Sayed Kasim’s story
Sayed, who has recently been released from Villawood detention centre after being forced to flee first Burma, then Malaysia, asked us to post this thank you letter to his supporters, along with photos below of Sayd at the recent “Villawood: Survival + Resistance” art show at the ICE building in Parramatta.
A letter to Sayed Kasim’s supporters
My name is Sayed Kasim and I would like to thank the Australian government and all of the people who supported my family and me during the one year and ten months that I spent in the Villawood Immigration and Detention Centre.
My troubles began in my homeland of Burma. As a member of the Rohingya Muslim minority, I was not allowed to receive any public or secondary school education. Instead I was educated in the religious school in my village. My membership in the Democratic Party for Human Rights also put me at odds with the Burmese government. After applying to the authorities to open a school in my village, I was seized and then tortured by the Burmese military.
In 1992, I escaped to Malaysia, where I registered as a refugee with the UNHCR. I met my wife and married in Malaysia in 2003. We had four children. There, I opened a school for the children of Rohingya refugees in the city of Klang in 2005. However, in 2009 I was targeted by a large religious party in Malaysia who resent the presence of Rohingya refugees, and who threatened my life on many occasions. After it became clear that neither the UNHCR, various NGOs, nor the Malaysian police were able to help me, I was forced to leave my wife and children and take a boat to Australia. If I had had the money, I would have brought them with me.
On 4 January 2010, I arrived at Christmas Island and was given refugee status after 6 months in detention. However I was then to wait over a year for my security clearance from ASIO. My wife had no means of livelihood during this time, and was forced to put my eldest son in an orphanage. She became homeless for two days before finding temporary refuge in the home of another refugee. During this time, I felt powerless and became extremely distressed. My family were starving and losing all hope of survival. Yet thanks to the kindness and generosity of my supporters here in Australia, I was able to send money to my wife, who could then afford a home and food for our children. My son was taken out of the orphanage and reunited with the family.
My heartfelt thanks go out to the people who have supported me: Bert Mendelsohn, Peter Wise, Helena Ameisen, Safdar Ahmed, Bilquis Ghani, Mahmood Ghani, Ann-Marie Meeks, Carl Connor, Mark Goudkamp, Graham Thom, Abdulah Zayied, Annarose Robinson, Naza Alkhateeb, Jessica Hill, Sarah Whitney, Jessica Compton, and everyone else who followed my case.
After 20 months in detention, I received the news that my security clearance came through and am now experiencing my first days of freedom in this country. Words cannot express my happiness, given that I was not truly free in the past, neither in Burma nor in Malaysia. I would like to thank the Australian Government and my supporters for giving me a new life and a new future for my family. And because human rights apply to everyone, I call on the Australian government to release people from detention. I am particularly concerned to see that other asylum seekers are going through the kind of agony that I experienced.
With peace, Sayed Kasim.