|5 years ago today...
||[Oct. 19th, 2006|01:02 am]
SIEVX SURVIVOR ACCOUNTS
[This is a transcript of a videotape that was made of the survivors of the SIEVX disaster at Bogor in the week following the shipwreck. It was translated by Keysar Trad of the Lebanese Muslim Association, Sydney. This document was provided to this site by Tony Kevin who presented it to the CMI Inquiry as an attachment to his first submission. Except for a small section removed from the end, this is an exact copy of the document. Names in square brackets have been added by sievx.com]
Transcripts of video taped statements from the survivors of the boat that capsized with 418 asylum seekers on board in October 2001
I boarded the boat with 15 other family members, 9 drowned and 6 remained. We clung on to a plank of timber for 20 hours drifting in the water. Something I witnessed left a very strange impression, a baby with umbilical cord still attached to the mother was amongst those who drowned.
There was 150 children on board, only 4 survived, the man broke down and could not continue his account.
Person 2 [Fawzi Qasim]
I boarded the boat with my wife and four children and also my brother, brother's wife and two children. My wife and one of my children survived, my brother and family all drowned also.
My brother screamed out to be rescued but I could not help him, he was too far from the children. One of my other children kept crying for water until the morning when he died of thirst. I kept two of my children on my shoulder all night, it was raining heavily, I did not know where my wife was. One of the children died in the morning from thirst, other child survived.
Person 3 [Faris Kadhem]
Mr. Sadik Kazim - Lost his wife and seven year old daughter (Zahra) as the boat started rocking from one side to another, people fell on top of each other, I held my wife and daughter when they fell in the water, they then fell out of my arms and I could not find them until they all drowned and their bodies floated. I did not drown because I held on to a piece of timber approx. 20 cm by 70 cm.
Person 4 [Najah Muhsin]
female - lost brother (20 years of age), sister (20 years of age) and son (1.5 years old), my son was with my sister, as the boat began sinking I grabbed on to my son, he kept going under the water, I would lift him up over and over then I saw the milk coming out of his nose and he died.
Person 5 [Rokaya Satar]
female - Lost husband and two daughters (5 and 2 years of age respectively). As the engine stopped, my husband went to help fix it, boat started to rock, one of my daughters started calling out for her father, he came back, hugged his daughter and returned to try and fix the engine. I was holding on to my daughters when the ship sank, another lady trying to get to safety accidentally stepped on my daughter in the water, so I pulled her back up, this happened more than once to each of the daughters, after being stepped on a few times, I lost the elder of the two girls and only had the younger one, I began searching for my husband whilst still holding on to the baby, this is when a lady accidentally placed her hand and foot on the baby and the baby went under water. Her story is continued later.
Young lady, 13 years of age, name: Zaynab - Lost mother, father and brother, she only saw her brother in the water before he drowned. If Australia grants me a visa, I will not go unless all the survivors are allowed to come with me.
Person 7 [Issam Mohamad Ismail (aka Essam Al Haddad)]
Issam, male and his family, maternal uncle's wife and her three daughters (this is Ali Mahdi Sobie's wife and children, Ali is a TPV holder in Australia). Issam's wife is amongst the survivors. I saw my friend Abu Fatima drown along with his wife, two sons and two daughters. I felt choking as women and children clung on to me, I was able to swim because I was wearing a life jacket, the break up of the boat separated my family, my son Ammar also drowned. My younger son was rescued by a man by the name of Alaa' who also survived. As the sun was setting, I heard a voice that I recognised, it was that of my wife, another passenger who was a good swimmer rescued my wife and then died himself. My wife and I clung on to a piece of timber and we each were wearing a life jacket, we were both rescued. We prayed: "God, if this pleases you, we will not complain, you are the most Compassionate." The strong rain continued, as we got tired, I was suggesting to my wife that there is nothing to live for after losing our children, my wife said: "No, we have to survive." (The wife is a direct descendent of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.) She said to me, my great great grandfather Hussain said we must hang on, God will keep us alive so that we can tell our story, the world must know. The next day, approximately 11 AM, still clinging to the piece of timber, being pushed around by the waves we were rescued by the fishing boats, then I saw the other people crying, we were a large family (with uncle's wife and children) now there are only three survivors.
Male. I was one of a group of ninety, only 10 of us survived my family had 15 members when the boat capsized, the children were wearing life jackets, unfortunately, all the children were trapped inside the boat, they could not come out only a small number were able to get out, many died from thirst, the cold, the waves and the heavy rain, some were drinking sea water which was heavily polluted with fuel from the boat as it broke up. I was holding my brother's daughter, she kept crying all night because of thirst until she died. Also my nephew Hussein kept weeping for water all night, he was given urine to drink by his father to get him to stop crying.
Male, I was part of a large group only 5 remained, when the ship capsized, the 150 children kept floating up looking for air to breathe inside their cabin, more water went in and they were drowned, I managed to swim out following a ray of light that beamed through.
Mr. Eesa, lost(?) with wife and two daughters, eldest was 4 years of age.
Male. There was a passenger by the name of Jaber Alhsnai, an elderly man (80 years of age) coming with his son, his son had four sons and one daughter, the son was lost between trying to rescue his father or his family, he could not reach his wife and children, then I saw his body and his father's body floating in the water. This man was wearing a lifejacket, he saw 2 women screaming for help and he went towards them, there was a man with him named Ra'ad, as he saw others dying, he asked for forgiveness, he said good by and died right there and then. He tried to rescue the two women but could not, one died as he was trying to rescue her, but managed to rescue the second woman, she was the wife of Ra'ad who had just died. Ra'ad was not aware before dying that his wife was one of the two ladies screaming for help.
Ala Alayrawany - spoke about families he knows that drowned. There was the family of Salam Cheway, Bassem Al Ruwaidy and Bahr Alrabbawy all of them from the city of Najaf. Only 5 survived, I and four others, Aqid, Muhammad, Abu Sajjad and Musa, our group was composed of 95, only 5 from the entire group survived and we did in a miraculous way.
Person 13 [Bahram Khan]
Afghan who spoke Pushto, cold not translate, his name was Bahran, had a family of 8 (his four brothers and their families), only he survived.
There were 418 passengers on the boat, only 45 survived, 4 are children, 4 of the children survived, 146 children drowned. There were 150 women, 8 (including the young girl) survived, there were 113 men in total, 33 survived. The boat sank at 3:10 PM on Friday the 19th of October 2001.
When the boat started to sink, there were 100 survivors, by the next day when the rescue boats came, there were only 45 alive to be rescued.
We call upon all human rights organizations, all Muslims, all noble people from all faiths, we call on all humanitarian countries to solve our dilemma. Remaining in Indonesia will be a constant reminder of the tragedy, it will be a constant reminder of our dead children, families and friends, we cannot live here, we lost our loved ones, we want to settle, we do not want to be a burden on any community, we want to work, we want to get on with our lives, we want to help the other survivors get on with their lives, we want a better future for the survivors, we are from Iraq, Iraq is like a prison, we escaped to Iran, we were oppressed in Iran, they would not even admit our children into schools in Iran. In May and June 2001, the real estate agents in Iran were officially ordered not to rent property to foreigners and employers were also told not to employ foreigners. This was an official order applicable against Iraqis and Afghans. We are forced to seek asylum, we want to see our children go to school just like other children, we appeal in the names of the 45 survivors for a quick solution, we thank the Mufty Sh. Hilali and the others who helped us, we will never forget what they did for us.
Person 15 [Sadiq Raza]
man with child - lost wife, paternal cousin, he and his baby daughter survived, said: I cannot speak about what I witnessed, please let me be excused, his daughter cries out for her mother, there were a number of us holding onto a plank of timber, as time went on in the water, one would say, I cannot hold on, please forgive me, please pass my greetings to so and so. and they would lose their grip and get washed away, this happened to one after the other.
Hassan Jassem from Basra, lost wife and three children, Fatima 5 yrs, Batoul 1yr and 8 months and a boy 20 days old. I did not get to enjoy looking at the 20 day old enough, my wife and daughters were looking at me and crying as the ship capsized. I am unwell, I cannot go into the hospital in Indonesia. Every time I go, I remember how when I was in hospital before, my wife who had heart problems used to come to visit me and look after me in the hospital.
Person 17 [Ahmed Hussein]
tearful man - 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.
At 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, anywhere I went in Indonesia, I get 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, any 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.
Person 18 [Abdul Ridha Lafta Egzar (aka Abu Muslim)]
Abu Muslim - a man by the name of Abu Yasin began calling out to me, Abu Muslim, my wife, my children, Muhammad and Houda they drowned, they died.
I would say, they died, we are next, I saw a child, I thought he was asleep on the water, but I found him to be dead, I also saw Mohammad, the son of Dr. Kamal (AL Battat), the boat broke up, Mohammad called out to me: Abu Muslim, Abu Muslim help me, several people were calling out to me, I was confused as to who to go to, I said how can I help you? He did not have a lifejacket, none of those who called out had one.
Since the incident, we have been living the tragedy daily. I saw a couple crying, each asking the other for forgiveness, the wife saying that this cannot be true, it must be a nightmare. There were those crying for water, others asking for forgiveness before they die, to date, we cannot sleep because of the tragedy, the tragedy is beyond our ability. There were waves between 3 and 4 metres high, a mixture of fuel and saltwater, anyone who takes in this water and is able to vomit is okay, however, the one who could not vomit dies by suffocation immediately. It was a battle against the sea and the rain. Whilst most people stopped talking by morning, many did not lose hope in God and continued to pray to God for salvation.
We saw many different tragedies, the floating dead bodies, those crying for their brothers, fathers, wives, children, etc. It was unimaginable, I cannot continue, excuse me.
Question: What can you do? What happened?
[Person 16 again ]
A different Person who spoke before answered: True, I lost three children and my wife, but the 150 children are like my own too. Those who perished with their families have found reprieve, but as for us, we are mere empty shells, our souls went with them.
When water started to overtake the boat, my family and I were in a room inside when we saw the water. Many were sea sick, when my daughter saw others seasick she did not take much notice but would continue to play as if things were normal. This time however, she felt that there was a real danger, so she went to her mother, she was very afraid and horrified. Her mother was crying and reading Qur`an, she placed the Qur`an on her daughter's head to pray for her.
I saw my entire family crying, to this day, I remember the scene, my wife holding the 20 day old child and crying, not knowing what to do, and the children crying.
Before the incident, I would come home and kiss my sleeping children for ten minutes, always looking at them, my wife thought that I was mad, she would always ask why? I would say that I do not know, I have an ominous feeling, I do not know. My son was born recently, when people called me Abu Ali, I felt that this son would not live for long, I felt strange when they called me father of Ali (Abu Ali).
There were two engines, one was not working, I was trying to repair it, it was an old engine but we repaired it as new, I never imagined that the boat would sink. As I would work on repairing the boat, I was looking at my family, as the boat began to capsize, they were all looking at me, trying to repair the boat. I am still affected by these final moments. (weeping). My wife fell whilst holding the 20 day old baby.
When the boat capsized, I lost my sanity, I was weeping over my misfortune, that I did not die with them, I began searching for them, every time I saw a child, I could not differentiate between it and my children, my wife and children stayed under the boat, they never came out. I was not wearing a lifejacket, I was hitting at my head and lamenting my loss and praying for my own death, I was dragged under water three times, I do not know what kept pushing me up to stay alive.
Anywhere I placed my arm, a drowned child or woman would emerge and lift my arm and the surviving women would cry more.
As for me, remaining in Indonesia causes us depression, every time we see the scene, it reminds me and the others of these tragedies. We wanted to live with the Australian people, we appeal to the Australian people to take up our cases, there is no difference between us even though we have a different faith, we are still human beings, we appeal to the new government to find a solution for us. (All his family remained under water, non floated to the surface).
[Bahram Khan again]
Next Person spoke in Afghani.
Haydar, we were a group of 28 doctors from Khuzistan we lived in Iran for 11 years, only 5 remained. There were some children and some women amongst the group. There was a call for the strong able-bodied men to take out the water, they were taking up buckets of water from the boat, the water went into the engines, there was also heavy rain and the boat was sinking. As the water began to rise inside the boat, people started to go en-mass to where there was no water, so the boat would tilt and water would follow them, they kept running for dry deck until the boat started to break apart and capsized.
The bottom level of the boat had women and children, the middle level had families and the top level had men only.
No one survived from the bottom level, as the boat capsized people were trapped with little air, I was inside with the children, there remained a small area where air was trapped, I had a lifejacket and was able to swim to safety, but the others, the children and the women had no chance.
The captain's room was all in the water.
Fish were biting at our bodies, I had to be hospitalised due to fish bites.
This horrible scene, between the broken boat, the fish biting at us and the dead bodies, there was a section of the boat with people standing on it and seeing their children dying, one would say: Haydar, look, my son Mohammad is dead, I would say, we will follow them soon. I saw the father looking up and calling to God: My God, you took my son, a sacrifice for you, if you would also like more, I submit to you, he died after this. I do not know how far their voices in prayer reached. If suicide was permitted, I am certain many would have let go.
I appeal to every Person with humanity, I appeal to the Australian people.
Back to Person 
We heard so much about Australia, that Australians are not racist, that they are humanitarian, so we wanted to come, because we suffered from racism in Iran, children up to 15 years of age could not read or write because they were not permitted into schools.
I have relatives in Australia, they used to tell me that Australians are great tolerant people, Australians are not racist and they have freedom, for this reason, we wanted to come to Australia in particular, we were deprived of freedom in our own countries.
Back to the lady, [Rokaya Satar]
When they came to us and showed us the boat, we were told that this boat was not the one to get us to Australia, it was only a transit boat that would get us to the boat that would bring us to Australia, they put us in a very small place on the boat, with children on top of each other, we remained there till 6:AM and then the boat moved out and kept moving till 3:10 PM when it began to sink. The engine stopped working, some went to fix the engine whilst others were taking water out and a third group trying to move left and right to keep the boat balanced in the water.
The water came from the left and then the right and the boat capsized. When it did, the women and the children started to come out, I grabbed my daughters, aged five and two, my husband was fixing the engine inside, my daughter was crying wanting her father, her father came out to see them before the boat capsized and then went back to fix the engine. As I was holding my daughters trying to keep them from drowning, a woman came and stepped on my elder daughter as she was scurrying for safety, I pulled my daughter up, the women kept tripping on my daughter repeatedly until my daughter sank and I could not pull her up anymore. I only had my younger daughter now, I started to look for my husband, I could not find my elder daughter anywhere. A woman, looking for her two daughters came, she did not know what she was doing, she pushed me and my daughter under water. I was able to keep holding my daughter, she pushed us a second time but we were still able to go up, on the third occasion, my daughter was lost. I then saw a man by the name of Yasser Elhelou, he lost his entire family, I called out to him, he could not help me. I saw another man wearing a lifejacket, I asked him to help me find my daughter, as he turned, I found that it was my husband. I told him that my daughters were taken under, he said: may be someone has rescued them, he was able to grab a floating plank of timber for me, we went on the plank for a while, I said that I am in despair for my daughters, he said may be someone has rescued them. Then I saw my small daughter Alya` floating, eyes open, dead, her father embraced her and started calling her name, he kissed her and hugged her, I said: God has taken her, he said come see her, I said: I cannot look at her, he left her, then a little later, we saw the body of my elder daughter with the body of the woman who was responsible for her going under water, the other women's two daughters, twelve and eleven were also floating by her, both dead, my daughter was on top of her head. My husband said: This is my daughter Kawthar, her father tried to revive her, he called out to her, her father then started to choke in pain and sorrow. He looked quite strong until he saw his daughters and he started choking. He said: I have lost my family, I have brought you to this, I do not deserve to live, he said: I cannot stay, I do not want to see you die in front of me. As he was talking, he was looking very tired, he was crying, his grip became loose because of his exhaustion, a wave then came and washed him away from the timber.
His friend saw him drifting past, he asked him: Why did you leave your wife? He said: my wife died, I don't deserve to live, he was floating with lifejacket, looking to the sky, saying: this is because of me, I brought my family to their death. He asked me to forgive him, he said: I brought you to Australia, you did not want to come here, I was left alone, the other survivors were taken elsewhere by the waves, I felt alone until the middle of the night, I heard cries from others from time to time, but I could not see them. Later I saw two people. Ra'ad and Abu Mohammad, the latter was my husband's friend, I yelled out to them: take me with you, I am alone, they pulled my plank towards their's where there was another woman holding on, the other woman became tired and sank under the water twice and died. I kept holding on, I asked the man: Are you Abu Mohammad, my husband's friend? He said: Are you Umm Kawthar? He said: I thought that you all died because you were inside, I said: Abu Kawthar and the girls died. Abu Mohammad said: We will also die like them in five minutes. Ra'ad said I am feeling sleepy, I have to sleep, I cannot stay with you. Abu Mohammad said: Do not leave me alone with the lady, I cannot help her on my own, Ra'ad then drifted off, we remained until the boats came and rescued us.
Person 21 [Najah Muhsin again]
Mrs. Elzoueni, I was travelling with my four brothers, one of them was the 21 year-old Haydar, and my sisters, a twenty year old and an eighteen year old and my son Karrar, eighteen month old. Only my eighteen year old sister Zena survived. When we were brought to the boat, we were told that we would be transported to the main ship, we found this to be untrue. We felt like meat on meat (like sardines), my brother was sick, they put him on the top deck, we were all unwell, the boat moved. I saw a ten months old girl before the accident, she fell from her father's arms into the ocean, people were packed on top of each other, a small ship with people seasick and women and children afraid and crying. Then a crack appeared in the boat and water started to gush inside and the men could not keep up with the water trying to thrown it outside with buckets. There were about one hundred lifejackets only, people were crying. My brothers came and gave a lifejacket to my sister, we started praying to God: O God, You who saved Noah, save us! I was inside, my sister was carrying my son, then I took my son from her, then we were in the water and the waves kept washing me and my son dragging him under and over until the milk started coming out of his face (nose or mouth). The boat broke up within seconds, the waves washed the family members apart. I saw a woman giving birth in the ocean, I saw my brother being washed away by the waves, I called out to him but saw him weeping/crying.
When night came, I saw a group of 22 young men with a thirteen-year-old girl and a lady who lost her three daughters, lost her son and lost her mother-in-law. My brother did not want to come to Australia, he only wanted to get us to safety and return.
Thirst, hunger and saltwater, people had not eaten since Wednesday so that they do not throw up, I clung onto a plank with another lady, all the water around us was contaminated with fuel, the little girl died from exhaustion and the cold, she did not have a lifejacket, from our group of 25, there were only seven left. Time passed quickly, like a miracle, dawn came at what felt like 1:00AM, I prayed to God to take my life, I could no longer cope with the pain, we were then rescued by an Indonesian boat.