In 1999 young Iraqi doctor Munjed Al Muderis was faced with an awful dilemma. A decree issued by Saddam Hussein ordered him to remove the ears of army deserters. His choices were to carry out the order and live with the guilt, disobey the order and be killed, or run away. He decided to run away, and with no clear plan and the help of people smugglers, he ended up on a boat heading to Australia, Journalist Sue Osborne writes.
Al Muderis was lucky in that he came from a wealthy background, had been to the best school in Baghdad and had a good command of English.
“Education saved my life. It helped me during that journey having the language and I was able to assist others making contact with the people smugglers.”
When he arrived in Australia he was put into Curtin Detention Centre.
“It was the first time I’d encountered other Iraqis who were uneducated,” he said. “I’d been in a bubble until then.”
Al Muderis took it upon himself to help other refugees, teach them some English and negotiate for better rights with the guards.
He got earmarked as an ‘agitator’ and was put into solitary confinement.
This ordeal ended when bad publicity surrounding escapes from Curtin, and the advent of the Sydney Olympics, prompted the government to start processing detainees.