#standwithBehrouz

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Last night Behrouz Boochani sent RAPBS three photographs accompanied by a statement expressing his determination to resist being removed from Manus camp to what amounts to a life sentence of “permanent settlement” on PNG.

“I arrived in Australia 3 years ago and asked Australia for asylum under international law. The Labor government of Australia exiled me to their prison camp in Manus Island PNG by force. I have been imprisoned here for almost 3 years and have been under a lot of pressure to fill in the protection application in PNG but I have constantly denied to do so. I did not arrive in PNG and did never give the PNG government my case for asylum. I have never wanted to resettle in this country.

This is part of my fight. I have worked hard and tirelessly during the last 3 years to send out Manus voice. I wrote lots of articles and pieces in my real name and fake name. I have worked hard with film-makers, fellow journalists, organisations and lawyers but now I want to send out Manus voice by my body. I don’t have any other way”.

These photographs stand as poignant testimony to Boochani’s indomitable spirit. His fragile body has been wracked by years of starvation, pain and illness and subjected to cruel and inhumane conditions of confinement in the infamous Chauka isolation cell. Yet it will not be broken.

What we see in these photographs is evidence of Behrouz Boochani’s unshakable moral force and fighting spirit.

As we write these words, Boochani has climbed into a tree to escape the PNG police who have been sent to evict him forcibly from the compound and eventually from the camp. A group of other inmates stand around the tree, in the pouring rain, to show their solidarity, putting their own bodies on the line.

RAPBS calls on all of us in Australia who support the “humane values” which Behrouz is determined to protect with the whole force of his body and will: STAND WITH BEHROUZ.

Professor Suvendrini Perera with Professor Joseph Pugliese, Janet Galbraith

Media Release – Behrouz Boochani Resists

MEDIA RELEASE: 24th April 2016
Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites

PDF Media Release

BEHROUZ BOOCHANI RESISTS: ‘I have worked hard with film-makers, fellow journalists, organisations and lawyers but now I want to send out Manus voice by my body’

‘I left my country because I am a liberal writer and I will always fight for democratic values even with my body’, writes Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish-Iranian journalist and writer detained in Australia’s black site on Manus Island.

Mr Boochani, has chosen to resist the farcical conferring of a positive refugee status by PNG immigration upon him even as he has refused to give his claim for asylum to PNG. He has climbed a tree, using his body to send out a message that he will resist further moves to force him to comply with ‘this cruel policy’.

Mr Boochani has requested that RAPBS send out the following statement to the media:

Tomorrow morning [24th April] they will move me to Oscar. I want to resist. They must take me by force. They said ‘you only have 15 minutes. If you resist we will take you by PNG police by force.’

I received a positive refugee status determination on 18 April 2016 from the PNG ! immigration. I arrived in Australia 3 years ago and asked Australia for asylum under international law. The Labour government of Australia exiled me to their prison camp in Manus Island PNG by force. I have been imprisoned here for almost 3 years and have been under a lot of pressure to fill in the protection application in PNG but I have constantly denied to do so. I did not arrive in PNG and did never give the PNG government my case for asylum. I have never wanted to resettle in this country.

This is part of my fight. I have worked hard and tirelessly during the last 3 years to send out Manus voice. I wrote lots of articles and pieces in my real name and fake name. I have worked hard with film-makers, fellow journalists, organisations and lawyers but now I want to send out Manus voice by my body. I don’t have any other way.

I don’t want to lose my personality. I don’t want to be a nameless detainee. ‘By the 19 July law our legal status has been suspended and we become legally un-nameable beings. We are made into non-beings without dignity. Think of Hamid Khazaei, his body was used to violently send a message to the world’ (Boochani, unpublished article, Nauru and Manus Islands and the law: The State of Exception).

This is a fight for Western democratic values of freedom, equality, the right to safety, the right to asylum, the right to freedom of speech and movement, and mutual respect. I will resist not for myself but for humanity values. I left my country because I am a liberal writer and I will always fight for democratic values even with my body.

I fight to show people that Australia has tortured people in this hell prison for three years.

In his article ‘A Critical Silence’ published on RAPBS website, Boochani provides a forensic analysis of element[s] of control and domination’ used in the black site and identifies ‘the authorities fear [of] a public protest, even a peaceful one, being mounted’. We at RAPBS are concerned that the boost in security personnel, further overcrowd ing, lack of sanitation and the presence shown by PNG police and para-military, the separation of men who have become like family and the despair and degradation that 3 years of humiliating, degrading and inhuman punishment ‘tantamount to torture’, with no hope for safe resettlement has produced, sets the
conditions for a violent confrontation.

As we wrote in our commentary on the recent divisions of inmates into two camps, a sense of deep unease and even desperation are pervasive among the inmates.

We ask that concerned media treat Mr Boochani’s statement and action with the gravity it deserves.

Media Contact: Janet Galbraith 0418 399 646

Grave concerns over Behrouz Boochani

Mr Boochani, Kurdish Iranian journalist imprisoned in our black site on Manus Island for the past 3 years has requested that RAPBS send out the following statement to the media.

Tomorrow morning [24th April] they will move me to Oscar. I want to resist. They must take me by force.  They said ‘you only have 15 minutes. If you resist we will take you by PNG police by force.’

I received a positive refugee status determination on 18 April 2016 from the PNG immigration. I arrived in Australia 3 years ago and asked Australia for asylum under international law. The Labour government of Australia exiled me to their prison camp in Manus Island PNG by force. I have been imprisoned here for almost 3 years and have been under a lot of pressure to fill in the protection application in PNG but I have constantly denied to do so. I did not arrive in PNG and did never give the PNG government my case for asylum.  I have never wanted to resettle in this country.

This is part of my fight.  I have worked hard and tirelessly during the last 3 years to send out Manus voice.  I wrote lots of articles and pieces in my real name and fake name.  I have worked hard with film-makers, fellow journalists, organisations and lawyers but now I want to send out Manus voice by my body.  I don’t have any other way.

I don’t want to lose my personality.  I don’t want to be a nameless detainee. ‘By the 19 July law our legal status has been suspended and we become legally un-nameable beings.  We are made into non-beings without dignity. Think of Hamid Khazaei, his body was used to violently send a message to the world’ (Boochani, unpublished article, Nauru and Manus Islands and the law: The State of Exception).

This is a fight for Western democratic values of freedom, equality, the right to safety, the right to asylum, the right to freedom of speech and movement, and mutual respect.  I will resist not for myself but for humanity values.  I left my country because I am a liberal writer and I will always fight for democratic values even with my body.

I fight to show people that Australia has tortured people in this hell prison for three years.

– Behrouz Boochani

A Crisis of Silence

by Behrouz Boochani, March 1, 2016

1
In the Manus prison, a skinny man with a pale and petrified face is leaning against the wall of a completely empty room in SAA solitary confinement. Deep down, he feels utterly hopeless while biting his nails. This man who has been kept in the prison for nearly three years and has lost 30 kilograms of his weight was recently transferred into the solitary confinement at his own request. He could not endure the drowsiness of marijuana anymore and had desperately pleaded to the officers to provide him with marijuana. Until recently, this solitary confinement was called the Green Zone.

A few meters away, at Foxtrot compound, a young man is collecting the cigarette butts spread over the mass of soil next to the dirty toilets of the prison, in order to roll them in paper and suck in the smoke.  He is also addicted to marijuana and does not have any cigarettes to smoke. There are many like this vanquished and addicted man in the quadrangle of Manus prisons. In other words, they are experiencing a life similar to persons sleeping in cardboard, people who have inadvertently become slaves to addiction and are unable to live without marijuana in the cruel and harsh atmosphere of the prison.
2
The life of these forgotten men in this place reflects a crisis of silence; and the dominance of this crisis over the prison develops everyday, threatening the lives of this group of people in an even more apparent way.

Everything, however, refers to the weekly shopping points. If a person receives a double positive decision, which means, at the first stage he is recognized a refugee and at the second stage the Papua New Guinea accepts his resettlement in the country, his weekly points are cut. These refugees who are, at the moment, 450 people are loath to leave the prison and resettle in this country. They do not want to risk their lives in PNG as all they have seen, experienced and been taught so far is that this country has a tribe-like atmosphere where kinship ties demand allegiances that exclude ‘others’ and where safety is at its lowest possible level.

This policy precludes people from buying cigarettes and telephone cards; and also causes them to experience blatant discrimination and additional pressure. The other point is, according to this policy this group of people has practically become dependent on the others. In order to force refugees to live in PNG, the authorities make them reliant upon other prisoners. This discriminatory policy has had serious repercussion for refugees who smoke cigarettes and marijuana as they make every endeavour to provide them with substances to smoke.
3
Apart from that, a cigarette in the prison effectively plays the role of money and makes it possible for people who do not smoke to receive many of their needs in return for cigarettes from the local officers who smuggle many goods into the prison.   An obvious business is carried on by people who do not have anything other than some cigarettes in the small city of Lorengau – just twenty kilometers away from the prison.  Those who have cigarettes buy different kinds of T-shirt, mp3, perfume, cups and many other small objects. This has formed economic class divisions over the course of time in this prison. Additionally, when a prisoner has bought everything he needs, he usually exchanges his cigarettes for little sums of money. Currently, many people have access to money at this hellhole; however, the amount of money is not much.

On the contrary, those who smoke cigarette and marijuana have nothing, no possessions. They are not even able to buy a telephone card to call their families. Since this policy was implemented last year, the deprived prisoners, those who cannot buy cigarettes and telephone cards, have sold their shoes, clothes, dictionaries, MP3s, and other useful possessions to the rest who still have cigarettes. Accordingly, they have become like people with nothing, like wanderers sleeping in cardboard.
4
There is a relevant question. Why are the rest of the prisoners not assisting and supporting the deprived ones? The answer is clear. Despite the fact that they had helped their fellow detainees on various occasions in buying cigarettes or telephone cards, it is within the bounds of possibility that sooner or later, the same destiny lies before them. By receiving the double positive decision, they will too will be deprived of the weekly points; hence, every single wise person in their shoes would save his cigarettes so as to be able to smoke or speak with his family; particularly those who are a father and need to always know how their family is doing.

Here in this prison I know some prisoners who have not spoken even once with their families for nearly a year. Similarly, I know a number of men selling their rooms and beds to have marijuana. Some addicts prefer to smoke marijuana even at the price of living in crowded rooms.  Therefore, they sell their rooms to people seeking a quieter and cleaner place in return for cigarettes.

Sexual abuse incidents and slavery cases have also been heard of where people use the supplicants, in practice, as slaves to carry out their personal work such as washing their clothes, getting food for them, etc. This rampant corruption has even spilled over into the kitchen. By paying amcigarette to the kitchen staff, many have milk, nuts, juice and snacks in their rooms. On the contrary, many others have limited access to quality food, as they do not have any cigarettes to offer.

5
Another vital question to ask is why Broadspectrum (Transfield) turns a blind eye to the catastrophic consequences of this policy. The response is crystal clear: With this policy, Transfield kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the company exerts mounting pressure on the refugees to make them resettle in the island; and on the other hand, this policy yields an excess economic profit for the company since there is a close correlation between the economic profit and the number of people attending various classes and engaging in sports activities. To clarify, if a person participates more often in activities, he can buy more cigarettes. A kind of direct relationship has formed between cigarettes and the activities in the prison. This relationship has caused classes to be busier, and the dirty ground of the prison full of people who are forced to run for a few minutes everyday to receive points and eventually, cigarettes. As a result of an increase in numbers of people engaging in the activities, Transfield has recruited dozens of teachers and trainers these days that bring about ambusiness boom for this company. In fact, if the refugees decide to impose a sanction against all the activities one day, the first loser will be the Transfield company; the company which develops its business more than before through cutting the weekly points of 450 people. In this scenario, Transfield will be compelled to dismiss its employees, similar to what occurred during the big hunger strike in January last year, when the company sustained heavy financial losses.

6
Prison is a filthy and inhuman place. It can cause people to be on the verge of distrust and hatred of fellow beings. For those who have experienced prison, an accepted reality is that a prisoner needs to reduce their dependence on the others; otherwise, he will simply become a tool in the hands of jailers and anyone else.  A dependent person becomes like a slave.

What should be emphasized is that what has happened in the Manus prison is the collapse of social relationships and moral values through bringing cigarettes in the form, not only a consuming object, but more importantly as a functional tool that plays the role of money. A prisoner has very basic needs, and sometimes, having a simple cup could be a manifestation of power. The operating system in the prison engenders distrust in social relationships among the prisoners that leads to humiliation, pessimism, anxiety and ethical collapse. In short, these days at the Manus prison, the cigarette is used  “as an element of control and domination”. At the moment, the authorities fear a public protest, even a peaceful one, being mounted.

By cutting the weekly points of half of the population, the authorities have created division between the detainees. Whereby, unlike before, they have been split into various groups.  The prisoners are also aware of the fact that they do not have the previous sense of unity and, more than ever, they have become too weak and too obedient to confront this system that has stripped them of all human dignity and whatever they had as a human. There is no doubt that the cause of this division, rift, and even hostility is the discrimination that dominates the small society of this prison.

Disrupt and Divide: Rubbing salt in wounds of our own making

Australian immigration is separating us because they know that we are getting used to each other.

Australian immigration is separating us because they know we are filling the gap between our family and loved ones with our friends in detention.

Australian immigration is separating us because they want to add salt to our wound.

These words written by Amir, a man held in Australia’s detention black site for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island, PNG, go to the heart of the new policies announced by PNG immigration authorities earlier this week.

The detainees have been told that the four compounds that make up the Manus Island camp will be split into two parts: those who received positive findings from PNG authorities will be housed in Oscar and Delta compounds and eventually permanently resettled in PNG, whereas those who receive negative findings are to be housed in Foxtrot and Mike compounds and eventually deported. The officials reiterated that none of the close to 900 men would ever be settled in Australia.

The announcement has spread deep unease and fear through the camp. As the writer Behrouz Boochani, imprisoned on Manus since 2013, puts it, “Only a prisoner can understand deeply how hard is the trauma when you must move to other prison.”

And the move surely will be to another prison both for those who receive “positive” findings for “settlement,” and for those who receive negative orders for removal. In an eloquent and powerful letter to PNG authorities, 76 refugees who have received “double positive” status make it very plain that they see the determination that they must be settled on PNG as amounting to nothing other than a new term of indefinite punishment:

Most of us received our refugee status more than a year ago and we are not willing to be resettled in your country, which is great NO to your country from us to continue living life here…

In our countries we were threatened of imprisonment, exile, torture and beatings, but in your country we were literally indefinitely imprisoned, exiled, tortured and were beaten up.

In your country two of our friends were killed, one from negligence and the other one was beaten to death by your people.

In your country we stood in lines for hours and hours to receive ‘food’, shower, toilet and malaria medication under the merciless sunlight.

In your country our humanity was taken away and we were humiliated but we sewed our lips and went on hunger strike with hundreds of our friends to plea for freedom but again you suppressed us because the only thing you could care was the money that Australia wound put in your pocket to dehumanise us.

By writing this letter we would clearly like to inform you that we are not willing to be your slaves and await for death in poverty, loneliness and disease in case to be a lesson for the refugees in rest of the world.

There are several likely motivations for PNG authorities’ decision to separate the men into two groups just now. It is widely believed that the forthcoming challenge to the legality of the Lombrum Detention Centre prompted this preemptive action by Australia and PNG in order to empty the camp of inmates in the event of a PNG High Court finding in favour of the challenge. Others suggest that bilateral agreements reportedly being sought with Iran will clear the way for mass removals of those who have received negative findings but who are unable to be refouled under current international arrangements.

A further likely motivation, in our view, is to curb the growing sense of political community among inmates. As analysts who have followed the writings and other forms of protest of the men imprisoned on Manus Island over several years, we have noted that their articulations of their plight have become increasingly astute, pointed and uncompromising, while the forms of political protest and action they have undertaken have become increasingly creative and assured. As the defiant declaration by the “double positives” demonstrates, the punitive conditions to which refugees and asylum seekers alike have been subjected have resulted in giving them an acute understanding of their plight and have forged a determination to reject out of hand the legal feints and political doublespeak of their jailers.

This developing sense political community is, undeniably, marred by its obverse, a disturbing undertow of bullying, harassment, and internal violence, especially sexual violence, that remains unchecked — and at times, it would appear, is actively fostered — by guards and managers. Yet, there is no denying the growth of a collective voice and solidarity on both Manus Island and Nauru, a growth that in turn has engendered increasing levels of support among a range of sectors in Australian community, from health, education and legal workers to religious groups.

As part of their resistance to the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment they receive, inmates continue, with a stubborn persistence, to support and care for one another. They defy the efforts to dehumanize by becoming one another’s families; they attempt to fill the aching void of loss and hurt with myriad expressive acts of solidarity and kindness. They work to form and sustain networks across entrenched divides.

In the recent moves to break up this nascent solidarity and community, we see a tactics of division and disruption all too familiar from other contexts. This is a tactics that must be clearly named and called out for what it is, as a communication we received recently from an inmate on Manus asks us to do:

After this separation they can take control of us like our movement or actions and up the pressure.

I don’t have any answer to this cruelty only we have to be patient that’s all.

I don’t know what you can do. Maybe you can write and publish it.

– Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites

PDF of this commentary

by Farhad
by Farhad