Australia silencing expression through detention on Manus Island
Feb.7, Sydney: The undersigned, write as journalists, writers, cartoonists and performers to urge you to allow our colleagues Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari, and Eaten Fish to be resettled in Australia.
All three men have sought protection as refugees from Iran and are currently detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea, which is operated on behalf of the Australian Government.
Well into the fourth year of their ordeal on Manus Island, and with delays and uncertainties in relation to any US resettlement deal, the three men remain in limbo. To varying degrees, the years of detention, has severely impacted their mental and physical health.
To continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum.
• Behrouz Boochani, 33, is a Kurdish journalist. He has worked as a journalist and editor for several Iranian newspapers. On February 17, 2013, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked his offices in Ilam and arrested 11 of Boochani's colleagues. Six were imprisoned. He has courageously continued to work as a journalist while in detention, and is a regular contributor to publications in Australia and overseas, often reporting on the situation and conditions on Manus Island. He has been recognised as a refugee and we urge you to allow him to reside in Australia to resume his career as a journalist. Boochani is a Main Case of PEN International, and has been recognised as a detained journalist by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
• Mehdi Savari, 31, is an Ahwazi performer. As an actor, he has worked with numerous theatre troupes in many cities and villages in Iran, and performed for audiences in open public places. He was also well-known as the host of a satirical children's TV show before fleeing Iran. Mehdi is a person of short stature, and has met with severe discrimination over his life, which has been exacerbated by the conditions and his treatment on Manus Island over the last three years, and he continues to suffer a range of physical ailments and indignities, as well as regular bouts of depression and chronic pain. As he has also been recognised as a refugee, we urge you to facilitate his resettlement in Australia. We also refer you to a resolution passed by the International Federation of Actors congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in September calling for his release from detention.
• Eaten Fish, 24, is a cartoonist and artist who prefers to be known by his nom-de-plume. He has recently received Cartoonists' Rights Network International's 2016 award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. His application for refugee status has not been assessed. Since he was detained at Manus Island, he has been diagnosed with mental illnesses, which have been compounded by his incarceration. We urge you to allow him to live in Australia until the final status of his claim can be determined.
As journalists, cartoonists, writers and performers, we are aware that the rights we enjoy are matched by a responsibility to challenge and confront tyranny and wrongdoing, to bear witness and uphold truth, and to reflect our society, even if sometimes unfavourably. We are privileged that in Australia we are able to pursue these ends without fear of persecution or threat to our personal liberty.
We believe that to continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum. All three have courageously continued to practice their vocations on Manus Island despite their incarceration. We urge you to allow them to be resettled in Australia so that they can live, work and contribute to Australian society.
MEAA is joined in this letter by free expression groups from around the world. We urge you to give the cases for resettlement of these three men serious consideration.
The Oslo Times International News Network