delay as “part and parcel” of detaining refugees in remote locations. Kehazaei cut his foot, the cut became infected, and by the time he was given treatment on Manus Island the infection was too severe. The International Health and Medical Service’s request to transfer him to a hospital on mainland Australia was denied. Kehazaei was evacuated to Brisbane’s Mater Hospital last Thursday, where he was diagnosed with severe septicaemia. On Wednesday night this week he was pronounced brain dead.

After Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young commented on the “disgraceful lack of care,” a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on the alleged delay. “The government has consistently focused on the care of this young man and his family, as well as respecting their privacy,” she said instead. “These are our primary concerns. It is disappointing that the Greens have sought to politicise this very sensitive and serious matter in this way.”

Among the concerns of those Australians who do not happen to be employed by the Department of Immigration, however, is not only that a man who sought our protection will die because he wasn’t given a fucking bandaid, but also that incredibly serious incidents, like this one, seem to go on unchecked. An Iranian man who witnessed the murder of Reza Barati in February has alleged on Facebook that he was taken to a secret compound on Manus Island, tied to a chair, beaten and threatened with rape and murder if he did not retract his police statement. Scott Morrison has remained tight-lipped, droning only that all that occurred to this man was “in accordance with operational policy.”

Horror like this cannot be buried under the weight of press statements. We don’t know all that is happening in offshore detention centres, but we know enough.

As the Abbott government approaches its first birthday, it has revealed itself to be an administration either completely blind to, or unafraid of, hypocrisy. During Sunday night’s weekly briefing session, Morrison revealed that asylum seekers have been returned to Syria, Iran and Iraq under the so-called voluntary return package. This week US President Barack Obama has more or less declared war on Iraq, and Abbott has said that he is “considering what we may be able to make available” in response to a “general request” from Obama that we provide military assistance in Iraq. Before long, we can realistically expect to see Australia sending refugees back to a country we’re at war with. All this, to supposedly protect the quality of life in a country where, as of this week, citizens are going to retire poorer and mining magnates are allowed to decide that their companies should not be taxed.

Tonight, candles will be lit for Hamid Kehazaei in snap vigils that have been organised by GetUp all around the country. A lit candle isn’t much, and it isn’t a solution, but it is a sign that not all Australians want to destroy our country while trying to protect it.

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.

@michaelamcguire

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Letter from Dunkley

As a byelection drew the nation’s focus to the scrappy suburb of the author’s childhood, a visit revealed the damage wrought by the housing crisis

Kim Williams seen through window with arms half-raised

The interesting Mr Williams

At a time when the ABC faces more pressure than ever before, is its new chair the right person for the job?

Andrew Tate in dark sunglasses flanked by two men, attending his trial in Bucharest, Romania, July 2023

The Tate race

Online misogyny touted by the likes of Andrew Tate (awaiting trial for human trafficking and rape) is radicalising Australian schoolboys

Exterior of the Department of Treasury, Canberra

Tax to grind

Tax reform should not be centred on what we want, but on who we want to be

Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality