Survivors Speak: Ahmed Hussein|
by Marg Hutton
5 July 2003
Today we continue with the lightly edited transcripts from the interviews with SIEVX survivors made in Indonesia soon after the sinking. The original transcripts were translated by Keysar trad. Ahmed Hussein (also known as Achmad Hossein) is 'Person 17' in Trad's transcript. He was the first person to publicly claim that the survivors were watched and not rescued by boats as they struggled to survive in the water after the sinking. The Hussein family with fifteen members was one of the largest groups that embarked on SIEVX. Nine of Ahmed's family including his mother drowned, but his father ('Person 1'), two brothers (one of whom is 'Person 8'), an uncle and a nephew survived. We are unsure which country the Hussein family has been settled in, but they are no longer in Indonesia.
The picture of Ahmed below does not come from the Bogor video of survivors but from the Channel Nine 'Sunday' Program on People Smugglers that went to air on 4 November 2001.
Ahmed was very distressed and in tears as he recounted his story:
Wherever you look you see the dead children like birds floating on the water.
Those who survived 22 hours in the water saw the dead bodies of women and children with cuts from nails on the boat and with scars from where the fish were biting at them in the water and saw blood.
In the end a boat came to rescue us. The ones who died have found comfort. As for us, our lives have been destroyed.
The people on the top deck of the boat as it was rocking before capsizing, saw 2 large ships. They thought that they would be rescued. None of them came to the rescue. When night came the two ships turned flood lights and projectors on the people. One felt as if the light was so close that it was next to him. [When the night came] we were very close to Australian waters.
On the second day the Indonesian fishing boats came. I asked them how they knew that we were here. They said that they had seen our luggage and this is why they came looking for survivors. They also told us that they never go this far to fish because of the sharks and whales in this area.
We asked them about the ships that we saw the day before. They told us that they were Australian border protection ships (navy ships). (Cries of support of this statement were heard from other survivors on the video).
These Australian navy ships - has the Australian government given orders not to rescue us? Not even the children? What had we done to be oppressed in Iraq? We went elsewhere, we could not live. We came here and we are unwelcome. What can we do? One year and one month waiting for a reply from the United Nations - I waited with my family of 15.
I went to the United Nations, they told me to find a way to get to Australia. Everywhere I went in Indonesia, I got told to find a boat to Australia. The UN guards, the UN officials, everyone talks of finding a way to Australia.
We call on any person, Christian or Muslim with any humanity or compassion to look into our plight and help us. If the United Nations did not see our condition they would not keep us in such accommodation after our rescue. We still hope to come to Australia. We prefer Australia but will go anywhere - we just want out of Indonesia.
Other articles with information on Ahmed Hussein and his family:
- Boat to nowhere ~ John Aglionby, The Guardian, 26 Oct 2001
Achmad Hussein could feel his life ebbing away. Having been buffeted by pounding waves and heavy rain for hours, this 18-year-old Iraqi was struggling to keep his head above the water of the Java Sea as he fought to cling on to a piece of wood with one hand and one of 14 relatives in the sea alongside him with the other. "I was convinced I was going to die," he says of his ordeal following the sudden capsize of the 60-foot boat that had been smuggling about 400 Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians and Algerians to Australia last Thursday night. "I'd been swept under the sea several times and thought there was no need to prolong the agony."
Then, on the verge of giving up, Achmad heard the thin, pleading voice of his 10-year-old nephew, Jawad Hussein. Barely audible above the din of the tropical storm as he lay on a plank, Jawad's appeal gave his uncle renewed strength. "Jawad said: 'You cannot die Achmad. I have already lost my father, my mother, my brothers and sister. Who is going to look after me if you do not live?'," Achmad remembers...[Full report]
- The People Smugglers ~ Ross Coulthart, Sunday, 4 Nov 2001
...ROSS COULTHART: Adrift, no rescue imminent, bodies in the water around them, little Hussein begged for water. His father had no choice - to save his last child, he gave his son his own urine to drink. There in the open sea with Hussein and his father, was his uncle, Ahmad. He says Hussein's pleas for help gave him a reason to live.
AHMAD HUSSEIN ALI: He kept calling me. He was with his father and two of his younger brothers as they died. He called out for me 'uncle' and then to his other uncle, my brother. "Don't go away, don't die. Don't die. I won't be able to live alone."
ROSS COULTHART: They clung on for hours through the night as people drifted away to their deaths.
AHMAD HUSSEIN ALI: There were so many because they were so tired. They swallowed lots of salt water and became do thirsty. They became tired and couldn't make use of the timber debris or any other things... [Full report]