By Isaiah Dawe.
Arash Bordbar is a 23 year-old refugee from Iran and an inspiring advocate for refugees’ access to education and employment opportunities.
In December 2016, Arash was awarded the Young People’s Human Rights Medal. Arash was amazed. “I could not believe I was the winner, it ensured I am on the right pathway”
The human rights champion is currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Western Sydney, he wants to use his degree and education to help others. “I want to help build houses for refugees and those in rural areas. Those who don’t have a safe place.”
Among many other achievements, Arash was invited to the United Nations in Geneva last year to attend the global refugee youth consultations at the High Commissioners dialogue. Arash was a representative of Australian and New Zealand young people, shining a light on injustices relating to all asylum seekers and refugees around the world. “I was also able to share my stories with the High Commissioner himself and had him quote me on my experience and I also got the green light from him to launch a youth led advisory board.”
Despite Arash’s successes, his start in life hasn’t been easy. He has travelled long and far for his family to live in a safe environment. He left his homeland and lived in Malaysia as an asylum seeker for six years. “Life in Malaysia wasn’t easy but it taught me a lot of things, how to be strong and protect my family and to never give up. I met very generous people here who helped me pass these situations, those people are the reason I strive today”.
During his five year stay in Malaysia, Arash and his family were considered as illegal immigrants. “Every day was a constant worry of whether we would be stopped by police officers or brought to jail just because they did not recognise our UNHCR passes,” Arash exclaimed. He spent a lot of his time in Malaysia helping refugees from Iran and Afghan with translations for their health checks or legal documents.
Arash believes strongly in helping refugees with education, as they will then in turn have the same life opportunities as everybody else. Arash started learning English when he was in Iran, although it was very basic, but it was his first glimpse of the start of his educational pathways.
Arash is a mentoring volunteer within the ‘settlement services international’ and a youth volunteer with the Refugee Council of Australia and Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network making sure refugees are empowered with a voice and they can reach their goals no matter the barriers. “It’s the most basic form of human rights, with an education it can develop your skills and help you gain knowledge of your future and it helps you give back to the community.”
“Being able to continue my education has absolutely changed my life, it will help grow the economy, create jobs, bring new ideas and initiatives and be a part of the solution”.
He has an inspirational message of hope to those facing life’s barriers. “Nothing is impossible, it might be hard. But if you’re really passionate about something, then you can definitely achieve it.
“If you can look up, you can get up, failing doesn’t ever mean that you won’t get there and trying a few times will only make you stronger. There are always different ways of approaching a situation so never give up on what you want”.
Nominate your human rights champion here, who is changing the society we live in for the better recognising of our values, our identity and ability to ensure an adequate standard of living as humans. Everyone, everywhere, everyday our human rights.
Watch the interview
Photo: Arash Bordbar and UNHCR volunteer colleagues