Blue Mountains donation helps torture survivor in long road to recovery

Life has taken a significant turn for the better for refugee and torture survivor Nashwan Yousif, thanks to a donation from Blue Mountains residents.

The Fairfield man was given a car just before Christmas, facilitiated through the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and worked on by Blaxland High School’s industrial technology automotive students, under the guidance of teacher Shaun Halden.

The students have tuned up several cars donated by Blue Mountains residents which have gone to refugees, and the latest came from Sheree Miller.

Mr Yousif came to Australia on a humanitarian visa in 2016 and lives in Fairfield with his wife Linda and three children.

He’s been working with counsellor Pearl Fernandes and others from the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors in Fairfield for the past 18 months.

Mrs Fernandes said the family was so happy when they heard they had been given a car that they started to sing. Their neighbours had wondered what the celebration was, and if someone was getting married.

In August 2014, Mr Yousif was kidnapped in Iraq and tortured by ISIS, sustaining nerve damage from electrocution, a broken pelvis, and a spinal injury. His family thought he was dead and held a funeral for him. But he managed to escape thanks to one of the captor’s, whose family Mr Yousif had helped in the past.

“The injury he sustained has left him with a chronic back problem as a result of the spinal problems. He can’t carry weight, so [grocery] shopping is a problem, and he’s not able to walk long distances,” Mrs Fernandes said.

It was more than a 2km walk between his home and the STARTTS office where the counselling sessions were held, so often Mr Yousif would be collected by staff midway so he could attend the appointments.

“He’s very grateful for the car and it will make a big difference to his life,” Mrs Fernandes said.

Mr Yousif had worked as a police officer in Iraq and he also defused bombs. He’s keen to work in Australia.