It is nothing short of a triumph of human spirit and resilience in the face of insurmountable odds that I am sitting here reading this book, in its current format, in English. This wonderful book was compiled over time, translated from Farsi, and smuggled out of Manus Island from thousands of text messages thumbed out on a mobile phone.
It chronicles the downright, horrible, despicable, conditions on Manus Island and the inhumane treatment, causing pernicious damage to its inmates. This is a book that the Australian Government would have tried desperately to stop or censure if they had known of its existence. Inmates being treated little better than prisoners of a non-existent war. Every freedom taken away from them. When some prisoners try to set up a simple backgammon board to pass the time even this is taken away by the guards. Now what possible purpose could they have for taking this board away and denying the prisoners any creature comforts at all, other than the fact that they want them to return to whichever of the numerous conflicts that they were fleeing from. For many of them, this would mean certain death. The Australian Government wants to send a clear message that this is what will happen if you try to enter the country by way of these people smugglers. The people smugglers are the Government’s “silver bullet”. The line that the incumbent Prime Minister loves to spout. “We are doing this to shut down the people smugglers!”. I think the Australian public is smart enough to know that the problem is far more nuanced than that.
Boochani describes the horrible cramped conditions in a paradoxically poetic way. This book does not read like a journalist’s front page story, and this makes it even more powerful. The oppressive heat, the lack of anything to stimulate a human being at all. Can you imagine living is such conditions without knowing how long you were going to be held, with each day despair indelibly growing. Knowing that you have committed no crime, you were just trying to save the lives of your daughter, your son, your family.
Imagine the feeling of elation when you realise you have escaped death from drowning, cramped to the gunwale on a boat that can barely stay afloat, it’s pumps failing, only to have that feeling ripped away from you and replaced with desolation as you are locked up on an island in the middle of nowhere. To make a diabolical situation even worse this transfer of refugees to Manus Island came into effect four days before Boochani was picked up.
I believe everybody should read this book and learn what is going on with the whole situation on Manus Island. Yes, it is a difficult problem in the modern world, and yes terrorism is a clear and present threat but there must be a better solution than this system. It is inhumane, cruel, and stealing away any dignity that these poor people have left. We cannot simply bury our heads in the sand and think this is not our problem. Some of these people have been locked up on Manus Island for five years now. European countries and their leaders have taken risks. Germany and Merkel in particular. When it comes to human lives solutions must be found, risks must be taken. It is high time we set this wrong right and this powerful book is a tool to be used in the struggle.
A brilliant book and Behrouz Boochani should be commended and applauded for the struggle in writing it and getting it into our hands. 5 stars.
Behrouz Boochani holds a Masters degree in political geography and geopolitics. He is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, scholar, cultural advocate, writer and filmmaker, founder of the Kurdish language magazine Weya, an Honorary Member of PEN International. In 2013, he fled Iran and became a political prisoner of the Australian Government incarcerated in the Manus Regional Processing Centre (Papua New Guinea)
Please read this article from the New Internationalist - https://newint.org/features/2019/04/09/interview-behrouz-boochani