‘…a person with no identity’

Jacques vdMerwe artist. Sculptor, visual art, fine art
Jacques van der Merwe. Artworks of refugees and immigrants into Australia.

D.O.B. // MANY MOONS AGO
DATE INTERVIEWED // 13-12-2012
COUNTRY OF BIRTH // IRAN
COUNTRIES LIVED IN // IRAN, PHILIPPINES, PACIFIC ISLANDS (NARU, AMERICAN SAMOA, WESTERN SAMOA),  AUSTRALIA
DATE OF ARRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA // END OF 1980
KIND OF ENTRANCE // REFUGEE

Vahid left Iran in 1974 and studied in the Philippines until 1979. At that time the Islamic students and militants supporting the Iranian Revolution took over the American embassy in Tehran. The Iranian authorities denied his application for passport renewal. In 1980 he came to Australia.

The story of how I became a refugee …

I left Iran in 1974 to study in the Philippines.  I finished my study in 1979. At that time a revolution was taking place in Iran. I called my parents to say, ‘I’m coming back home.’ My mother  said, ‘Go anywhere you want, but don’t come back here.’ So I found myself homeless overnight and I didn’t want to go back to Iran.  I had just enough money for a round trip ticket to many North and South Pacific islands. After attempting to find work all hope was fading and I didn’t have money anymore.  I tried to buy a ticket back to Iran from American Samoa. I was lonely in a foreign culture.  As I was trying to buy a ticket, the travel agent called his friend and I had a job managing the pharmacy in five minutes. The world was very rosy.

I worked there for a year, but then when the American hostage situation happened in Iran, the man who sponsored me, withdrew his sponsorship and I had to leave American Samoa.  My passport was not renewed so I became a person with no identity in Naru.  I met the Immigration Attaché for the Australian High Commission in Western Samoa. The next day I applied to go to Australia. That is how I got here.

Australia is a wonderful country. I got here when I was twenty-seven years old.  Although I do not have a problem with English, I have issues with the way by which the whole system of government runs. Although I am obedient to the laws, I feel the urge within me not to abide by so many injustices that I see within this system. Nevertheless I am grateful and thankful to Australia for having me, although that conflict exists.