Behrouz Boochani wins journalism award for Manus Island writing

Iranian Kurdish writer Behrouz Boochani has been detained for more than five years by the Australian government simply for seeking a safe place to live. During his time imprisoned on Manus Island, he has:

Today, the Guardian has reported that Behrouz Boochani has won the Anna Politkovskaya Award for Journalism, named for the Russian journalist who was killed in Moscow in 2006 and bestowed by the Italian magazine ‘Internazionale’ each year to recognise excellence in investigative reporting.

The insights he has shared through his prolific work have enabled us all to gain a more palpable understanding than we could ever have experienced into life as a refugee subjected to the harsh policies of the Australian government. His words have exposed the reality of the daily existence of hundreds of people who have attempted to seek asylum in Australia and continue to be punished for doing so. As a result, the lives of the incessantly persecuted have been brought, by Boochani’s penetrating eloquence and persistence, into the minds and hearts of many in Australia, defying the very intent of offshore detention.

It is sickening that such a worthy contribution not just to investigative journalism but to the international proliferation of vital information on human rights violations was ever required. It is devastating that, in so many ways something like this can not be truly celebrated. Because Behrouz Boochani and the many, many more human beings subjected to the torture of Australia’s cruel approach SHOULD NEVER HAVE EXPERIENCED ONE DAY OF THIS NIGHTMARISH EXISTENCE, LET ALONE YEARS. And it is all the more distressing because the honoured work is not retrospective and finite but continuing.

Boochani’s tireless efforts have illuminated us and shamed us simultaneously. His language and his values have done the same. So to acknowledge this significant achievement, Email Empathy is proud to share just one piece of his writing in the hope that its resonance will encourage wider reading of Behrouz Boochani’s work. It’s hoped that, through this, more Australians can come to understand how people are living because of decisions of a government that the citizens of a democracy have the power to influence. But this particular passage is also especially meaningful in that  it may just stimulate the idea that perhaps there can be a new way ahead. A positive way. That unites us rather than defeating what we, as humans, can achieve through the division of fear mongering and ignorance.

The full communication was read out to those who attended rallies of support across Australia for the men protesting peacefully against their relocation from the Lombrum Regional Processing Centre despite being deprived of access to food, water, and medicine to force them out. An excerpt follows but you can read the full piece by clicking here. Please share this post to spread the news but especially to encourage others to read work that is not just award-winning but, as many people continue to hope, will VERY SOON become positively  life-changing.

“… Our resistance was completely peaceful in a situation where we were under so much pressure and the threat of violence. Our resistance was completely democratic because so many people with different nationalities, religions and cultures were resisting peacefully together.
Every day we had a public meeting inside the prison camp and we shared our ideas together. Every day in the public meeting we emphasised this key concept: that we should care about each other, we should care about the people who are sick, we should respect each other and we should show the people around the world that we are peaceful, respectful and caring people. We even decided that despite our limited food we must feed the dogs who were living with us.
We did all of these things in a situation where we were living with very little food and water.
Our resistance had a broader purpose. It was to be a model and present a new way for humanity. We wanted to show how humans have this capacity to be kind and peaceful and care about humanity even in a harsh situation.
During the resistance we were following your protests in Australia and we became stronger and more determined in our decision to embrace kindness because we could see that people were hearing our voice, and that people are willing to care and fight for humanity in Australia.
We could feel you with us and it’s so beautiful to share in our humanity in this way. …”

There are probably some who might sneer at these words. Some who would view the message as impractical. But truly, what can we lose by sharing our humanity?  The gains are manifold when we view each other by our commonalities and not our differences, when we grow in understanding of each other rather than shrink away because of the fear of diversity – planted by those whose distortions have only selfish motives.

Once we understand that the majority of people all want the same basic things – safety; opportunity; some comfort and some independence; access to nutrition, shelter, healthcare and other vital services … – then we can see ourselves in others instead of in opposition to the conjured evil apparitions devised to divide and conquer.
It’s simplistic but if we all sought, in just a few accessible ways, to improve the lives of others, then our own lives would inevitably be better. We would be helped as well as helping. And the cycle would self-perpetuate.
An idealistic aim? Of course.
Pointless, when there is no perfection in humanity? Perhaps not.
We are all flawed and there are of course a few who will capitalise for their own ends. But if we don’t have a positive goal, we have no chance. So trying something productive is surely better than remaining mired in anger, hate or isolation.

It’s so beautiful to share our humanity …

So why settle for trying to achieve anything less in our lives?

You can read all the writing Behrouz Boochani has done for The Guardian by clicking here. Or you can start with something from the selection below:

Australia needs a moral revolution (Aug 2018)

Refugees’ lives have become weapons in a rugged political contest (June 2018)

Mohamed’s life story is a tragedy. But it’s typical for fathers held on Manus (March 2018)

I write from Manus Island as a duty to history (Dec 2017)

‘This is hell out here’: how Behrouz Boochani’s diaries expose Australia’s refugee shame


The book, “NO FRIEND BUT THE MOUNTAINS: WRITING FROM MANUS PRISON” written by Behrouz Boochani and translated by Omid Tofighian can be purchased from all major book outlets or downloaded to read on your mobile device from the usual sites.

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