Lauren Martin and Mostafa Azimitabar
Mostafa (Moz) Azimitabar’s message on World Refugee Day comes down to one word: Love.
Recognised as a refugee more than three years ago, Moz will deliver the message today from inside a hotel room, under guard and unable to leave.
Since March 24, when COVID-19 risks stopped even the visits for exercise at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), Moz has not been able to step outside. Visits from outsiders were likewise curtailed. ‘They buried us alive,’ he says. ‘We cannot go anywhere. No one can listen to us. We are deprived of sunlight.’
He was brought from Papua New Guinea to Australia last year under the now-repealed medevac laws, after doctors assessed that he required treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions. Since then he has been in a room at the Mantra hotel, an ‘alternative place of detention’. Facing the threat of disease spreading in conditions such as this and the MITA detention centre, the detainees asked to be allowed to live with supporters in the community; the government further restricted their movement.
Now, from his window on the third floor, sometimes he sees the Australian advocates who stand outside to protest that the men are held inside, without receiving the medical care they were promised when evacuated. Moz says that when sees the supporters, ‘I love it, even when the numbers became small due to COVID-19.’
He says his music is his message. His latest song is called simply, ‘Love’. As reported in Guardian Australia, it was ‘mixed and produced by Jim Moginie of Midnight Oil fame, played on a guitar given to [him] by Jimmy Barnes’.
Asked what he would do were he allowed to walk out of the Mantra a free man, Moz answers, ‘The first thing that I am going to do is to sing my song that I have written for the best friend of mine, who saved my life. She passed away last year, and the music is ready. They are waiting for me, I'm gonna just sing it in a studio.’ He says the mayor of the City of Darebin, Susan Rennie, offered him use of a local studio but the authorities would not allow it.
‘You know, this government tortured me for seven years. But I don't have any problem with people in Australia, because these people are fighting for me,’ Moz says. ‘The main reason that I am alive is because of my people who saved my life. So, I really appreciate this community. This song is for you people who are fighting for us, this song is for thousands of advocates for really compassion, with compassion, you know they vote for us, and I really appreciate that.
‘My message to people is love … this torture, this suffering also provided me the opportunity to see these beautiful people. I have friends in my life and I want to say thank you.’
Despite the fact that Moz has been recognised as a refugee fleeing persecution, and that seeking asylum by boat is legal under the Refugee Convention that Australia helped to draft, there is no resolution in sight for his future. ‘I am not a criminal. I am not a victim. Now I am a freedom fighter,’ he says. 'My resistance is my strength. But behind this resistance, there are thousands of people. I have friends in my life and I want to say thank you.’
Moz is on Twitter @AzimiMoz