DETENTION – AUSTRALIA: Alamdar, 13 & Montezar, 12

Artist: Monann De Jong

ALAMDAR AND MONTEZAR FROM AFGHANISTAN, DETAINED IN AUSTRALIA, AGED 13 AND 12

After months in Australia’s notorious outback detention centre in Woomera, a psychologist wrote about Alamdar Bakhtiyari that he was “’a child of good intelligence and of superior artistic talent’ but that he was ‘suffering deep depressive symptoms’ which were inflamed by ‘the depression now infecting his family’. She wrote that Alamdar needs ‘freedom and security’ which were unavailable within the detention system.

On the very day the psychologist wrote her report, Alamdar’s younger brother, Montezar, took a razor blade and cut himself across the arm and leg. At 12 years of age, ‘Monty’ was tired, lonely and without hope.’

In early 2002 a detention centre youth worker wrote that over her year’s involvement with the Bahktiyari family she had witnessed ‘a continual decline in the children’s well-being, particularly related to their socialisation and psychological state.’ Alamdar, the 13-year- old, was suffering from mood swings, suggesting: he withdrew from others and displayed ‘obvious signs of distress and trauma’. During a psychological consultation he had sat ‘curled almost into a ball and cried’. At other times he was aggressive. Alamdar had slashed his arms on two occasions, cutting the word ‘freedom’ into his inner forearm the second time. He had also twice sewn his lips together. Montezar, too, had slashed himself and sewn his lips together.’

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Artwork by Monann De Jong