Most of the words below are those of Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist who fled repression in Iran to seek asylum in Australia three years ago. They illustrate the foul racist inhumanity of successive Australian governments, from the Labor government that sent him to Manus Island to the Liberal government that keeps him there.
Behrouz’s words also express something very fine – a defiance and determination, by himself and others, to reject the doublespeak of their jailers, to engage in resistance and solidarity with each other, to maintain their humanity and dignity, and in doing so, to demand from all of us, on the other side of the razor wire, solidarity and resistance in response.
In a truly Kafkaesque move, the PNG government gave Behrouz Boochani a positive refugee determination – even though he and around 60 others had refused to submit an application for refugee status. Those deemed to be refugees were to be transferred to a different prison compound on the island, as a prelude to being resettled for life on PNG against their will.
Boochani wrote: “Tomorrow morning [24 April] they will move me to Oscar [compound]. I want to resist. They must take me by force. They said, ‘You only have 15 minutes. If you resist we will take you by PNG police by force’.
“I received a positive refugee status determination on 18 April from the PNG immigration. I arrived in Australia three years ago and asked Australia for asylum under international law. The Labor government of Australia exiled me to their prison camp in Manus Island PNG by force. I have been imprisoned here for almost three years and have been under a lot of pressure to fill in the protection application in PNG but I have constantly [refused] to do so. I did not arrive in PNG and did never give the PNG government my case for asylum. I have never wanted to resettle in this country.
“This is part of my fight. I have worked hard and tirelessly during the last 3 years to send out Manus voice. I wrote lots of articles and pieces in my real name and fake name. I have worked hard with film-makers, fellow journalists, organisations and lawyers but now I want to send out Manus voice by my body. I don’t have any other way.
“I don’t want to lose my personality. I don’t want to be a nameless detainee. By the 19 July law our legal status has been suspended and we become legally un-nameable beings. We are made into non-beings without dignity. Think of Hamid Khazaei, his body was used to violently send a message to the world … I fight to show people that Australia has tortured people in this hell prison for three years.”
In an earlier letter to PNG authorities, 76 refugees who received “double positive” status made their feelings plain about this new term of indefinite punishment:
“In our countries we were threatened of imprisonment, exile, torture and beatings, but in your country we were literally indefinitely imprisoned, exiled, tortured and were beaten up.
“In your country two of our friends were killed, one from negligence [Hamid Khazaei] and the other one [Reza Barati] was beaten to death by your people.
“In your country we stood in lines for hours and hours to receive ‘food’, shower, toilet and malaria medication under the merciless sunlight.
“In your country our humanity was taken away and we were humiliated but we sewed our lips and went on hunger strike with hundreds of our friends to plea for freedom but again you suppressed us because the only thing you could care [about] was the money that Australia would put in your pocket to dehumanise us.
“By writing this letter we would clearly like to inform you that we are not willing to be your slaves and await for death in poverty, loneliness and disease in case to be a lesson for the refugees in rest of the world.”
After his protest on 25 April, when he climbed a tree to resist being transferred, Boochani wrote these words:
“First I want to say thank you to all those advocates, journalists, academics, writers and friends who supported me and my way with their beautiful words yesterday.
“Really I am happy that people understood perfectly that I went on top of that tall tree because of humanity and moral values. I am proud that you could recognise that I did not do that because of any mental sickness and that it was a political action.
“Yesterday I had some short loud talks when I was on that dangerous place with immigration, psychologists, and officers and I explained to them that this action is only for democratic values and is against modern slavery which we in Manus prison are subject to.
“I could move to Oscar prison easily but I resisted and chose to fight on a tall tree with my body. I know that you can understand deeply my situation as a man who has been imprisoned for about three years without any crime. I am a political prisoner.
“I know that many of you know that I did not have any other way open to me to resist this. I had to climb on top of that tree because there was no longer any other way. The action was political. We are victims of political propaganda and should be understood as political prisoners … put up in a hell prison camp under a regime of systematic torture.
“I wanted to show that his policy is cruel, inhumane, unjust and a modern form of slavery. We were forcibly transported from Australia to their black site on Manus Island and are subject to a regime of systematic torture. I hope that this action will encourage people to think more about the Australian Guantanamo in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.
“Lastly, I want to say that I will continue to fight in any way that I can, even with my body.”
Join the rallies around the country to #BringThemHere
Brisbane: Friday 29 April, 5pm King George Square
Adelaide: Friday 29 April, 5pm Rundle Mall
Canberra: Friday 29 April, Department of Immigration, Lonsdale Street, Braddon
Melbourne: Saturday 30 April, 1pm State Library