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How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
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: Zaynab Alrimahi

by Marg Hutton
10 July 2003

SIEVX survivor Zaynab Alrimahi Zaynab Alrimahi was one of only five children to survive the sinking of SIEVX and the only one to lose her entire family in the tragedy.

Zaynab was travelling with her parents Souad and Ahsan, two brothers, Mahmoud (6) and Moustafa (4), and two sisters, Fatima (14) and Roukaya (7). They all drowned when SIEVX capsized.

Zaynab survived the sinking with the help of Husam, the teenage son of Issam and Rajaa Al Haddad.

Zaynab is 'Person 6' in the transcript of survivor interviews but due to her distress says very little - virtually only one sentence: 'If Australia grants me a visa, I will not go unless all the survivors are allowed to come with me.' Zaynab is now living with her uncle's family in Sydney.

Hadi Mahood, who is making a documentary film about the SIEVX survivors, pointed us to where the photos of Zaynab's family that appear on this page were originally posted.

Other sources:

  • 'Boat tragedy survivor granted asylum', Vanessa Walker, Australian, 21 December 2001
    SIEVX survivor Zaynab Alrimahi's family - all perished except Zaynab A GIRL who lost her family in the October boating tragedy that killed 368 asylum-seekers became the first survivor to make it to Australia yesterday.

    Zaynab Alrimahi, 12, arrived in Sydney distraught at being separated from the 43 other survivors who are still being held in a UN refugee hostel in Jakarta.

    Zaynab lost her parents Souad and Ahsan, younger brothers Mahmoud, 6, and Moustafa, 4, and sisters Fatima, 14, and Roukaya, 7, when their leaking boat capsized and sank off Java.

    Zaynab, one of only four children [sic] of 150 on the boat to survive, told the Los Angeles Times about the 22 hours she spent in 4m seas and heavy rain before being rescued by Indonesian fishermen.

    'I saw my six-year-old brother holding to a plank. Polluted seawater mixed with fuel began going into his mouth and he choked and died,' Zaynab said. 'I saw people floating, dead.'

    Zaynab said her mechanic father, who took his family to Iran after escaping from Iraq in 1997, paid people-smugglers because he thought he might get citizenship in Australia.

    The Department of Immigration granted Zaynab a safe haven visa so she could join her nearest living relative, her uncle Alaa Alrimahi, in Sydney.

    He said that if the department granted his niece a permanent visa, Zaynab, who has never been to school, wants to start her education and become a doctor...[Full report]

  • 'Orphaned survivor faces uncertain future', Kelly Burke, Age, 21 December 2001
    SIEVX survivor Zaynab Alrimahi's family - all perished except Zaynab The last words Zaynab Alrimahi heard her mother utter were a prayer.

    Souad Alrimahi implored Allah to keep her five children safe as she put lifejackets on them and led her family to the top deck of the sinking vessel. Within seconds, the boat carrying more than 400 asylum seekers capsized in rough seas off the south-west coast of Java.

    More than 350 people lost their lives that night two months ago. Among the dead were both Zaynab's Iraqi parents and all four of her siblings.

    Zaynab's starkest memory was the sight of her six-year-old brother Mahmoud clinging to a plank as he choked to death on a deadly cocktail of seawater and fuel.

    Yesterday, the 12-year-old asylum seeker was unable to speak of the tragedy. "This brings back too many painful memories," she said through an interpreter...[Full report]

  • The blue eyes that grieve ~ Zara Al Hosany Al Shara (Australians against racism) ( 13991) | ©Copyright Marg Hutton ~ / 2002-2014