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Gone Girl - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 25 July , 2016

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I’m Caroline Jones. Tonight, a young woman who puts a human face to the issue of “unauthorised” boat arrivals in Australia. Her name is Mojgan Shamsalipoor. After fleeing terrible personal trauma in her home country, Iran, and making the hazardous journey to Australia, she found sanctuary, education and love in Brisbane. Yet her apparent good fortune came to an abrupt end when she was taken back into immigration detention. The future now looks bleak for Mojgan, yet she has supporters determined to see her allowed back into the community. This is their story.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: The luminous lantern parade is a yearly event where people in Brisbane come together to welcome new Queenslanders into our community. Last year was the first year that Yeronga State High School were involved in the lantern parade, and it was a really special evening because Mojgan was allowed to be with us there.

(Footage of Lantern Parade)

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: We didn't realise at the time how significant that event was, but Mojgan was just lit up, she kept saying, ‘Miss, it feels like a dream’, and looking around, um, at all the lights. And then Milad came and it was just a beautiful time.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Mojgan and Milad are young people, desperately wanting to be together, who have done so much already, in terms of forming a life together in Australia, calling this their home. The strength of their love and commitment for each other, in the middle of all this pain and suffering, is extraordinary.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL:: At the lantern parade this year, Milad was very up and down. He has so many memories, beautiful memories, of he and Mojgan being together in that place.

(Footage of Lantern Parade)
MILAD JAFARI, MOJGAN’S HUSBAND: She was, like, putting on the lipstick on and we were going to, like, kind of, get on the wheel and she was getting scared, you know, “It’s high”. And you know it was a really memorable night. I can’t believe that she’s still in detention and this is happening to us. I feel really numb actually, in limbo.
(Footage ends)

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: We didn't know at the time, that that would be the last evening that Mojgan has been free.

(Audio excerpt from ABC Radio AM, August 2015)
MOJGAN SHAMSALIPOOR: My name is Mojgan Shamsalipoor. I came to Australia in 2012 and I left from Iran to save my life. If I’m sent back, my government will kill me and they will arrest me and torture me and finally they will kill me.
(Excerpt ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Mojgan's story, before she came to Australia, it is horrendous what happened to her.

MILAD JAFARI: Mojgan told me she was beaten by the stepfather and was physically getting tortured by the stepfather. At the age of 15, Mojgan got raped by her stepfather.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: When things got really bad, Mojgan went to a friend's house to seek help but the older brother of her friend was home. Mojgan said he attacked her and he raped her. That man who raped her told the community that Mojgan had slept with him and it was consensual.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: She was accused by one of the family members, who had links to the Iranian government, of being immoral, which is a crime over there.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: So the step-father went, right, your name is mud. We need to get you married. I've got a friend of mine who can marry you - and that was a man in his late 50s - and if you don't marry this man, you’ll be cast out. Mojgan's mother actually said to her, ‘Go! Just get out of the country.’ She went to anybody and everybody that she could to get money to secure Mojgan's escape from Iran.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Mojgan and her brother then made this arduous trip from Iran to Indonesia and then by boat to Australia. Mojgan was 17 at the time. She was detained in Christmas Island, then in Darwin, then in community detention in Brisbane, and then finally released on a bridging visa while her case for a protection visa was being processed by the department. Milad came by boat with his family under very difficult circumstances, from Iran, as well.

MILAD JAFARI: I was a teenager when we left Iran and my dad was an anti-politic activist.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: He was involved in activities that were adverse to the Iranian authorities.

MILAD JAFARI: It was a really tough and really dangerous and horrible journey, I would say. Ended up with a broken engine on the boat and we thought that everyone will die after three day’s journey. And they cut the bamboo tree to use for the ball bearing inside the engine and 150 people survived. Six days later, Australian Customs got us onboard and we did respect the law and we did stay in detention.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: He has been recognised, after having gone through the visa protection assessment process, as a refugee. They’re just like any good Australian family. They run their own new carwash business.

MILAD JAFARI: We are working hard to make our little family business into a bigger kind of business so we can hire some people.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Although you can look at Mojgan and Milad and say, they're both people who fled Iran, they fall into very different categories when you talk about the reasons for why they left. Milad was a political asylum seeker whereas Mojgan's story is very personal.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: Milad and Mojgan met each other at a youth camp.

MILAD JAFARI, MOJGAN’S HUSBAND: And from that moment, I saw her eyes, I went, this is it. I couldn’t talk. I was like ‘Wow, this is like too much for me’ and she said, ‘Look, I think I know your feeling’, and that was like my dream come true. At that time I was doing my grade 10.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: Milad came to see me and said, ‘Miss, I've got this friend. Can she come to our high school?’ And when I met Mojgan, I felt that she’d be a really good fit for our school. I could see that she was very committed to education. That while she was clearly under stress and distressed, that she had a lot to give.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: When she first came to our school it was very uncomfortable because every time I saw her she would always be crying and Milad would always be supporting her.

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: Sometimes at school she would look quite tired, she'd look kind of exhausted and quite drained, which was really hard to see. I guess she tried to hide the fact that she was breaking a little bit.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: We tried to make sure that school was a place where things would be good and she would feel cared for and safe. It was a good year before Mojgan felt that she was able to come to school every day and have more good days than bad days. For Mojgan and Milad, over time, their love for each other became very much a stabilising effect on them both. It grew in intensity and grew in strength. Mojgan started to grow in confidence. She performed at our multicultural day festival. She started to dance.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: She was like a whole new person, she was very positive, she was very bright. That’s where you could see it that she developed the most, from crying every day to just being able to come to school with a smile on her face.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: She wanted to be a midwife, so we were looking at ways that she could achieve that. That became her burning ambition.

MILAD JAFARI: At that time, I decided to live with her so I can support her financially in Brisbane, so she can study without any stress.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: Milad and Mojgan, they'd been together for about two years when they decided to get married.

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: They were quite open about their relationship. I remember her talking about them being engaged in drama class and you know, she was showing us her ring and she was so happy. I remember that.

MILAD JAFARI: We were truly happy together, and there was a time period between we got married and when she was detained, it was the best days of our life. My family, I would say, love Mojgan more than myself, even. They call her as their daughter which they never had.

(Excerpt from home video)
MRS JAFARI, MILAD’S MOTHER: When Mojgan’s coming back, I’m very happy.
(Excerpt ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: It was late 2014 when all of Mojgan's protection visa processes finished.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: The refugee tribunal decided that her case for asylum was not legitimate and that she could not be, um, be settled in Australia as a person seeking asylum.

PROF ANDREAS SCHLOENHARDT, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND: The whole system of refugee protection is based on the fact that it is the state, the government, official entities, that are persecuting individuals from whom they flee. So they flee from a war, they flee from discrimination, they flee from political suppression. Individualised violence by family members, as in this case, is one that was not envisaged when this protection system was created.

MILAD JAFARI: At immigration department she did not talk about her rape by the family member. The only person who knew at that time, it was myself.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: It was very clear when I read the decision that not being able to talk about her sexual abuse and rape did severely impact on her ability to satisfy a stranger, um, that um, she was owed protection by Australia.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: When you come from a culture where women don't ever speak about rape or sexual assault, it's not surprising that Mojgan didn't say, here's the nitty gritty details of what occurred with me.

MILAD JAFARI: Later on, when we say that to immigration, they wanted some evidence. Well you cannot find any evidence where a family member rape you, there is no videotapes or anything of this.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: They told Mojgan that she needed to go back into detention in Brisbane and she was incarcerated in Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation.

MILAD JAFARI: It was the worst week of my life. I don't know how Mojgan could survive that moment, it was so hard for me to believe that this is actually happening.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: And it was just before the year 12 year started, so we had to campaign, as a school community, and ask them if Mojgan could have permission to continue her education. Each day, in year 12 she was brought to school with a guard on a bus and sometimes she was searched when she came into school.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: I was shocked. I was like, how does this girl come to school every day with a smile on her face, and yet still face that situation at the end of the day? So I thought that was, that was remarkable.

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: It was really shocking to see her being watched all the time, you know, like she was an animal or something, you know, it's really strange.
MILAD JAFARI: They kept her in Brisbane detention for eight months.

(Excerpt from ABC RADIO AM, August 2015
Eric Tlozek, presenter: The Australian Government is putting rejected Iranian asylum seekers back into detention if they don’t voluntarily return to Iran. Many claim they will be tortured or killed if they go back. Mojgan Shamsalipoor had been living with her husband before being put back in detention.
MOGJAN SHAMSALIPOOR: It's very upsetting and hurtful because we're just young and we love each other and all our dream was for living together and make our life and be happy….
I will kill myself before to go Iran. Dying peacefully is better than die with torture.
(End of excerpt)

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: One day she called me. She was very distressed, and she was saying, ‘Miss, I don't know what's happening. The guards have said, there’s no school today, you're not allowed to go to school today, and I'm really worried. I think something's going to happen’. The word got around that people were going to be transferred. Mojgan lodged an official complaint about the way she was treated.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Mojgan was dragged onto a vehicle, taken to the airport and flown to Darwin to Wickham Point Detention Centre.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: I particularly felt that I hadn't done enough, like, how could she be taken, like how could, I couldn't stop it, so that was really distressing for our school community, and for me in particular because I, I felt so close to Mojgan, and I'd reassured her that she was safe here.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: It's very shocking, because she wasn't that far away from graduating, and we all thought that she was going to be part of it, and then when the news came, it was kind of hard to comprehend.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: We rallied our community, our P&C, our teachers, in support of Mojgan. We became very galvanised.

(Footage of protest)
CROWD CHANTING Open the borders close the camps. Free the refugees.
EDEN BOYD: We feel as if our sister has been stolen from us.
JESSICA WALKER: But her physical body is out in the middle of nowhere in North Australia.
MILAD JAFARI: She’s scared, she’s desperate; she’s exhausted of this life that she’s living.
(Footage ends)

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: It was heartbreaking, the moment he spoke, everyone would, the crowd would just melt, basically, hearing him speak.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: It really opened my eyes to how a community can come together. So being able to experience that was very exciting for me. Very sad but it felt really empowering.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: At Wickham Point, people are given the option of either voluntarily going back to Iran or staying in indefinite detention. It was very clear, when I visited her, that although she was putting on a brave face, she was constantly um, scared - scared of what might happen to her, scared of if she'll ever be together with Milad again.

MILAD JAFARI, MOJGAN’S HUSBAND: I tried to go and see her once a month, or two months. We went in. There is the guard in the corner, sitting, watching us. The first thing they said, ‘You cannot hug inside that facility, you cannot touch each other that much, you cannot kiss’. And I hugged her, and I wasn't allowed, but I just tried to just get in to her and you know hug her very deeply, and very hard, and the guard was saying, you know, that's it, you know, that's it, and I couldn't stop hugging her.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: So she can't live with her husband, she can't start a family. Even in prison, people have conjugal visits they can apply for. A person in immigration detention cannot.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: Where an Australian permanent resident is married to an overseas national, they're allowed to sponsor them to remain in Australia as their family unit. Now you'd expect Milad to have the same rights, except there are provisions in the migration act which say that if anyone arrived by boat, then the only way in which they can apply for any visa in Australia, is by the minister's intervention. Now if the Minister does not intervene, the only possible way for her to lodge a valid partner visa would be to leave Australia and apply for a partner visa offshore. Mojgan was very clear through all this though, that she is never going back to Iran. Iran does not accept forced deportees from Australia.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: So the government can't deport her but it leaves Mojgan, you know, nowhere. Where is she? She's in detention indefinitely. What, is she going to stay there for the rest of her life? Our Queensland Teachers Union paid for us teachers to fly to Darwin and to investigate how we get her schooling complete.

(Footage of Jessica Walker driving in her car)
JESSICA IN CAR: In Darwin, she was just drained. The light had gone out of her face. She had dark circles under her eyes. She was very down and just, you know, felt like she had no hope I think. : It’s really hard to leave her there, that you, that you, get to see her and spend time with her but then you leave her there and that’s always hard, driving away
(Footage ends)

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL:The conditions in Wickham Point are not pleasant. Mojgan has chronic kidney infections; she's got scars on her arms and legs from bites from the sandflies.

(Footage of Kevin Kadirgamar and supporters in a meeting)
KEVIN KADIRGAMAR: And the visa criteria just above the partner visa is parent visa which take about 40 years...
(Footage ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: We then went about formulating a submission, explaining to the minister what a compelling and compassionate case this was.

PROF ANDREAS SCHLOENHARDT, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND: The Minister has the discretion and the power to grant visas on compassionate grounds. This is one of those cases where he could do that.

MILAD JAFARI: Mojgan started to study again and she didn’t care where she is. It didn't affect her studies, she still had A, Bs, you know, all those good marks, and she just kept doing the hard work because she believed in her dreams. So, she finished high school.

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: All of us so desperately wanted her to be there at graduation, to see her walk across the stage, it would have been amazing.

AMBER MOKO, SCHOOL FRIEND: Milad was there to accept the award on her behalf, and, you could just see it, that he was very proud of her, what she had done.

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: A speech was played from her.

(Footage of speech)
MOJGAN SHAMSALIPOOR: To thank each and every one of the teachers and staff members who treated me like their own family, gave me love and helped me stand up on my feet. Becoming a high school graduate was impossible without you.
(Footage ends)

EDEN BOYD, SCHOOL FRIEND: She sounded not defeated, she sounded quite happy, and, for us, it was great to have her a part of the graduation as well, so that she, you know, graduated with us.

MILAD JAFARI: I got the graduation certificate and I actually framed it in my room so when she comes out, she can put it somewhere.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: So for the next around six months, we were in the dark, we had no idea what was happening with Mojgan's case. There were people on all sides of politics willing to speak up for Mojgan, and they did.

(Footage of Federal Parliament)
Graham Perrett, ALP Member for Moreton: I rise to speak about a Yeronga state High School Student who is not celebrating schoolies down at the Gold Coast. Instead she’s in a detention facility in Darwin.
(Footage ends)

(Footage of protest rally)
Protestestors: What do we want? Free Mojgan! When do we want it? Now!
Jessica Walker: And we been campaigning and fighting. This is our sixth rally.
Protesters: Free the refugees! Refugees are people too! Free Mojgan!
Eden Boyd: We will continue to fight until Mojgan and other innocent refugees are free.
Protesters: Open the borders. Close the camps. Free the refugees!
(Footage ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: In February 2016, we got correspondence from the Department of Immigration to the effect that the minister's office had refused to intervene in Mojgan's case.

MILAD JAFARI: That means more time in detention. I didn't tell to Mojgan. I told a lie. I said ‘It’s not going to work somehow but I’m sure that Kevin will sort it’. And Mojgan could not talk for some seconds, she was like, are you telling me truth? And I was like, I couldn't say anything, and I just hanged up the phone.

(Excerpt of ABC News, 3 May 2016
REPORTER: Four of the nation’s key immigration facilities will close. Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton announced that Darwin’s Wickham Point facility lease would not be renewed.
(Excerpt ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: and I heard that she would be transferred back to Brisbane.

(Footage of Milad Rafari in car with younger brother)
Milad: We’re going for Mojgan pickup right. She’s coming to Brisbane very soon today.
Brother: I hope she comes out soon.
Milad: I hope she comes out soon - my love
(Footage ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: The way she was transferred back to Brisbane is another escapade altogether. She was surrounded by guards the whole time while she was disembarking the airplane. Of course there was Milad waiting for her with a bunch of roses, ready to welcome her.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: As she came through the gate, Milad stood up and the guards would not allow her to stop. Milad could see that they were going to walk past, so he stepped in front of her and hugged her.

MILAD JAFARI: They took her away from me, from my hug, and they didn't allow her to have the flowers.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: You could see how distraught Milad is, when Mojgan is whisked away by guards and he's left there by himself. What I know about Milad now, his life is not just about him anymore. His life is consumed, totally, by what's happened to Mojgan.

MILAD JAFARI: When she came here to Brisbane she start telling me that you’ve got a good voice, why don’t you follow your music again? So I’ve decided to do my album, ah which is ah all about Mojgan’s story.

(Footage of Milad Rafari recording his singing in studio)
MILAD JAFARI: It is in Persian, it is a modern pop; ah, it’s not a traditional music.
MILAD JAFARI, SINGING: All we want is live again, all I want is my wife back here with me.
(Footage ends)

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: We have complained to the Human Rights Commission on the basis that Mojgan’s detention is arbitrary and indefinite. The Department has initiated a submission to the Minister’s office for what we call a residency determination. Unfortunately it seems that the Minister has again refused and declined to intervene and make a residency determination.

JESSICA WALKER, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, YERONGA STATE HIGH SCHOOL: Our school community most certainly will not give up the fight for Mojgan to be free. We’ve been involved in actively campaigning for over a year now and we won’t be stopping.

KEVIN KADIRGAMAR, MOJGAN’S LAWYER: In the legal side, no stone will be left unturned for Mojgan; every legal avenue possible will be explored.

MILAD JAFARI: If you put yourself into our shoe you might understand a bit of my feelings. It is nothing to do with the policies, it is nothing to do with, ah, the government, it is just to do with two people who love each other so much and they want to live together. Yeah.