Thousands turned out for refugee rights rallies across the country on Palm Sunday, April 14.
Kurdish refugee Farhad Bandesh, who is detained on Manus Island, addressed the rally in Newcastle by phone. Below is an edited transcript of his speech.
My name is Farhad Bandesh.
I speak to you from Manus Island, where I have been imprisoned and tortured with others, like our friends on Nauru, for nearly six years.
I wish to acknowledge the land of the Awabakal people of the Kulin Nation, stolen land, and I pay respect to Indigenous people, past, present and future.
I want to thank you all so very much for taking the time today to come out onto the streets and take action for freedom for asylum seekers imprisoned by the Australian government.
It is really important and meaningful that you have done this today and continue to do this for us. Without you we have no hope of freedom.
It is not the politicians that will free us. It is you.
You need to force this change. The power is with you.
We know that humanity, kindness and compassion are not things the government responds to.
So we need to hit them where it hurts.
The language they understand is power and money. Expose their dirty corrupt contracts. Protest the companies that make money from our misery and imprisonment.
I ask you to think about this.
I ask you to imagine it is your children that are imprisoned and tortured. Imagine it is your family, your friends, your community.
Think of what you would do to free your children, your brothers, sisters, family and friends.
Please forget your ideological differences — we do not have time. There have been 12 deaths already. I fear there will be more.
You can do this united; you can do it with great strength if you are all united.
You must do this peacefully. Do not use violence in our name, because violence is what we are fighting against. You can do this peacefully.
They will play dirty tricks to try and keep us here longer. They have lied.
This policy has murdered us, raped us, tortured us, damaged us so much.
Keep writing letters, calling politicians, talking to people, doing events, exhibitions. Everything helps.
Please support us. We are really worried.
There are many people with negative status who are being threatened with forced removal to Nauru or a Papua New Guinea prison. We cannot go to another prison.
We just cannot.
Thank you so much for your support. Thank you for the invitation to speak.
Thank you to Nikola Leka [from Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy].
All of your actions and support really help us and we cannot thank you enough.
With deep heartfelt thanks from all of us on Manus [Island], Nauru and all detention centres in Australia: Thank you so much.