Get to know our founders:
Mozhgan is a human rights advocate, public speaker and legally trained refugee law paralegal, with a Bachelor’s degree in English Teaching and Translation.
In 2013 Mozhgan moved to Indonesia with her parents and younger brother. Over the next few years she became increasingly involved in supporting refugee communities, first as a trained interpreter by the American university of Cairo assisting the Suaka Legal Aid Program of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, then as a paralegal assisting asylum seekers to draft applications for asylum and supporting the work of International Refugee Lawyers in Indonesia. She speaks 4 languages, English, Farsi, Dari and Bahasa Indonesia.
Mozhgan is the cofounder of the Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Center, a member of the Jakarta Refugee Network, a founding member of the Jakarta Refugee Advocacy Network (JAPPSI), coordinates multiple programs in support of refugee communities including hygiene and food packages, eye clinics, connecting individuals with medical assistance and responding to legal aid enquiries. She writes for publications, has been interviewed by ABC Australia, has spoken at events for Advocates for Refugee Singapore, Soristics, Sandya Institute, ACICIS and campaign.com.
Mozhgan is also a refugee recognised under the UNHCR’s 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee stranded in a transit country without any rights.
Jafar arrived in Indonesia in 2013 with his sister. Jafar is from Iran, where he completed forced military service after finishing secondary school. After this Jafar worked in graphic design before he was forced to flee. After arriving to Indonesia Jafar successfully passed the entrance exam and took part in the first year of community interpreting for refugees in Indonesia in 2014, a program coordinated by Jesuit Refugee Services and the American University of Cairo. Since then he has volunteered and assisted many refugees. All of these activities have been volunteer, as refugees do not have work rights.
More recently Jafar has taken part in paralegal training covering all areas of international refugee law. Jafar is fluent in Arabic, Farsi and English, and can converse in Dari and Bahasa Indonesia. In his spare time Jafar enjoys fashion design, and for the future Jafar would love to be safely resettled with his sister, and to create his own line of clothing.
Since shortly after arriving in Indonesia, the then future co-founders of RAIC have volunteered to assist and support asylum seekers and refugees, and still continued asking themselves how they could do more. The ‘That’s it!’’ moment for the two friends finally came together over a chicken sandwich lunch in 2017.
Both had earlier completed interpreter training for refugees, and both had been overwhelmed by the sheer number of asylum seekers and refugees who came to them begging for help. So overwhelming was the constant flow of desperate people, people just like them who were ashamed of their asylum seeker and refugee status, and so difficult was it to constantly try and help people who had completely lost of all hope, Mozhgan struggled with the constant demands and horrible stories of persecution she was hearing, and twice changed phone numbers to ensure some self-care for herself. Luckily she had a lot of support from friends and was always able to return to helping people.
After becoming community interpreters for refugees, they both started interpreting for a few refugee lawyers during interviews with people whose first applications to UNHCR had been rejected. A small, new Indonesian network called Suaka, supported by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, was assisted by international refugee lawyers, who volunteered at various times between 2014 and early 2017. Interpreting for these experienced refugee lawyers and watching them carefully draw out a person’s story to see if it fit the international legal criteria to become a refugee, Mozhgan and Jafar understood how important legal assistance is. They realised many asylum seekers, including themselves, had no idea how the UNHCR process worked, what the criteria to become a refugee was, or what was expected of them during UNHCR interviews. After becoming educated about these things, many of the people they interpreted for were found to be refugees on appeal.
All of this bought home to them how completely vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees are, and also that every single person in the refugee community was struggling with the same issues. They were also becoming close friends with more and more Indonesians, who were endlessly understanding and supportive. But what else could they do?
Mozhgan tried informational facebook pages and started a petition, without much success.
Jafar volunteered at a refugee school started by another trained community interpreter, and met even more Indonesians who were supportive of and wanted to help refugees.
Jafar had recently completed a free online marketing course and was using his new skills to interview asylum seekers and refugees to find out what information would be most helpful while they waited in their host country, Indonesia. Some Indonesian friends also educated Jafar about the use of phone applications for sharing information.
Then came the chicken sandwiches moment. When Jafar shared his ideas with over lunch a light went on for them both. The plan to build an informational website was born. Jafar and Mozhgan were both so happy that finally there may be a way to help a lot of people by providing basic information.
Other people and moments went into this story. A UNHCR officer told Jafar there are some Indonesian organisations helping refugees; BUT refugees need to also help each other. A friend of Mozhgan’s asked them to write a proposal, was very impressed with the outcome, and spoke with her friends to cover website costs.
Many many weeks and months of hard work and stress and talking with people later, the website is live.
Mozhgan and Jafar are beyond excited to provide this information to everyone, and welcome the involvement of anyone from the refugee community who can provide information for our pages from different areas of Indonesia.