Live from Manus
Behrouz Boochani is an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer. He was born in western Iran and has been held in the Australian-run Manus Island detention centre since 2013.
Boochani has published numerous articles in leading media internationally about the plight of refugees held by the Australian government on Manus Island and has won several awards.
His memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction in January 2019. The book was tapped out on a mobile phone in a series of single messages over time and translated from Persian into English by Omid Tofighian.
In September 2015, PEN International and a coalition of human rights groups launched an international campaign on Boochani’s behalf, urging the Australian government to abide by its obligations to the principle of non-refoulement, as defined by Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Several campaigns have urged individuals to write to Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Prime Minister and high commissioners. In March 2017, Boochani's plight was raised in the Australian House of Representatives by Australian parliamentarian Adam Bandt.
In a speech delivered to guests at a Human Rights Law Centre dinner in 2018, he expressed the view the Australian Government was manipulating its people, using propaganda which centres on national security. In a radio interview with SBS Radio, he thanked the "many brave people in Australia who have been fighting against this system", saying that Australian people are not cruel and were they fully aware of what is exactly happening, they would not have let their government do this.
No Friend But the Mountains won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction on 31 January 2019. There were questions about Boochani's eligibility for both prizes because entrants had been previously limited to Australian citizens or permanent residents, but he was given an exemption by prize administrators and the judges were unanimous in recognising its literary excellence. Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams said that the judges thought that the story of what's happening on Manus Island essentially is an Australian story, and that "made it completely consistent with the intention of the awards".
Photograph by Hoda Afshar