|"Around the evening, Dr Al Battat, God bless his soul, was about two metres from his son. He couldn't swim and had no jacket on. He wanted to get closer to his son who was calling, 'Dad... help me...' Later we found his body floating".
(One of the SIEVX survivors who appears in Hadi Mahood's film, Sinbads, quoted in the Age, 27 October 2002)
"I also saw Mohammad, the son of Dr. Kamal (Al Battat). The boat broke up, Mohammad called out to me: 'Abu Muslim, Abu Muslim help me'... I said 'How can I help you?' He did not have a lifejacket, none of those who called out had one..."
(Person 18 ~ SIEVX Survivor Accounts).
Thanks to the the generosity of film-maker, Hadi Mahood and the resources of the Arabic website nahrain.com, we are able to show some of the faces of the victims of the SIEVX tragedy which have, up until now, been well hidden from public view.
All six member of Dr Al-Battat's family, pictured here, lost their lives a year ago when SIEVX foundered and sank about 60 nautical miles off the coast of Java, en route to Christmas Island.
The Al-Battat family is a microcosm of this terrible tragedy - for every man who lost his life aboard that overloaded fishing boat, there were five women and children who also perished.
To see the faces pictured here helps to bring home the enormity of this disaster. Every one of the 353 whose lives were cruelly cut short when SIEVX sank had a name and a family; they were not cyphers.
Readers of this site will be aware that we have been trying to obtain a list of all the victims of SIEVX for several months now. In the last few weeks Senator Jacinta Collins' office has been of some help - contacting the Jakarta office of the IOM and DIMIA to request this information.
According to Senator Collins' office, both the IOM and DIMIA claim that they do not have the names of those who drowned on SIEVX. This is in sharp contrast to one of the documents tabled at the CMI Committee which shows that this information was being compiled as early as 23 October last year. DIMIA is also said to have stated that it would not release this information even if it had it, as it could cause problems for family members of those who perished who are living in Iraq. The IOM is said to have stopped compiling a list of the victims at the request of the survivors who it is claimed did not want this information made public.
The suggestion that the survivors do not want the names of the victims released is at odds with our understanding of their wishes. For example, Keysar Trad, the man who translated the interviews with the SIEVX survivors that were videotaped in Jakarta in the week following the sinking, and who has met with most of the survivors living in Australia has never been told this. Also, Ghassan Nakhoul and Hadi Mahood who have interviewed many of the survivors in Finland, Norway and Canada have never been told that the survivors want anonymity for the victims. On the contrary, the survivors say they want the SIEVX story told; they want people to know what happened to them; they want those who were lost remembered.
We believe that the ones who want the names of the victims suppressed are DIMIA and the IOM.
Whether it takes us two weeks, two months or two years, we intend to obtain this information. We are in for the long haul in regard to SIEVX.
We are going to try to obtain and publish on this website a full list of the
victims, as well as a full list of the survivors - names, genders, ages, family
relationships and nationalities. Whether we compile these lists easily, with the
help of well-wishers in the Australian political and administrative system which
we are sure has this information ( and we thank Senator Collins for her private
inquiries to date) or with more difficulty
through our individual contacts with survivors and the bereaved family members
around the world, we will compile them.
And it really matters to Australia that we should. It is not as if this is
sensitive national security information. These innocent asylum-seekers -
families, women, children - have died in our border protection military zone. They
deserve the dignity of their names.
Senator Bartlett made a curious reference to SIEVX yesterday in the Senate during the tabling debate on the Legal and
Constitutional References Committee Report. Given the
whitewash of the CMI majority Report, it was interesting to hear his
"The government tried to beat up a bit of fear, loathing and
urgency when they first moved to extend the number of islands
that were excised by saying, 'There's a boat on the way. It's
out there somewhere with 16 Vietnamese or something, and we
had better pass this.' Of course, that boat was never heard of
again. I do not know if it was another one we knew about but
let sink, like SIEVX, or whether it never existed in the first
place or what happened. It was very conveniently referred to
by the minister a number of times and then forgotten and it
fell from his public statements." (emphasis added)
This is the not the first indication that the CMI
majority report does not really reflect the personal views of
the non-Government members of the Senate Committee with regard to SIEVX.
It may appear that since the publication of the CMI report that SIEVX is old news and that no-one is really interested anymore. But there are writers, film-makers, journalists, song writers, poets and activists who have been moved by the huge tragedy of SIEVX, who know that the full story is yet to be told and who are committed to doing their part to get to the truth and to achieve justice for the victims of this crime against humanity, so cruelly ignored for so long.
The efforts made to dehumanise the refugees and suppress the names and the
few photographs remaining of those precious lives lost in the SIEVX tragedy is
an indictment of those who govern this country.