In Between Persecution And Asylum
By Barat Ali Batoor, Aubrey BelfordApril 5, 2013
Cisarua is where people wait for the slow wheels of UN bureaucracy to turn, or for the sudden call from a smugglers’ agent: get ready, eat, we’re leaving tonight. With his camera, Hazara photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor documents life in refugee purgatory.
Read the story behind the photos: Resort Of Last Resort
With locals who can speak passable Arabic, an Arab expat population, and a tradition of looking the other way, Cisarua became a natural spot for Arab tourists.
Headscarves for sale in a Cisarua market.
Mohammed Hussain, 9, and Amir Hussain, 6, arrived from Quetta, Pakistan in February 2002 with their parents, Rukhsana Jaffary and Ghulam Raza Jaffary. The family’s asylum claim was rejected, jeopardising the three days a week they are allowed in an International Organisation for Migration school. The family believes poor translation led to the rejection, and they are appealing.
The boys are among about 3,000 people in Indonesia receiving housing and a modest stipend from the International Organisation for Migration. If their family’s appeal fails, they will lose their home and the stipend. Mohammed and Amir’s mother, Rukhsana Jaffary, says the family never intended to get onboard a people-smuggling boat. The total cost, some $25,000, is just too much.
Puncak, a weekend resort for people in Jakarta is also known as a sex holiday destination for mainly Saudi men. The place now provides a form of prostitution known as ‘contract marriages’. These usually involve a bride, at a price of about 25 million rupiah, or about AUD 2,500, sold to a Saudi tourist. A local cleric is involved, thus giving an Islamic veneer to what is essentially prostitution.
Once the holiday is done – in three days or three months — the man goes home, no questions asked. The women tend to ‘marry’ multiple times.
Mehdi Javid Kian Ali, an Iranian atheist asylum seeker, worries his six-year-old daughter, Asal, has missed out on starting her education.
Before being moved into this home, the family spent nearly two years in Indonesian detention, in converted cheap hotels, after their foiled attempt to board a boat bound for Australia.
Kian Ali claims to have worked for Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guard, where he observed close-up the torture of opponents of the regime, at Tehran’s Prison 59.
Ahmad Aloudal, 30, from Afghanistan’s Taliban-hit Ghazni province, has little love for people smugglers.
“These smugglers are frauds, they’re liars. They take a huge amount from people and don’t spend it on the boats,” Ahmad says. “If the smugglers spent it properly we wouldn’t have all these tragedies.”
Ghulam Reza, right, a Hazara from the Pakistani city of Quetta, exhausted and nursing an injury he sustained the night before, when he and about 100 other asylum seekers attempted to reach a waiting people smuggler on Java’s south coast. Their attempt was foiled when their cars were stopped by police.
Reza and his friends scattered on foot through wet rice paddies and small stands of forest. If he had been caught on the way, he would now be languishing inside an Indonesian immigration detention centre or a guarded guesthouse, for what could be months or years of confinement.
For more than a decade, the town of Cisarua has been the unofficial haven for asylum seekers heading to Australia, people like 26-year-old Elaheh Davoud Abadi from Iran.
She lives in limbo with her atheist husband, Mehdi Javid Kian Ali, and her daughter, Asal (pictured above).
For some, it is a brief stopover before jumping on a smuggler’s boat. For others, it is an exile that can last for years.
Kubra Hussein, a 63-year-old Iraqi refugee, inside her home during a blackout. Iraqis fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime were among the first asylum seekers to settle in Cisarua, filtering into the town around the turn of the century.
Abdul Razaq, a 36-year-old Iraqi refugee and double amputee.