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Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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Survivors Speak: Rokaya Satar

by Marg Hutton
4 July 2003

As mentioned yesterday, we have recently obtained a digital copy of the interviews of SIEVX survivors videotaped in Bogor in the week following the sinking and will be devoting a page to each one who appears in the transcript of interviews translated by Keysar Trad. Rokaya Satar is 'Person 5' in the transcript which has been lightly edited here. Rokaya lost her husband and two young daughters on SIEVX. She was heavily pregnant at the time and later gave birth to her third child in Indonesia. According to film-maker Hadi Mahood who has been working on a documentary film about the survivors of SIEVX, Rokaya has returned to Iran.

SIEVX survivor, Rokaya Satar When they came to us and showed us the boat, we were told that this boat was not the one to get us to Australia, it was only a transit boat that would get us to the boat that would bring us to Australia. They put us in a very small place on the boat, with children on top of each other. We remained there till 6am and then the boat moved out and kept moving till 3:10pm [on Friday] when it began to sink.

The engine stopped working. Some went to fix the engine whilst others were taking water out and a third group tried to move left and right to keep the boat balanced in the water.

The water came from the left and then the right and the boat capsized. When it did, the women and the children started to come out. I grabbed my daughters, aged five and two. My husband was fixing the engine inside, my daughter was crying wanting her father. He came out to see them before the boat capsized and then went back to fix the engine.

As I was holding my daughters trying to keep them from drowning, a woman came and stepped on my elder daughter as she was scurrying for safety. I pulled my daughter up but the women kept tripping on her repeatedly until my daughter sank and I could not pull her up anymore. I only had my younger daughter now. I started to look for my husband; I could not find my elder daughter anywhere.

A woman looking for her two daughters came. She did not know what she was doing and she pushed me and my daughter under water. I was able to keep holding my daughter; she pushed us a second time and we were still able to go up. But on the third occasion my daughter was lost.

I then saw a man by the name of Yasser Elhelou, he lost his entire family. I called out to him but he could not help me. I saw another man wearing a lifejacket, I asked him to help me find my daughter. As he turned I realised that it was my husband. I told him that my daughters were taken under. He said 'Maybe someone has rescued them.'

He was able to grab a floating plank of timber for me. We went on the plank for a while. I said that I am in despair for my daughters. He said may be someone has rescued them. Then I saw my small daughter Alya floating, eyes open, dead. Her father embraced her and started calling her name; he kissed her and hugged her. I said 'God has taken her'. He said 'Come see her'. I said 'I cannot look at her'. He left her, then a little later we saw the body of my elder daughter with the body of the woman who was responsible for her going under water. The other woman's two daughters, twelve and eleven, were also floating by her, both dead; my daughter was on top of her head.

My husband said 'This is my daughter Kawthar.' Her father tried to revive her, he called out to her and then started to choke in pain and sorrow. He looked quite strong until he saw his daughters and he started choking. He said 'I have lost my family. I have brought you to this, I do not deserve to live.' He said 'I cannot stay, I do not want to see you die in front of me.' As he was talking he was looking very tired. He was crying and his grip became loose because of exhaustion. Then a wave came and washed him away from the timber.

His friend saw him drifting past. He asked him 'Why did you leave your wife?' He said 'My wife died, I don't deserve to live.' He was floating with a lifejacket, looking to the sky, saying 'This is because of me, I brought my family to their death.' He asked me to forgive him. He said 'I brought you to Australia, you did not want to come here.'

I was left alone. The other survivors were taken elsewhere by the waves.

I felt alone until the middle of the night. I heard cries from others from time to time, but I could not see them. Later I saw two people. Ra'ad and Abu Mohammad - the latter was my husband's friend. I yelled out to them 'Take me with you, I am alone.' They pulled my plank towards them where there was another woman holding on. She became tired and sank under the water twice and died.

I kept holding on. I asked the man 'Are you Abu Mohammad, my husband's friend?' He said 'Are you Umm Kawthar?' He said 'I thought that you all died because you were inside.' I said 'Abu Kawthar and the girls died.' Abu Mohammad said 'We will also die like them in five minutes.' Ra'ad said 'I am feeling sleepy, I have to sleep, I cannot stay with you.' Abu Mohammad said 'Do not leave me alone with the lady, I cannot help her on my own.'

Ra'ad then drifted off. We remained until the boats came and rescued us.


Soon after the sinking, Simon Elegant wrote an article for Time which included some of Rokaya Satar's story.

(Rokaia Sattar Daaboul El Robaal appears on the list of survivors provided to the Senate by the AFP) ( 10855) | ©Copyright Marg Hutton ~ / 2002-2014