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Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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On the 14th Anniversary a Father Remembers

by Mohammad Hashim Abo Roma
19 October 2015


In 2001, Mohammad Hashim Al Ghazzi was in Australia on a temporary protection visa which did not allow his family to travel to Australia to join him. Desperate, his wife and three young children and ten other family members boarded the ill-fated SIEVX. All drowned. Fourteen years later, now preferring to be known as Mohammad Hashim Abo Roma, these are his thoughts.


Mohammad's children who drowned on SIEVX
Mohammad's children from his remarriage

When I was in Iraq, I had dreams to escape from all my problems which were because of political and economic injustice, and the folly of Middle Eastern leaders. During two years in a harsh Iraqi prison because of my political opposition to the policies of Saddam Hussein, I suffered psychological and physical torture that harmed me and my family.

After I came out of prison I fled to Syria with my wife and children. I now carry the memories of the tragedies of my dreams; my dreams to find the right place for me and my family, a place that was stable and safe, where we could live a happy life free from pain.

But we did not find what we were looking for. We faced the same but different problems. The economic situation in Syria was very difficult, and the longer we stayed as refugees in Syria it was an unstable political situation for us, like in Iraq. We had fear, anxiety, tension and oppression. It seemed to us that relations between Iraq and Syria were improving and the risk for us, being illegal refugees in Syria, grew.

Then I decided to escape to Australia in order to find what I am looking for, and I left my family in Syria. Because of the financial situation I could not pay for a trip for all of us. Alone I entered a ship of death to face an unknown fate.

I arrived safely in Australia. I took a deep breath and felt overwhelming joy, believing that I had found freedom, and was away from the tragedy and injustice that was in the Middle East at the hands of its rulers. But my feeling was wrong. I did not find freedom or equality in Australia.

Australia was the start of new suffering but this time on my own. After a period of a year in detention, with my family in Syria during that time, I did not know at first about the decisions the Australian government had made about us refugees. They gave us no right to travel, and no right to bring our families to Australia. They did not let us study. The gap between normal and tragedy grew as I got older. In Syria my family was facing economic pressures and were in danger as illegal refugees there. I was in Australia under pressure of a temporary protection visa. My family and I felt trapped and blocked and there seemed to be no solution but that they face the same fate as me.

They boarded the ship of death on their way to Australia.

They left my life without a farewell; they went forever without return; we did not embrace, we could not say a final goodbye to each other.

They were gone without trace. Nowhere to visit them, when I miss them or when I want to talk to them, or buy them gifts and toys to play with. They have gone under the ocean. They did not find freedom in the place they went to. This is the folly of politics and rulers everywhere.

I am remarried now and have children again but I am still looking for a place for me and my new family to feel safe and secure. I have lost perhaps forever what it is like to know the true meaning of safety.


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