A letter from Manus Island to the Australian people

To the Australian people,

In the heart of the dark nights, I yell out through the mass of metallic and hard fences. Surrounded by agony and torture, I yell out right next to the tropical birds, thousands of kilometres further away from the people’s world, in the heart of a remote island located in the corner of the vastest ocean. 

In the name of humanity and freedom, I yell out, in the name of all the values – values that connect human dignity with peace. I yell out, a yell from the hell where people are tortured and systematically humiliated. A yell having the quality of those flower-like ambitions even when petals are being plucked cruelly, and a yell having the quality of a heart that has been crushed under the steel boots of politicians. 

Here is the hellhole Manus prison.

Protecting the borders and saving lives from the dangerous sea journey are the excuses for this brutal policy. After 40 months of implementing this policy, now it is time to impartially evaluate how it has been applied. 

During this long period, the Australian government has been accused of human rights violations again and again by most of the credible international human rights organisations. So far, two people have lost their lives in Manus prison, and another died outside these fences when he was so tired from seeking justice. Two more people have lost their lives on Nauru. We have seen more evidence of rape and violence against women and children.

And more evidence of the suffering inflicted on people held in Christmas Island and onshore detention. At the same time, we have seen the cruel agony of those people living precariously in Australia on temporary protection and bridging visas who, like us, have no security for their future.

With the continuance of this policy, every day new cases of violence, abuse and unbearable suffering are added to the list.

Unfortunately, the government still insists on pursuing this policy, accusing the people who speak out against it of exaggerating and inventing the damning evidence. But the government is lying. And now we can see their plan clearly: they do not care that we on Manus and Nauru are refugees. They only want us to take their bribes and go back to certain danger, death and persecution. In response to overwhelming evidence of abuse, their only answer is “take our money and go back to your country of origin”.

After 40 months – more than three years – no-one has been settled on Manus Island. The few in Port Moresby are struggling to survive. Now several more of us have been attacked by local people who do not want us here. Therefore, we can only say that we are official hostages.

Saving people’s lives at sea is being used as a cover to implement this grossly inhumane and immoral policy. Turnbull and Dutton claim they are on the side of compassion. But this policy has not had any achievement; it has just caused intense suffering and extreme agony for asylum seekers in detention, while pushing other vulnerable people into harm’s way elsewhere and damaging the reputation of Australia in worldwide public opinion. 

True compassion comes not just when it suits political ends, but when it involves perspective-taking: recognising our shared humanity and imagining what you would have done in another’s shoes. Now, more than ever, it is time for Australian people to yell loudly at the government to urge it to confess that the policy of Nauru and Manus resettlement has reached a dead end, and to urge the government to bring an end to this cruel policy as soon as possible.

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish journalist and writer, incarcerated on Manus Island for the past three years