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Avenging the King of Iran: The Fate of Hamed Shamshiripour

“The only responsible and humane thing for our government to do is immediately evacuate every single man on Manus, every single family and child on Nauru to safety on Australia” (Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre, Aug 7, 2017).

Murder comes in various forms. It can be directly inflicted. It can be willed and directed from afar. It can also be the consequence of conditions planned, fostered, enacted. This sequential logic results in one dark conclusion: Australian refugee policy, spearheaded by the dreary, monotone immigration minister, Peter Dutton, is murderous. At the very least, it suggests complicity in manslaughter.

The gulag recipe for treating refugees and asylum seekers was always going to be an exercise in carceral brutality, a democratic state’s totalitarian alternative. Anyone familiar with the basic texts of criminology would have had a nodding acquaintance with the effects of incarceration, notably on those who did not, in fact, commit any crime. And here, the populations on Manus Island and Nauru face the sense of being punished for crimes they did not commit.

In the case of Manus, another dimension has come into play. The imminent closure of the rogue Australian outpost, funded by the Australian tax payer and deemed illegal by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court, has sent various asylum seekers into a state.

A situation of disturbance has been compounded, heaped upon by diplomatic machinations. The US-Australia refugee deal, mocked and derided by US president Donald Trump, haunts detainees. As does the prospect of resettlement in another country, most likely one hostile and ill-suited.

One of these broken figures was the late Hamed Shamshiripour, who on Monday was found dead in the vicinity of East Lorengau refugee transit centre on Manus Island after having gone missing on Saturday.

In the aftermath, police were already clear: the death was occasioned by suicide. But Inspector David Yapu initially confirmed that a crime scene had been declared, a point at odds with Papua New Guinea police commissioner Gary Baki. The body sported wounds, though news outlets seemed short on detail. Another outlet, news.com.au, noted that he had been “found hanging from a tree”. Shamshiripour’s family, sensing another hand in this, have demanded an autopsy followed by an inquest into the cause, timing and circumstances of his demise.

His state had caught the eye of those working on Manus, not to mention a few detainees themselves. The eloquent Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee and journalist held in the improvised prison since 2013, emitted on Twitter that a letter had been sent to authorities “stating [Shamshiripour] needs medical treatment.” The authorities, Boochani was clear, “did not care.”

Professor George Newhouse of the National Justice Project, an entity acting for the Shamshiripour family, explained that his ailing condition “had been monitored by Border Force and was known to Comcover”. This knowledge “implicated” Australia’s leaders in the death.

Human rights advocates had been busy on the warning circuit for months, using virtually every medium imaginable in attempting to convince the Immigration Department that the late Shamshiripour was “at risk”, being in an “unstable state” and showing “erratic and unpredictable behaviour”.

Case managers and guards also mucked in, observing his “erratic switching between crying, laughing, and declarations such as announcing himself as ‘King of Iran’ and then playing so in character.” The tireless Dr Barri Phatarfod from Doctors for Refugees similarly reiterated that a year of warnings had passed in an effort to have Shamshiripour moved to the Australian mainland, furnishing the Australian network, SBS, with a letter of concern from August 6, 2016.

Dr John Brayley, chief medical officer of that outfit of sinister import, the Australian Border Force, was privy to the steep decline in Shamshiripour’s health over a year ago. “Thank you for your recent email correspondence indicating your concern in relation to Mr Shamshiripour’s mental health management,” wrote Brayley to an unspecified inquirer in August 2016. “We had received advice about his current health care but recent events have overtaken this.”

The matter was given a bureaucratic, rather than mental appraisal. “Our office is seeking a copy of his file, in particular to review his mental health records.” This is the Australian camp apparatus in glorious operation, one unswervingly dedicated to cruelty above compassion and dispensation. When caught in a fix, bury the matter. When confronted with an awful truth, review it interminably till it, hopefully, vanishes. True to form, Brayley has refused to accept interviews while the Department of Immigration and Border Protection remains stonily mute.

Left with few devices other than grief and channelled indignation, Shamshiripour’s family held a vigil in Gachsaran for their lost one. But their determination to sniff out a paper trail on accountability is clear. In Newhouse’s words, “the family want justice and they want those responsible to be held accountable even if that goes all the way to the prime minister and the minister for immigration.” The self-proclaimed King of Iran will be avenged.

Dr Binoy Kampmark is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He is a contributing editor to CounterPunch and can be followed on Twitter at @bkampmark.



  1. Michael Taylor

    Great post, as usual, Binoy.

  2. Kyran

    Without intending any disrespect for the man, he is beyond caring now. Ian Rintoul has made some comments on this.

    “Anyone who has seen the photos knows that Hamed’s death is suspicious. And anyone who is familiar with Hamed’s circumstances, would know that Hamed had been arrested and beaten by the local police many times. The PNG police could not be relied on to carry out a thorough or impartial investigation. There are no facilities on Manus for an autopsy,” said Rintoul.


    A man arrested and incarcerated, instead of diagnosed and treated, by the PNG authorities. In addition to that, as if the beatings at the hands of the authorities, were insufficient;

    “While suicide is suspected, mystery surrounds his death. His body was found near the school well outside the East Lorengau centre. Refugees on Manus are convinced that his death is suspicious as Hamid had often been beaten by locals.”


    That is all by the by. He is gone now. Whether there will ever be adequate examination of a death in custody is largely irrelevant. The sad and sorry truth is that this young man is gone.
    The other sad and sorry truth is that there are nearly 2,000 others. The difference is that they are still alive. Physically and mentally tortured. But still alive.
    On the political agenda is a matter of equality, which Shorten addressed in parliament. His speech is well worth listening to. The similarities and hypocrisy are, quite simply, inescapable.
    How can you argue that “it’s about refusing to walk past our fellow Australians when they need us” and say that those of us who are potential Australian’s deserve no such consideration?
    How can you argue “This is my message for business leaders, sporting clubs, the union movement and community groups: it’s time to get involved; it’s time to organise and fight for equality.” whilst denying those most in need of equality, as nothing other than human beings, any prospect of equality?

    “My final message to LGBTI people is this: and it’s a message to their parents, and their siblings, and their children and everyone who loves them: I know this has been a week of heartbreak, following years of disappointments. I know that some Liberals worked hard not to have this outcome and I respect them for that. I know that LGBTI Australians are frustrated, they’re angry, they’re sad, and they’re bewildered that it has come to this. But I want you to know: you are not alone. You are not alone in this fight ahead. Over the next few months, terrible things will be said about you and your families, about your lives, your identities and your choices, and the Prime Minister will not stand up for you. I am sorry you have to endure this. But Labor will stand up for Australians. I give you this promise: we stand with you. When you don’t feel like you have a voice, we will speak up for you. When you feel attacked, we will defend you. When we hear prejudice and discrimination, we will not cross the road and pretend it is not happening; we will call it out.”

    Read that last paragraph again. Imagine, if you can, instead of ‘LGBTI’, the words were ‘asylum seekers/refugees’.
    It seems odd to note that Fairfax are reporting a meeting of Labor backbenchers on Wednesday evening with the shadow immigration minister. Apparently, they were suggesting he was more of a shadow than anything else. In the same article, Dastyari is cited addressing ‘pub talks’ saying enough is enough.

    “The only responsible and humane thing for our government to do is immediately evacuate every single man on Manus, every single family and child on Nauru to safety on Australia” (Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre, Aug 7, 2017).”
    Thank you Dr Kampmark. Take care

  3. helvityni

    Totally agree with Daniel Webb, and thank you Dr Kampmark and Kyran for caring; it does not look like many here do. Maybe it’s getting too much for some, we worry about what will happen to homeless people chased away from tent city by our Liberal State leaders .another worry is about how the battle regarding equal marriage will be solved….and so on……and more…

  4. stephengb2014

    I am nearly 70, a dual citizen, therefore now a second class citizen, I have been in Australia since 1978. Whilst my life here has been very fortunate I am tired of what is happening to Australia, but note that its not just here but seemingly in Britain and the USA.

    The advent of Social Media and Independent Media has changed how we see the world and indeed ourselves. What I see is depravity, especially by some people, particularly the extremists (Left or right). I have to assume it was always there unrecognised, hidden in the underbelly of the Western world society.

    Haven’t we become such a nasty bunch of mere animals.

    Sorry but I am so, so upset at what is happening!

    S G B

  5. helvityni

    stephen, I was happy until Howard started the ugly business of kids overboard and of course Abbott really divided the country, and Turnbull has been a great disappointment… let’s hope we’ll see more enlightened times ahead… 🙂

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