Tag: refugees

No Friend but the Mountains: A Refugee Narrative

As the worldwide refugee crisis worsens, it can be difficult for news-watchers to put a human voice to the millions of people who have been displaced from their homelands. However, the Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has been making waves with his book No Friend but the Mountains which chronicles his tumultuous experience as an asylum seeker.

 

No Fiends but the Mountains

Image Via Newsroom.unsw.edu.au

 

The book document Boochani’s life after becoming incarcerated by Australian authorities in an attempt to seek refuge in the country. He was sent off to Christmas Island, about 2,000 miles off the north-west coast of Australia, and later on Manus.

 

Behrouz Boochani, pictured on Manus Island.

image via the gaurdian

 

Once in the Manus prison, Boochani experienced ever-increasing violence and dehumanization. “From their perspective,” Boonchani says, “we are nothing more than numbers. I will have to forget about my name… I am a piece of meat thrown into an unknown land, a prison of filth and heat.” The refugees who have been detained remain in a state of limbo, uncertain if or when they will ever leave.

Desperate to have his story shared, Boochani managed to smuggle a mobile phone into the prison in order to text the prose of his book paragraph by paragraph to friends overseas. After it was finally released and published, No Friend but the Mountains gained widespread recognition and recently won a $25,000 national biography award.

 

 

Boochani has become one of Austrailia’smost celebrated contemporary writers and he has appeared at several literary festivals via Skype from the prison in Manus. “I have been in a cage for years but throughout this time my mind has always been producing words, and these words have taken me across borders, taken me overseas and to unknown places,” he said in January via video link as he accepted the Victorian Premier’s award. “I truly believe words are more powerful than the fences of this place, this prison.”

 

 

Featured Image Via 2ser

Behrouz Boochani, author in exile

Detained Asylum Seeker Wins Australia’s Biggest Literary Prize, Remains Imprisoned

The winner of Australia’s most esteemed literary prize could not attend the ceremony.

Today, Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani won the Victorian Prize for Literature for his book, No Friend But the MountainsComposed one text message at a time from an offshore detention center in Papua New Guinea, the novel has won a $25,000 and $100,000 prize in a country that denied this author refuge and continues to detain him.  One of Behrouz Boochani’s greatest achievements should highlight what many perceive as present-day Australia’s greatest shame.

 

Boochani looks out through a fence towards the open ocean

IMAGE VIA SBS NEWS

The experimental format of Boochani’s book was not an artistic decision—it was a necessity. While seeking refuge in Australia, the author was detained on Manus Island, a notorious offshore detention facility. Since he feared for his safety and the safety of his work, he wrote his novel entirely over WhatsApp messenger—and over the course of five years. He was right to be afraid: during his time at the detention center, he witnessed suicide attempts, riots, and murders. His phone was taken twice. “Imagine if I had written this book on paper,” Boochani said, “I would definitely have lost it.”

 

Boochani's novel, 'No Friend But the Mountains'

IMAGE VIA BLANK GC

Boochani might have won a significant sum, but money was never his aim in writing the book. Instead, he sought to share his experience of immigration and detention:

My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years. I hope this award will bring more attention to our situation and create change.

 

Image Via MO MAgazine

 

Although the detention camps have been legally closed, their continued existence bodes ill for Australia as a nation and for the people still left inside. LGBT+ people particular have suffered in these camps: in Papua New Guinea, homosexuality is still a crime. Gay men in the immigration detention facility can face up to fourteen years in prison. Boochani describes the camps as “barbaric.”

Boochani may have written the book to spread awareness of these cruelties, but, he admits, there was also another reason. Writing helped him to keep his humanity, his identity, he said. Writing was the thing that allowed him to survive.

 

Featured Image Via The Guardian