An asylum-seeker’s story
I have read several books this year. The pick of them could change anyone’s attitude to refugees. Walking Free (co-author Patrick Weaver), is the compelling story of Munjed Al Muderis, a young surgeon who escapes Iraqi with its murderous leader Saddam Hussein and arrives in Australia in a leaky overcrowded fishing boat as an asylum-seeker. He spends 10 months in Curtain Detention Centre in north-western Australia. He describes his detention as inhuman. He has no name. His identity is a number, 982. Racism and cruelty are rife. Many detainees are children.
Munjed is frequently in solidarity confinement and regularly told to go back to Iraq. The government would help if he elected to return to Iraq. Australia doesn’t want him.
Munjed had to flee Iraq or face certain death owing to his refusal to comply with Hussein’s cruel demands.
On his release on August 26, 2000, he finds work as an orthopaedic surgeon in various hospitals in the Australian State, Victoria. He specialised in osseontegration, then practiced by a small number of surgeons worldwide. He becomes recognised, internationally, as a leader in osseontegration techniques. Many patients travel to Australia for his treatment. He treated amputees from the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.
Professor Per -Ingvar Branemark, working in the US and Sweden during the 1950s, is credited with the innovative osseointegration discovery based on the ability of human bone cells to attach to a metal surface. Since 2010 Munjed AL Muderis has further evolved the surgical technique utilising a high tensile strength titanium implant with a high prose plasma sprayed surface as an intramedullary prosthesis that is inserted into the bone residuum of amputees and then connected through an opening in the skin to a robotic limb. This allows amputees to mobilise with more comfort and less energy consumption. Al Muderis is also credited with combining osseointegration with joint replacement enabling below knee amputees with knee arthritis or short residual bone to mobilise without the need of a troublesome socket prosthesis.
At present AL Muderis has many roles including Associate professor at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney.
Regarding asylum-seekers he says he understands the raw popularity of `Stop the boats’ catchery.
`But I believe politicians should take a much more compassionate approach to asylum-seekers rather than attempt to portray them as evil enemies of the state. Mostly, they are not.’
Many people detained with him at Curtain are working in Australia as medical specialist, engineers and skilled trades people.
`The current system alienates asylum-seekers. And if they are alienated at the start they’ll remain alienated. They end up on the fringes of society.’
He appeals to politicians of all persuasions to come up with better solutions.
`Every human being deserves something better than having their lives dismissed in a flood of simplistic rhetoric, posturing and crass political point-scoring.’
It would be great if Walking Free became required reading in the schools of many countries. Then future generations might implement change. The book is a real page turner. The title is a play on words. Firstly, Munjed Al Muderis has found a new life. Secondly, his work enables his patients to walk free and enjoy a cherished normal life.