Hoda Afshar speaks with Behrouz Boochani live from Manus Island detention centre. Behrouz is an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer. He was born in western Iran and has been held on Manus Island since 2013. 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. 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.
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”.
One of his key messages was the power of individual action through art and free expression - his story is an inspiring and tangible example of this.