Religious 'bullying' among Christmas Island detainees

Tabari 9:69 “Killing unbelievers is a small matter to us…”

“They’re basically seen as sinners. They’re looked upon as Christians and Jews by the fundamental Muslims. So they’re tortured because they’re sinners.”

“It is not a cruelty to kill blasphemers, rather blasphemy itself is such an enormous brutality that the one who commits it neither has got a right to live in this world nor is there any pardon for the blasphemer,” Daily Jasarat quoted Mr Hammadi as saying.

ABC/By Jennifer Macey on a tip from Mullah

An Iraqi asylum seeker being detained on Christmas Island says he is living in fear that he will be targeted by other detainees because of his religious beliefs.

In Iraq, life is getting harder for believers in faiths other than Islam.

At the end of last month, an attack on Iraq’s dwindling Christian community left 58 people dead and Al Qaeda has warned that more killings would follow.

Another victimised minority are the Sabian Mandaean, whose followers revere John the Baptist.

Some have fled to Australia and now a Mandaean detainee on Christmas Island fears that the persecution has followed him here.

Salah Azuhari, 45, fled from his village in southern Iraq because of religious persecution.

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Speaking through ABC local radio’s Hana Vieva, Mr Azuhari said that other Iraqi detainees have bullied him.

“They told him he had no right to sit with them, eat with them, be in their presence. And they said that because of his religious belief he has no right to live in Iraq or anywhere else,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s been on the run since Iraq and Jordan and he feels like he’s still on the run even though he’s in Australia.”

Mr Azuhari has been in detention on Christmas Island for one month.

He says his family in Iraq were tortured by the Mehdi army and the Badr forces, a political party.

“He and his family were tortured, his family was bombed. His uncle received a nail to his head. So they basically bashed a nail through his brain. He was subsequently kidnapped, tortured and put around dead bodies, other dead bodies,” the interpreter said.

“They’re basically seen as sinners. They’re looked upon as Christians and Jews by the fundamental Muslims. So they’re tortured because they’re sinners.”

The Mandaeans are pacifists and their religion prevents them from taking part in protests.

Mr Azuhari says that is why he refused to go on a hunger strike to protest against the death of an Iraqi detainee in Villawood.

“He is a law-abiding citizen who follows the rules. He’s doing that in the detention centre,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s isolated and he’s isolated himself because he fears. He has been threatened to be killed while he sleeps.

“He feels that the situation in the detention centre is like, exactly the situation in Iraq.”

Immigration Department spokeswoman Sandi Logan says the Department is not aware of any complaints being made but if there were serious concerns to a client’s ongoing welfare the Department would consider moving them.

“It’s also an opportunity for people who do believe they have a strong claim to remain in Australia to begin to live with Australian values and to live under Australian norms,” she said.

“This means that where there is inter-faith conflict that it is resolved in a peaceful and amicable way.

“That is certainly the training that our staff have but, as I say, these are quite rare. They are not common in immigration detention.”

But former Human Rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski says this is not the first incident of religious bullying.

In 2003 Amnesty International made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of a female Mandaean who says she was sexually harassed while in detention.

Mr Ozdowski says Mandaeans often suffer “double punishment”.

“They were quite often regarded as unclean, as unable to meet with other Muslims. They were ostracised. There were cases of harassment. There was a case of alleged rape. They didn’t have the standing in the community in detention,” he said.

He says Mandaeans should be kept in separate detention from other asylum seekers and their claims processed immediately.

Meanwhile Salah Azuhari wants his processing sped up so that he can be reunited with his six children who are still in Jordan.

Hana Vieva says Mr Azuhari already has relatives living in Australia.

“He has three siblings who came here as refugees and now have refugee status. They live in Sydney. They have had the opportunity to express their religion, believe in what they want to believe and he feels that he can do that outside the detention centre,” she said.

After threatening to run away, Salah Azuhari has been moved to be closer to the four other Mandaeans on Christmas Island.

He says he feels much safer but that if the other Mandaeans leave he will be completely alone.

One thought on “Religious 'bullying' among Christmas Island detainees”

  1. Obviously those Muslims intimidating Mr Azuhari, can’t assimilate, therefore they should be sent home. Where are all the christians living in Islamic Countries going to flee too?? Why are they just moving them out of harms way? Why aren’t they vilifying those intimidating Mr Azuhari! You can be sure that if it was the other way round all hell would break lose!

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