The killing of Hamed

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

The very last picture to be taken of Hamed Shamshiripour is too dis­tress­ing to pub­lish. It looks like the scene of a lynch­ing. In many re­spects, it is.

A friend of Hamed’s, a fel­low asy­lum seeker, told The Satur­day Pa­per: “For me as a per­son who has men­tal health is­sues, for the first time I saw that picture I could not for­get it. Not be­cause of how he was; be­cause I saw my­self.”

Hamed’s face is held in great an­guish. Black­ness fills the sock­ets of his eyes. His shoul­ders hang as if re­spond­ing to a ques­tion for which there is no an­swer. In death there is the si­lence that fol­lows great trauma. This last im­age, this tableau of jungle and res­ig­na­tion, is frozen in vi­o­lent still­ness.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the death of Hamed Shamshiripour. It is at the hand of this gov­ern­ment’s cru­elty that he died. We all are held re­spon­si­ble.

The facts of Hamed’s men­tal ill­ness were well known to Aus­tralian of­fi­cials. He had been pro­cessed in our fa­cil­i­ties. A year ago, his case had been re­ferred to the Aus­tralian Bor­der Force’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer.

But the gov­ern­ment’s cul­pa­bil­ity is greater than this. It goes beyond negligence and to de­sign. His death is a kind of state-sanc­tioned mur­der.

We know from in­ter­nal memos that the gov­ern­ment has acted de­lib­er­ately in mak­ing the camps in­hos­pitable. Con­di­tions are pur­posely harsh. This is the point of the sys­tem.

The gov­ern­ment’s own re­ports tell it of the ef­fect this regime has on the peo­ple trapped in­side it. These re­ports have been stu­diously ig­nored.

Last Oc­to­ber, The Satur­day Pa­per pub­lished a leaked re­port from the United Na­tions refugee agency. It found 88 per cent of asy­lum seek­ers held on Manus Is­land were suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der or de­pres­sive ill­nesses. These had largely been caused in de­ten­tion.

“These are ex­tremely high rates, among the high­est recorded of any pop­u­la­tion in the world, but a pre­dictable out­come of pro­tracted de­ten­tion,” the re­port said.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees sur­veyed were asymp­to­matic prior to ar­rival on Manus Is­land. The ob­served symp­toma­tol­ogy is there­fore likely to be di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to the ef­fects of pro­longed indefinite manda­tory de­ten­tion, and to the vi­o­lent in­ci­dents that most asy­lum seek­ers and refugees wit­nessed and/or were di­rectly in­volved in at the Lom­brum Re­gional Pro­cess­ing Cen­tre in early 2014 and 2015.”

The last picture to be taken of Hamed Shamshiripour is a picture of a so­ci­ety in moral tur­moil. It is the wish of Hamed’s fam­ily that it not be re­pro­duced. He must be af­forded this fi­nal dig­nity. A greater wish might be that the cir­cum­stances for such a death had never been cre­ated in the first in­stance – cer­tainly not de­lib­er­ately, and not with such grim cal­cu­lus.

The fam­ily is now call­ing for an in­quest into Hamed’s death. This re­quest should be ac­cepted. One likely find­ing, so ob­vi­ous as to be or­tho­doxy to all but the po­lit­i­cal class, is that Hamed should never have been left to die in the jungle. He should never have been pun­ished for the le­gal act of seek­ing asy­lum. He should have been brought to Aus­tralia, as should ev­ery­one held in the bar­barous sys­tem we have the au­dac­ity to call pro­cess­ing.

This coun­try goes to great lengths and even greater ex­pense so that or­di­nary Aus­tralians will not see the peo­ple we im­prison in the camps off our shores. The fi­nal irony is that a picture that doc­u­ments the last mo­ments

• of one of these men is too ter­ri­ble to be seen.

Life­line 13 11 14

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