Behrouz Boochani

On behalf of the 413th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Mr Mansour Shoushtari, 43 years old, is an Iranian refugee. He is a mechanic and a devoted animal lover. He practises compassion and care for any animal or bird that he sees in need. Even after 4 years of detention on Manus Island. As Behrouz Boochani writes:

He is someone whose presence in Manus prison is a paradox; that is, his very being conflicts with the prison in fundamental ways. Shoushtari’s personality projects beauty, he projects tenderness, he projects kindness; his existence is in opposition to the violence of Manus prison, in opposition to the power of the prison, in opposition to the barbarity of the prison.
— Behrouz Boochani

Every man, woman and child we have detained and tortured in the pretense of keeping our already inviolable  borders "safe" is forced to pay an agonising price for our racism, xenophobia and political expediency. What kind of people are we who demand physical and mental suffering and death from vulnerable strangers to placate our own insecurities?

End offshore detention #365

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 365th man on Manus Island, here is yet another warning of impending violence and ongoing suffering:

As the pressure increases on refugees to transfer to East Lorengau the relationship between them and the local people has been affected in significant ways. Locals have made it clear that under no circumstances will they tolerate refugees living in their community. This problem pertains mostly to the weak economic situation that plagues their society, in addition to the dynamics of local tribal culture and lifestyle.
In May an Iranian refugee was attacked and robbed by knife-wielding local youths. One week later an Afghan refugee was also attacked and had his property stolen. Then in late June a Bangladeshi refugee was set upon in a similar way and his elbow was badly cut with a knife. The injury was so extensive that he had to be taken to hospital in Port Moresby for emergency surgery.
This is a reality that cannot be denied: PNG is in no way safe for refugees. This is a fact that even the locals accept. In these precarious circumstances refugees are feeling extreme stress in anticipation of the closure of the prison camp. There is no safety whatsoever if they are left to live in the local community. But life in the Manus Island detention centre is becoming harder and harder with every day that passes.
— Behrouz Boochani,

We watch you do nothing to resolve this, Prime Minister. We see you under the control of Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo. We ask again that you bring all refugees in offshore detention to Australia. 

Australia's kyriarchal system on Manus and Nauru

Dear Prime Minister,

In Behrouz Boochani's article titled 'A Kyriarchal System: New Colonial Experiments / New Colonial Resistance' he describes Manus RPC as a Kyriarchal system of systematic oppression rooted in colonial ideology. To protest against this system, which we Australians use to detain and torture refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, he directs much of his efforts to producing documentation and protest in the form of works of art: a play ('Manus'), a film ('Chauka, please Tell us the Time') and soon a book (to be published by Picador).

Prime Minister, Behrouz Boochani, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Imran Mohammad, Mohammad Ali Maleki, Mr Eaten Fish and other refugees who have been imprisoned and tortured by Australia have created a legacy of documents which will ensure that Australia's illegality and cruelty will never be forgotten. Will it be your cowardice and inaction that is recorded in these documents? Or will you bring all refugees on Manus island and Nauru to Australia and end the nightmare of indefinite offshore detention?

Chauka, Please Tell us the Time

Dear Prime Minister,

The film 'Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time' was presented at the Sydney Film Festival on the weekend. The director of the film, Arash Kamali Sarvestani, was at the premier, but his collaborator, journalist Behrouz Boochani who filmed the footage on his mobile phone, was not at the premier because he was not granted a visa to travel from Papua New Guinea to Australia. His visa application was refused because he is in PNG without a visa because Australia forcibly removed him to PNG, against the law of PNG and against his own wishes and rights.

This article is an interview with Arash Kamali Sarvestani and Behrouz Boochani. In it they describe the process of film making behind the bars of detention. They discuss the creative process and their collaboration. They critique Australia's re-colonisation of PNG:

The politicians in Australia, they’re basically using the locals, they’re using the identity of the locals, to persecute refugees and asylum seekers. They’re treating the locals as colonial subjects. They’re using them. They look at them as worthless, as people who just do their dirty work. Just give them some money and they’ll do whatever they want to the people that Australia doesn’t want.
— Arash Kamali Sarvestani -

And reveal the use of time as a means of torture:

At the same time the Chauka bird is an identity symbol, it tells the time. At the same time it’s a symbol of torture for the asylum seekers. Sure, if we investigate the history of torture and all elements used for torture throughout the history of civilization the most impactful, the most dreadful one, is the one that uses the element of time. Time has no meaning anymore. Time is being stretched out, extended to such an extent that it’s boundless. There’s no beginning and there’s no end.
— Arash Kamali Sarvestani -

There is also a message for you, Mr Turnbull:

What you see is that those kids are on the other side of the fence and, inside the prison, Behrouz is singing a Kurdish folk song. They’re dancing. How more human can you get than that? Could Malcolm Turnbull watch this scene and sleep comfortably at night? Malcolm Turnbull is antagonising the children, he’s antagonising the detainees, but they’re dancing. I think every Australian needs to feel a shame at this point.

Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #317

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani spoke at a conference in Geneva on 9 June.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a conference about human rights and Australia’s harsh policy in Manus and Nauru in Geneva. I explained something about life in Manus prison, the history of the policy and the refugees who have died under the policy. I explained something about the deal between Australia and America and how they are planning to use the deal to keep this policy in place in PNG cities. I talked about how we have been living under a situation where we are not safe, and the recent shooting. At the end of my speech I asked the global society to help us make a challenge against Australia in the international courts, because the Australian and PNG courts have so far not been able to produce justice for the refugees. We have been without access to any justice and law. The session I spoke in was also presented by representatives from the UN, Amnesty and the Refugee Council of Australia. Representatives from other countries also spoke at the conference.

Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention. Close the camps.

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani writes "We don't have the power to defend ourselves against the government's misinformation." He concludes:

I would like to stress that both the Manusian people and the refugees are the victims of this system of lies and deception. The Australian and PNG governments never asked the Manusian people if they wanted to take 1000 strange men into their island. To have this forced upon them is completely disrespectful of the people, their culture, their land and their wishes for their own future. On the other side, the refugees have been exiled to this island and kept here by force against their will.

Peter Dutton’s comments about the incident on April 14 will make more trouble between refugees and Manusians, and make the situation more unsafe for the Australian staff who are working here. If trouble comes from it, it will be Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian government who are responsible.
— Behrouz Boochani,

Behrouz Boochani, journalist, film-maker, activist

Dear Prime Minister,

The unceasing, tenacious work of Behrouz Boochani continues to be heard and seen, despite him being in his fourth year on Manus Island. Arnold Zable's article in The Walkley Magazine pays tribute to Behrouz Boochani's work: his journalism, film-making and activism.

Behrouz Boochani is driven by a sense of mission and an eye for the bigger picture. “We are in a moment in history in which Western countries are violating international conventions and laws,” [Behrouz Boochani] says. “These are conventions they themselves established. I think this is dangerous for humanity’s future.”
“In a philosophical sense, we have to acknowledge we are human and therefore we don’t have any choice but to trust in humanity. When we are alone, where can [we] go, except to reach out to humanity? This is our only real shelter.”
— Arnold Zable,

I challenge you, Prime Minister, to end Australia's crimes against humanity, close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #253

Dear Prime Minister,

On ABC radio news today you were reported as being "non-committal" when asked about what would happen to the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru. The Financial Review headlines you as "undecided on unwanted asylum seekers." You have had four years to decide. Four years of these detainees lives lost to torture and degradation.

Photo: Hesam Fetrati

Photo: Hesam Fetrati

In Behrouz Boochani and Arash Kamali Sarvestani's movie "Chauka please tell us the time" a Manusian mans says "It's so frustrating to hear that name Chauka being used for the purpose of abusing people, or torturing people, or threatening people. ... We took them here to care for them until they find such place where they can settle."

As Mr Sarvestani says, we Australian have abdicated responsibility for the refugees, and by our racism and your unforgivable indecision, Prime Minister, we victimise both Manusians and refugees.

End offshore detention #244

Dear Prime Minister,

Stop deporting people after four years suffering....... Today a Lebanese guy was deported from Manus prison. Yesterday the Australian Border Force invited him to a meeting, but took him by force from the meeting and put him in Lorengau police station last night. His meeting with ABF only took a few minutes, then the police took him from the meeting. All of the Wilson officers were around him when he was talking with ABF. Their plan is that the plane will fly on Friday morning and arrive in Lebanon on Friday night. Two days ago six Lebanese guys went back to Lebanon ‘voluntarily’, but actually it was not voluntarily because they were under such pressure for a long time and only signed to go back under this pressure. Yesterday ABF also had a meeting with three other Lebanese guys and told them ‘you don’t have any choice, sign and get $US25000 or we will deport you just like we did to your friend.’ ABF had a meeting with two Vietnamese guys too and threatened to deport them in the next few days. Already about 12 people from Bangladesh signed under similar pressure and ABF told them we will send you back in the next month. ABF is threatening other people to go back too and said you don’t have any choice. Australia is obviously breaking international laws and the refugee convention that it has obligations under, and it is a big crime by a government that has tortured people for four years. It shows how values of humanity have died in Australia. You, Australian government, are obviously criminal and can not wash your hands of this. Why are you deporting people after four years suffering?
— Behrouz Boochani,

Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #223

Dear Prime Minister,

Voices from inside Australian detention centres continue to be heard. Behrouz Boochani's year-long collaboration with theatre director Nazanin Sahamizadeh has resulted in

  • a play, 'Manus', which tells the stories of seven Iranian refugees imprisoned on Manus Island;
  • a two-month run of the play in Tehran;
  • plans for a world-wide tour;
  • a growing international movement to close the prisons on Manus Island and Nauru;
  • Behrouz Boochani speaking directly to the Iranian audience on the play's opening night;
  • growing international awareness of Australia's illegal actions.

I look forward to seeing the play in Australia and to be in the same audience as the freed asylum seekers. Free them now Prime Minister. Close the camps. Bring them here.

For the 209th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani wrote this message today:

"Today the movie 'Chauka Please Tell Us The Time' will show at the Refugee Alternatives conference at UNSW. The movie was made on a mobile phone from inside the Manus prison. It is a movie against colonialism and the ongoing racist thinking that underpins it. Yesterday I was able to give a short speech in the conference about artistic works and how it's important that we record the history of Australian prisons in artistic language. I also talked about the 'Manus' play and my co-operation with the artists who produced it outside of the prison. I hope to see you in the conference today. I'll be watching from Manus island."
Behrouz Boochani

The play, 'Manus', is currently being performed in Tatre Shahr, the biggest place for artistic works in Tehran (Iran), It was made on the basis of longterm research about what is happening in Manus Island and Nauru and is directed by Nazanin Sahamizadeh.

A work of art can last for ever, Mr Turnbull. Here are two such works, a film and a play, both telling the world about Australia's inhumanity. We want a new plot for these characters and a different judgement for Australia. Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 201st man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani speaks clearly about what is happening on Manus Island. This is his video diary, edited and presented by the New York Times.

President Trump has questioned a deal to bring migrants held by Australia into the United States as refugees. Here is what daily life looks like for one of them.
By MEGAN SPECIA and YARA BISHARA on February 2, 2017. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times.

As Behrouz Boochani says, 'take us from this hell hole ... I think this is our right, after four years, to know about our future'

Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 199th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Here is Behrouz Boochani's latest Facebook post about his contribution to a play written in Iran about Australia's offshore detention regime which is currently being performed in Tehran:

Last night Tatre Shahr, the biggest place for artistic works in Tehran (Iran), was full with an audience who gathered there to witness a theatrical play called “Manus.” It was one of the biggest artistic projects about the Australian prisons in Manus and Nauru to date and I had the honour to be a part of it. This play was made on the basis of longterm research about what is happening in these two islands. I think Nazanin Sahamizadeh, who is the director of the play, is a great artist that was sensitive to the inhumanity of our situation and I have deep respect for her. Last night they invited me to participate in the inaugural performance of the work and I was able to talk directly with the audience, actors and Nazanin. It was a big honour for me to read a poem about Manus. This project is nongovernmental and it’s only coming from the warm hearts of some intelligent artists. Congratulations to Nazanin and all of the artists who took responsibility for humanity. I hope that I can see all of the “Manus” play in Australia and can talk with people through this artistic language. I hope that at that time we are not here in this prison and can watch the play as free people. I’m glad that this project is recording the history of these Australian prisons like other different kinds of works. It’s a message to the politicians that you can not sanitise history and wash your hands of it, the artists and writers are working ceaselessly.
— Behrouz Boochani

As Behrouz Boochani says, Mr Turnbull, you cannot sanitise history.

For the 193rd man on Manus island

Dear Prime Minister,

PEN International has written:

end the offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manaus, and ensure that asylum seekers and those in immigration detention in offshore processing centres, including Behrouz Boochani, are provided with adequate legal protection in line with Australia’s commitments under international law.

For the 176th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

On 11 January 2017 The Guardian reported on the mistreatment and abandonment by Australia of an Iranian refugee, Hamed, who suffers from serious mental illness and is a danger to himself and those around him. He has been imprisoned several times and has not had any psychiatric treatment despite DIBP's claims that all refugees receive appropriate healthcare.

Excerpt from letter written to me by an employee of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The full letter is  here .

Excerpt from letter written to me by an employee of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The full letter is here.

Australia has abandoned its responsibilities to the refugees on Manus Island and is trying, by neglect, to force Papua New Guinea to take them over. Australia's actions cause increased tension and hostility among the local Manus Islanders who are also victims of the situation.

What concrete steps will you immediately take to end these human rights abuses done in our name?

For the 113th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani has filmed "Chauka, please tell us the time" in collaboration with film maker and editor Arash Kamali Sarvestani who is based in Amsterdam. In his review of the film Arnold Zable describes it as "both a work of great artistry, and a damning indictment of a brutal policy."

Australia's policy of indefinite detention is damned by its victims, by political and humanitarian protests, by lawyers and advocates, and by artists. End it now and 

Bring them here

For the 111th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Farhad is a Kurdish painter, guitar maker and player. He is one of the men who has been illegally detained on Manus Island since July 2013. In this video he is playing guitar while Behrouz Boochani sings.

Behrouz Boochani is a poet and writer and journalist. He is Kurdish and was forced to flee his home country. He has been held as a political prisoner by Australia since July 2013 when he first sought asylum.

End detention of asylum seekers and bring them here

For the 109th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Your announcement on Sunday 13 November that the US 'might' take 'some' refugees from the regional processing centres has no substance, no time frame, nothing quantified.

Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish journalist currently illegally imprisoned on Manus Island, as always gets to the point: that this latest 'promise' by us is yet another form of oppression and lacks any recognition of the humanity and rights of the people we have so cruelly treated and betrayed. You need to do much better than this.

Letters to Tyranny #74

Dear Prime Minister,

Masoud Ali Sheikh, the 74th asylum seeker of the more than 800 men on Manus Island, is a refugee from Somalia. Mr Sheikh is a former aid worker with the United Nations refugee agency and Save the Children in Yemen, before being forced to flee that country too. Images of his injured, bloodied face reinforce the impossible situation for refugees on Manus Island. He was attacked by local men as he waited at a bus stop. As Behrouz Boochani so eloquently said:

"I don't want to make any judgement about local people and their culture because they are victims like us. But it's clear that Manussian people don't want refugees to settle in their community. The Australian government exiled us by force to this island and wants to settle us in the local community by force ... It is a very strange situation. On one side local people don't want to accept refugees and cannot because of important and logical reasons (both economic and cultural). On the other side the refugees don't want to live in PNG and cannot because it is not safe and not viable for us. Who is guilty? The Australian government. Who is responsible? Australia."

Mr Turnbull, act in the interests of the refugees, PNG, Nauru and Australia and bring them here.

Ruth Halbert