“Late report but necessary to read once”
It was 3am on the 1st of February 2018. As I wrote this report the sound of the cries from my cellmates rang in my ears.
The rain poured down and washed away my pain, the tears dropped from my eyes dripped onto my mobile keypad.
It has been fifteen consecutive days of protest in Balikpapan Prison camp, East Kalimantan, Indonesia now, we have been demanding freedom from incarceration and a safe and secure life. Now the refugees have decided to initiate their night-time protest.
The chronic pain of exile. Incarcerated for a period of four years. No real hope for ever achieving a peaceful life, no real hope in ever achieving a life without oppression; the refugees embarked on this journey purely because of their inner strength and stamina.
Minutes after they began their protest, after sounding their cries for freedom and their pleas for help, the head warden of the prison arrived together with a group of local police officers.
At this point everyone was calm and they raised their hands up in a show of submission. For some time the head warden of the prison camp hurled as much abuse and insults as he could muster up; he also threatened to press criminal charges and imprison the refugees in the local jails. This is what he told the refugees.
A few were so unbearably tired and felt so totally hopeless. They were completely shocked, their hearts had faltered and they felt they would never be free from this prison… they lost all control of themselves.
Two individuals collapsed for the first time ever and began to tremble. The refugees, who had no medical or first aid skills whatsoever, rushed over to keep the two of them stable lest they hurt themselves or anyone else.
The security guards watching the whole situation unfold not only did not help, they called the local police over and then closed the door and left the scene.
The situation continued like this for a period of time until more individuals began to suffer from heart pain and fainted from the shock. The whole thing was totally out of control. Everyone was screaming, and some were helping the fallen. Nineteen individuals in total had lost all hope and entered a state of shock. Among all this a small youth of fourteen years old also lost control, causing his older brother to enter a state of shock and panic for a short time. Actually, until a few months ago most of the people here were underage and had entered manhood while incarcerated.
The situation is now back under control. No one has any medical training, and there is no one else here to assist us. The immigration officers and IOM have left and gone to sleep in their comfortable beds. Total silence everywhere. Every now and then one of the people who collapsed would let out a yell and then weep. However, they have friends beside them to look after them; they hold down their arms and legs firmly so they do not hurt themselves or others.
It is unclear what will transpire tomorrow. I do not know the consequences of writing this report, I do not know if I will still be alive or not for exposing this. I do not know if I will be cuffed and taken to one of the local prisons, or if I will just remain here and continue to be a voice for the refugees and cry for help.
In any case, I have written this report for people to read and realise that we are still alive – do not let us be buried alive.
For more than a century we have been buried alive everyday and massacred. Tell me, is this civilisation and modernity, is this what you call support for human rights and the oppressed.
Just know that this situation is no different to the terrorist groups who make our lives a living hell and massacre us with bullets and blades.
When they kill us it happens once and our bodies are put to rest, but in here our very souls are dying everyday.
Omid Tofighian, American University in Cairo/University of Sydney.