23 HOURS A DAY:
Shan tried to bring peace to his war-torn country, but his efforts to promote education and democracy made him a target for the Taliban. He left his country to protect himself and ihs family.
His journey out of Pakistan brought him to Manus Island, where he hoped to apply as a refugee. Instead he spent seven years in detention on Manus. He is now detained in Melbourne Australia, locked in his room 23 hours a day. It is a prison he can never leave.
There is hope. Officially certified as a refugee, he can be privately sponsored by any group of five Canadians.
Name: Shan, born in 1991 in Khyber Pukhonhwah, Pakistan
Profile: Pakistani refugee aged 29, currently being held in detention by Australia, in the Mantra hotel in Melbourne. Kept in his room for 23 hours a day
Advantages: Official refugee status, good English, educated, experience of work in pathology.
Risk: Detainment and death at the hands of the Taliban and other local terrorist groups if he returns to Pakistan
Growing Up Without Parents
Tragically Shan’s father died when he was just seven and his mother died a few years later. Luckily, he was taken in by his uncle and remembers a happy childhood playing with his cousins and school friends. He worked hard at school but most of all he loved to play cricket.
But this was in the Khyber Pukhonhwah area of Pakistan, a dangerous and volatile area that is plagued by terrorist attacks from the Taliban and other violent groups. As he grew older he became more aware of the violence that affected everyday life, leaving his neighbours dead or injured.
He could have chosen to hide away, to stay quiet. Instead he, along with other family members, joined the AWAMI National Party (ANP), which supports education for all and promote voting. Shan was a vocal and passionate supporter, making him a target for the Taliban.
In 2010 Shan joined a team of peacekeepers, defending his village and the local area. He helped to save lives, but this choice led to great suffering for himself. He and his family were the target for terrorists and his uncle, aunt and several cousins were murdered.
‘There were bomb blasts near our home, shaking the windows and smashing the glass. I saw a man who was killed by the terrorists: his body lay in the street.’
The Long Journey to Begins
In 2010, after countless threats and attacks, Shan was urged by his family to leave Pakistan. He began a perilous journey, through jungle and across the sea, in an attempt to get to Australia or any country where he could live in peace and continue his studies. He crossed the sea in a boat that was old and far from sea worthy. At times the waves threatened to submerge them, and he saw other boats sink during the journey. For three days he didn’t eat.
Eventually his own boat began to sink but he was picked up by the Australian Coast Guard. He thought that at last he had found safety.
He was wrong.
Seven Years on Manus
Manus Island is owned by Papua New Guinea but is used by Australia to house refugees who arrived by boat from 2012. The Australian government calls the place where refugees were housed as an ‘off shore processing centre’, many others have called it an experiment in the physical and psychological torture of refugees in an attempt to deter others from claiming asylum.
Here Shan was kept in rooms that he describes as being like those used to keep chickens: 4 four men in a 10 feet by 8 feet room with no air conditioning in the punishing heat and humidity of PNG. Many became sick, both physically and mentally and were forced to queue for hours in the sun, to be given nothing more than paracetamol. Food was also used to torment the men; Shan describes queuing for up to two hours only to find no food left or that it was rotten.
Water and electricity were frequently and deliberately cut off, at one point leaving Shan and others no choice but to dig a well and collect rainwater. He was sworn at and attacked by locals and beaten with a steel bar by guards. He saw other men lost to beatings and suicide.
‘I became old very quickly from the terrible situation, the stress and the tension. I didn’t know when I would ever get freedom.’
Still No Freedom
At the end of 2019 Shan was removed from Manus and sent to the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne, Australia but he is still in detention. He is kept in a small room with one other man for 23 hours a day. He is not allowed out of this hotel prison. After years of no dentistry on Manus, he has painful rotting teeth, and often cannot eat. He has been told that there is still no help available for this. He cannot go out in the sunshine or breath fresh air.
He has no idea when this nightmare will end. Things are particularly difficult in these times of the coronavirus. With no way to isolate or use social distancing, Shan and the other men live in constant fear of the virus being brought into the hotel by staff.
The Australian government has given no indication of what will happen to these men except that they will not be allowed to settle in Australia. Shan is serving an indefinite prison sentence for the ‘crime’ of seeking asylum - his right under the Geneva Convention, which Australia has signed but does not honour.
‘I can’t forget my past situations; from childhood till now I didn’t achieve anything. But I know I belong to this world. I will see a new life with freedom and love in a peaceful environment.’
Shan’s dreams are simple. He doesn’t want fame or fortune. He simply wants to live a normal, peaceful life. He wants to start his studies again, learning business studies or sociology. He would particularly like to help children who, like him, have lost their parents. And of course he wants to play cricket again.
He has so much to offer the world; he just needs the chance to live as a free man.
"I wanted peace for my country but there was only violence. Now I need peace for myself."
As Shan is officially certified as a refugee, it is possible for you to make his dream of freedom come true by becoming a sponsor and helping him get to Canada. You can reach out to Shan in person by email or Facebook.
If you would like to donate or sponsor Shan in particular, you can contact his friend in Australia, Jill Horton, by Facebook. He also has a friend in England, Sarah Fenby Dixon, who wrote his profile, reachable by email or WhatsApp: +44 7815071002. Or Stephen Watt, who is a seasoned private sponsor and volunteer in Toronto, reachable by Facebook or email.