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← Writing is an act of resistance | Behrouz Boochani | TEDxSydney

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Showing Revision 18 created 11/17/2020 by David DeRuwe.

  1. Hello everyone.
  2. My name is Behrouz Boochani.
  3. Some of you will know me;
    some of you will not.
  4. I am a Kurdish novelist and journalist.

  5. In May 2013, I fled Iran
  6. because of my journalism
    and cultural activities.
  7. I traveled to Australia by boat,
    but never arrived.
  8. I was exiled to Manus Island
    alongside 1,000 other people.
  9. Manus Island is a remote tiny island
  10. in the north of Papua New Guinea, PNG,
    in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
  11. This is my story:

  12. A man who left his country
    because he didn't want to live in prison.
  13. A man who sought asylum,
    but ended up in a prison for six years.
  14. My story is the same
    as 2,000 other innocent people.
  15. People who have been in prison
  16. in Manus and Nauru
    for seeking asylum in Australia.
  17. My story is only one of many stories
    in these two islands.

  18. When they exiled us to Manus in 2013,
  19. we found ourselves in a place
    that was worse than a prison.
  20. We were deprived from having
    access to many things.
  21. Basic things, including having a phone.
  22. For four and a half years,
    we were living in this prison
  23. with metal fences and guards,
    and with much deprivation.
  24. At the end of 2017,

  25. we were forcibly moved from that prison
    to other compounds on Manus Island.
  26. So the history of our life here
    is in two parts:
  27. The closed prison and now the compounds
  28. which have fences around them and guards,
  29. but we are allowed to move
    around the island during the day.
  30. Although we have been moved
    from the first prison,
  31. we are still in a prison,
  32. a bigger prison,
  33. an island prison.
  34. After three and a half years,
    the PNG Supreme Court ruled

  35. that keeping innocent people
    in prison is illegal
  36. and deprived us of our human rights.
  37. It also ruled that we
    should have access to phones.
  38. This was a big achievement.
  39. Before that, I had smuggled
    a phone into the prison
  40. by exchanging my clothes,
    shoes, and cigarettes
  41. with a local man who was working
    inside the prison,
  42. and I started to communicate
    with the outside world,
  43. with people such as journalists.
  44. The guards would sometimes
    attack our rooms, looking for phones.
  45. Twice they found my phone and took it,
    and I had to smuggle another phone.
  46. This happened to many of us here,
  47. so it was not easy to communicate
    to the outside world.
  48. I didn't feel safe
    with the authorities and guards,
  49. and that's why I worked under a fake name
    for more than two years.
  50. When I became sure that I had made
  51. a strong network of journalists
    and supporters internationally,
  52. I decided it was safe to publish
    my work under my real name.
  53. For me, writing has always been
    an act of resistance.

  54. In this situation on Manus,
    it is still my resistance.
  55. The system that operates this prison
    aimed to reduce us to numbers,
  56. to remove our individuality,
    and destroy our identity.
  57. For me, writing and creating
    is a way of fighting
  58. to get my identity, humanity,
    and dignity back,
  59. in front of a cruel system
    that is established to take anything
  60. that has meaning of life from us.
  61. In Manus, I soon found
    that the language of journalism
  62. is not able to describe
    the systematic torture that we are under
  63. and the life in Manus prison camp.
  64. The language of journalism
    is a kind of language
  65. that is part of the power structures
    that I am fighting against.
  66. How can I describe six years
    living in exile

  67. in one of the worst prisons in the world?
  68. Twelve people have died already.
  69. For so many people who have heard
    about people in Manus and Nauru
  70. we are reduced to some simple pictures.
  71. But we are human.
  72. We exist.
  73. And we are suffering.
  74. We are human, same as you.
  75. How can I describe a father's suffering
  76. who is separated from his wife
    and children for six years?
  77. How can I describe a mother witnessing
    her small kids growing up for six years
  78. in a prison camp?
  79. How can I describe a young man
    who was full of life,
  80. but has lost opportunity
    to continue his education,
  81. to find love, has lost his health,
    his family, his hope,
  82. has lost many opportunities
    that you take for granted?
  83. That is why I have worked for years
    to tell this story,
  84. through creative and literary language.
  85. That is why I wrote a novel on my phone

  86. and sent it, text by text,
  87. through WhatsApp
    to my translator in Australia.
  88. Language is important.

  89. You will notice I call
    this place a prison,
  90. Manus prison,
  91. not an offshore processing center.
  92. Naming this prison as a prison
    shows the lies of government language.
  93. It helps us to understand
    the structural and systematic torture
  94. of Australia's detention regime.
  95. Part of creating my own language
  96. is to fight against the commodification
    and objectification of our pain.
  97. It is a deep part of this system
    that imprisons and tortures us.
  98. I know that people who participate in TEDx
    share their inspiring life and perspective

  99. to create a way for others.
  100. But, for me, as a person,
    who is still struggling
  101. alongside hundreds of innocent people
    against this system,
  102. what can I say?
  103. How can I inspire people
    while still I am not sure
  104. if I will survive or not.
  105. I am really sorry,
    sorry that I make you uncomfortable,
  106. but I think that I don't have a choice
    other than to make you uncomfortable
  107. because this is my story.
  108. I'm a kind of person who was born in war,

  109. I have had the life full of adventures,
  110. I've experienced homelessness, poverty,
  111. and sometimes the luxury
    of an income and a home.
  112. I have met many kinds of people,
  113. I experienced amazing love,
  114. and of course,
    I have many stories to share.
  115. But, I think I don't have this right
    to talk about myself
  116. while many people are suffering
    in these two islands.
  117. I don't know, perhaps, one day,
    when I am a free man,
  118. I will be invited to talk with people
    about other experiences -
  119. about love, life, and the meaning of life.
  120. I don't know, perhaps,
    if I smoke less, I will survive.
  121. I smoke too much.
  122. For now, I must write and talk

  123. because there are still 500 people
    with me in prison on Manus Island.
  124. There are still hundreds on Nauru .
  125. We are still in prison.
  126. I have the tool of language, of writing.
  127. It's not easy to write from here.
  128. It costs me a lot.
  129. I fight to write and hope
    that people actually read my words closely
  130. and engage deeply with them.
  131. In the end, my wish
  132. is that people in Nauru and Manus
    reach their freedom soon.
  133. Thank you
  134. (Applause)