From a death sentence in Iran to the Castlemaine CWA – a refugee’s journey
A woman refugee from Iran who fled her home to avoid beatings and abuse from her husband in an arranged marriage has found peace and solace in country Victoria.
Bahareh Lajevard, 34, has even joined the local Country Women’s Association (CWA) in Castlemaine.
Bahareh arrived by boat with her two sisters and her niece and nephew from Indonesia two years ago.
She fled Tehran where arranged marriages are common and women are stoned to death for extra marital affairs, because her life was in danger.
“We are three sisters and my dad unfortunately is a very religious man and he says I must get married,” she says.
Bahareh had hoped to become a dentist and studied in Belarus for six years.
“When I was 27 my father said: ‘That’s it, you have to marry’,” she said. So Bahareh, who speaks Persian, English and Russian, married the man arranged to be her husband, a man she’d never met who beat and abused her.
As the situation with her husband worsened, she became fearful for her life.
“I found it very hard. I was like a servant to him,” she says.
Two years into the marriage she could not continue. Her husband said she could leave but he would never divorce her. He had cast a life sentence upon Bahareh.
Eventually, she fell in love. She kept her love a secret from all but her mother and one sister but her husband was angry and possessive and had her followed. He threatened to report her to the state and her sisters, too. He threatened to kill her niece and nephew.
Bahareh fled with her family. Their route to freedom and safety took in Malaysia, then Indonesia, before the perilous journey to Christmas Island and ten months in a detention centre.
The 18-hour sea journey to Australia was in waters so rough no one could stand up.
“Since arriving in Australia I feel I am alive, I can breathe and yet I am empty. Life as I know it has changed but I will do my best”.
Now, Bahareh is on a bridging visa and has been so for 14 months waiting to learn whether she can stay in Australia.
She dreams of being able to work as a dentist, to reclaim her life and some self-esteem but currently is unable to work.
She is living in the apple town of Harcourt, thanks to the kindness of a former Christmas Island Detention Centre case worker who offered Bahareh and her family a place to stay.
Bahareh says she is enjoying being a part of the CWA. “They have been very supportive of me,” she said.
Bahareh recently gave a talk to more than 50 people at an event organised by the CWA, telling of her life and experiences.
CWA state president Dorothy Coombe said her members had opened their hearts to Bahareh.
“The whole processing thing doesn’t happened fast enough,” she said.
“Either asylum seekers are deemed acceptable or not but the Australian Government should not leave them hanging like this,” Ms Coombe said.
AMES Staff Writer