Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish Iranian writer, journalist and human rights defender. He was born on 23 July 1983 in Ilam city in Kurdistan west of Iran. Behrouz left Iran in May 2013 because of his work. He had been writing for “Warya” – a magazine protecting Kurdish culture and language – when the offices were raided by the Iranian government and 10 of his colleagues were arrested. He found his way to Indonesia where he lived for four months before twice trying to reach Australia by boat. On the first attempt the boat sank; Behrouz was rescued but then arrested by Indonesian authorities and sent to prison. After escaping from prison he tried again to reach Australia but the boat was lost at sea for a week and then intercepted by a British vessel and delivered to the Australian Navy. He was exiled by the Australian government by force to Manus Island, a small province in Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. This is part of Australia’s so-called Pacific Solution that sends asylum seekers who arrive by boat to mandatory and indefinite detention offshore on remote Pacific islands. Behrouz is still in detention in Manus after nearly four years. His journey to Australia has been documented in Lukas Schrank’s animated short film “Nowhere Line: Voices from Manus island” (2015) which was based on a phone interview with Behrouz. Behrouz has continued to work as a journalist inside the Manus prison, often being the only source of information about conditions there as outside journalists have been banned. He has sent information and photographs to media agencies around the world and published many articles in major Australian newspapers and journals, all via social media and on a mobile phone smuggled into the detention centre. He has worked with the BBC on a television documentary and an Iranian theatre group on a new production, both about detention in Manus, and collaborated with PNG lawyer Ben Lomai seeking the release of nearly 800 fellow detainees. He is a respected writer, having published a number of poems about Manus in Australia. He has interviewed detainees for a book by freelance journalist Michael Green that will be released in early 2017, and his own novel about his experiences in Manus is also due for release next year. Behrouz’s work inside Manus prison has come at personal cost; along with other detainees he has been punished by 8 days imprisonment in the local jail and two periods of solitary confinement in the “Chauka” unit within the detention centre. During his first two years in detention he used a fake name, but began using his real name when PEN International, Reporters without Borders and other human rights organisations began a campaign for his release. PEN Melbourne has since given him honorary membership. In 2016 he awarded the Social Justice Award at the Diaspora Symposium at Sydney ́s NSW Parliament House. Behrouz was recently awarded the 2017 Amnesty International Australia Media Award for his reporting on Manus Island.

As of January 2018

Behrouz Boochani

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