Djokovic’s Mum Called His Detention ‘Torture’, As If Worse Isn’t Happening To Refugees

An image of Novak Djokovic looking thoughtful and anxious, next to an image of a protester supporting refugees and asylum seekers trapped at Melbourne's Park Hotel.

Novak Djokovic‘s parents have been outspoken in their anger at the Australian government’s move to detain him, and their relief that he is free. Probably one of their more striking comments though, is their claim that Djokovic was tortured — a loaded thing to say, considering refugees actually are being tortured in the same building.

Djokovic has officially been freed from detention in Melbourne Park Hotel, his visa cancellation overturned, and his fans overjoyed. But refugees can’t help but hurt, because this tennis star was freed in a matter of days and they’re yet to see justice after nine years.

On the matter of Djokovic’s detention, his mother described his four day imprisonment as “torture”, expressing outrage that he wasn’t even allowed outside to practice tennis. Shocking.

“He was subjected to torture, to harassment and we will hear even more about what he had to go through,” she said, according to the BBC.

“And of course, he fought against that system and against the government because he thought he had the right to be there with a with a visa that he got.”

I know many Aussies, especially those filled with disdain for Djokovic, will roll their eyes and laugh at that. Being locked in a hotel room is hardly torture, right? Wrong.

Personally, I don’t really care about Djokovic being bored in a hotel room for a couple of days, but his mother’s comments on torture are more loaded than you think.

Is Djokovic not being allowed to play tennis torture? Hardly. But you know what is torture? Refugees and asylum seekers being locked in the same hotel for nine years, who have been systematically dehumanised and emotionally abused by border forces to the point of severe trauma.

Adnan Choopani, an asylum seeker who was granted refugee status five years ago and yet is still waiting to be freed from his unlawful imprisonment, told about the horrific conditions he has endured in Melbourne’s Park Hotel.

“We can’t get fresh air, access to fresh air, and the food is disgusting,” Choopani said, referring to maggots and mould that refugees have found in the food supplied to them by the Australian government.

Another prisoner of the hotel, who only identified himself as Adnam to The Guardian, said that he is never even referred to by his name — he’s only called “detainee” or his number.

“It’s terrifying and bizarre. You’re always treated as a suspect. You are treated worse than a criminal,” he told The Guardian.

It’s this denial of basic human rights — food, open air, a name — that is evidence of the torture that asylum seekers and refugees suffer at the hands of our government.

Choopani said it best in a poignant comment reflecting on the nature of Australia’s brutality.

He told that he regrets trying to seek asylum in Australia, and he would go back to Iran if it wasn’t for the fact the government there would have him killed.

“I definitely would, but I know they’re going to torture me physically and mentally,” he said.

“But here in Australian detention they do it in a professional way – they just torture you mentally.”

I’m sure being trapped in a gross room with rotten food and no fresh air was a distressing experience for Djokovic while he was detained. I’m sure many Australians who experienced hotel quarantine earlier in the pandemic also found it to be an isolating and depressing experience.

Now imagine what that’s like with no fancy legal team, no international star status, no decent food, and no end in sight — for nine fucking years. That is torturous, and let’s not forget it.