IRANIAN woman Mojgan Shamsalipoor has started a tour of schools across Queensland explaining to students and teachers the plight of refugees and asylum seekers held in detention.
The 24-year-old remains on a temporary bridging visa, and still faces deportation or detention by the end of the year.
As she awaits an Immigration Department decision about her future, Ms Shamsalipoor has support from Queensland Teachers’ Union to visit schools and share her unique and compelling story.
“A lot of beautiful Australian people taught me that I can have a voice, I can stand up for my rights, I can fight for myself, and what happened to me is not right,” Ms Shamsalipoor told young women at Mount Alvernia College, Kedron, during a lunchtime school visit.
Her case has been in the media spotlight, and she has released a book – Under the Same Sky – telling of her heart-rending struggle to remain in Australia with her husband, Milad Jafari, who is also a refugee from Iran and now a permanent resident.
The couple met in Brisbane, while Ms Shamsalipoor was serving home detention and attending Yeronga State High School.
Their lives were thrown into turmoil when Ms Shamsalipoor was transferred into detention.
In September last year, after almost two years in detention, in Brisbane and in Darwin, Ms Shamsalipoor was released into the community.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton used his discretionary powers to issue Ms Shamsalipoor a temporary bridging visa.
It was renewed in March this year, but since then the Immigration Department has rejected her application for a partner visa, and given her a six-month ultimatum.
More than 113,000 people have signed a petition in which Ms Shamsalipoor has pleaded for Mr Dutton to allow her to stay.
Accompanying Ms Shamsalipoor on her speaking tour, one of her closest supporters, Yeronga State High School deputy principal, Jessica Walker, said Ms Shamsalipoor faced persecution and imprisonment if forced to return to Iran.
“If Mojgan went back to Iran she would be arrested because of the things she has done in Australia,” Ms Walker said.
“In Iran it is illegal for women to dance in public. It is illegal to speak out in the way Mojgan has about the things she’s talked about.
Under the Same Sky is Mojgan and Milad’s love story – their struggle to seek refuge in Australia, being torn apart and their love and caring for each, despite Mojgan’s detention.
The book is also a story of how Australians from many walks of life have sympathised and backed the young couple.
Supporters range from a legion of schoolgirls to politicians who have raised the case in state and federal parliaments.
As she starts her school speaking tour, Ms Shamsalipoor said Australians should appreciate their freedom.
“I want them to know they are living in an amazing country with a lot of opportunities and they have to appreciate their life and their opportunities, and second I want them to know that we as refugees and asylum seekers are no different – we are all under the same sky and we are all human beings,” she said.
“I met women who had been locked up in offshore detention in Nauru and Manus (Island) and I felt I have to be the voice for a lot of women who are in the same situation as me but they can’t stand up for their rights, either because of their culture or because of shame.
“So I have to fight for my friends who are in the same situation as me.
“Freedom for me is a feeling in your heart. It happens when your heart and face smile at the same time. It happens when you have peace of mind and it happens when you are hopeful and certain of a bright future,” Ms Shamsalipoor said.
A petition in support of Ms Shamsalipoor can be found online at change.org.