Australia

From pilot to paragliding: Iranian refugee flying high for Australia

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A one-time Iranian military pilot is taking to the sky for Australia at the Paragliding World Cup in Victoria, and he's hoping to represent his adopted country on a permanent basis.

For the past week, Iranian refugee Pedram Shiari has been competing in the elite Paragliding World Cup - soaring around the blue skies of Bright in Victoria's North East.

The flights are a far cry from his role in Iran's military where he made aerial video recordings of infrastructure and public gatherings.

Pedram won't elaborate on the circumstances, but says he was persecuted after applying for a discharge and travelled to Australia on a boat from Indonesia.

Members of the close-knit paragliding community.
Members of the close-knit paragliding community.
SBS News

"When we arrived in Australia it was on the Christmas Island so we had to go to detention centre for like two-months, in different detention centres to go through the check-ups and medical situation,” he said.

Eventually, Pedram's refugee status was established he says he set about tackling the challenges of life in a new country.

"When I came to Australia in 2013 it was very, very hard situation for me because I had nothing at all I had no "monies" no house and had nothing,” Mr Shiari said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Pedram Shiari hopes to represent his adopted country.
Twenty-seven-year-old Pedram Shiari hopes to represent his adopted country.
SBS News

The resourceful 27-year old was ultimately welcomed by Australia's close-knit paragliding community. But when he first arrived on the "scene" - the paragliding fraternity was perplexed at just who this extraordinarily talented pilot was - and where he'd come from.

"We really didn't know that much about him except we couldn't communicate with him too well because he didn't speak English, and as time went by we found ou his story - his amazing story," said David Snowden the team manager of the Australian Paragliding squad.

As they learned of Pedram's journey to Australia, a bond quickly developed.

Pedram Shiari travelled to Australia on a boat from Indonesia.
Pedram Shiari travelled to Australia on a boat from Indonesia.
SBS News

Fellow flyers have even helped fund Pedram's legal fees as he navigates the visa application process - and importantly helped him aquire expensive paragliding equipment.

"I feel so pleased to have them around it was amazing couldn't speak English at all when I came to Australia but I had the feeling the language we had is pretty much same the paragliding language is same," Mr Shiari said.

He says contesting the Paragliding World Cup is a dream come true – but his ultimate dream of securing Australian citizenship is yet to be fulfilled.

The Paragliding World Cup event was held in Bright, Victoria.
The Paragliding World Cup event was held in Bright, Victoria.
SBS News

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