Review Blog

Jun 19 2017

Under the same sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari and James Knight

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9780733637827
(Age: 15+) At a time when more than 20 million refugees seek shelter in countries which wrestle with questions regarding asylum, this story simply tells of the lives and experience of Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari, two young people from Iran.
Mojgan's background was one of financial hardship, with her single mother struggling to provide for the family and often having to depend upon the charity of relatives to access accommodation. It would appear that desperation drove her to remarry, hoping to create a more stable life and home for Mojgan, her sister and brothers. Sadly, the situation became nightmarish for Mojgan and her mother when her brutal and violent stepfather commenced beatings and sexual assault before arranging a marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather. Trapped by oppressive Sharia law which offered no escape and administrative corruption which enabled and supported the stepfather, Mojgan and her brother Hossein undertook the perilous journey to escape Iran.
Also growing up in Iran, Milad experienced a more secure life in a family provided for by his father who worked hard and enjoyed financial success. Life became dangerous for this family however as Milad came under police scrutiny for producing forbidden Hip Hop music and other family members became imperilled from simply knowing people who had been arrested and subsequently murdered for political reasons.
The tension and fear experienced by these young people fleeing an oppressive regime, risking their lives to the hands of people smugglers and enduring a frightening, arduous journey by boat is difficult to adequately express. Similarly the anxiety produced by protracted detention, the seemingly endless asylum application process and fear of terrible consequences if rejected and returned to Iran is impossible to summarise.
Meeting in Australia, Milad and Mojgan fall in love and marry, however their newfound joy turns to stress and fear when asylum is refused for Mojgan and she is pressured to return to Iran.
Recent events have prompted renewed consideration of Australia's asylum policy in relation to Moslem refugees by politicians, media commentators and the general public. Evident in this book was the fact that life for asylum seekers fleeing oppression is miserable and this is removed from any ideological debate concerning whether Australia ought or ought not accept Moslem refugees.
What affected me most powerfully was a sense of fury and despair that the world's refugee problem is principally caused by political and / or religious lunacy which foments oppression and violence. Whilst this continues, millions of innocents will continue to be driven from their homes where they might otherwise have stayed to live productive and happy lives.
Rob Welsh

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