Authors, artists, scholars and members of the public expressed their solidarity to the daily struggle of asylum seekers held in Australia’s offshore detention centres at a special event held last week at Melbourne’s Greek Centre.
Attendees had the opportunity to engage with Behrouz Boochani and celebrate his novel ‘No Friend but the Mountains’.
The Kurdish-Iranian writer and journalist appeared for an interview, online from the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, with his translator and collaborator, Omid Tofighian, joining him in a live connection from Cairo.
In his interview with writer and refugee advocate Janet Galbraith and award-winning photographer Hoda Afshar, Boochani described the horrific living conditions in Nauru and Manus, where refugees are deprived of their freedom and human rights remaining arbitrarily detained for years.
The writer was also asked to speak in detail about the content of his book, and referred to techniques he has deployed including developing a specific language around the refugee situation and the messages he wishes to send to his readers, while academic Omid Tofighian added further to the conversation sharing his insights on the refugee crisis.
The event was hosted by Nikos Papastergiadis, Director of the Research Unit in Public Cultures at the University of Melbourne, writer and human rights advocate Arnold Zable and the interview coordinators Janet Galbraith and Hoda Afshar.
Opening the evening were two musicians, First Nations Bart Willoughby and Kurdish Fadil Suna.
Meanwhile, the line-up of guest speakers included political activist and academic Professor Gary Foley, who criticised Australia’s refugee policy and called on people to press the Government to bring all refugees detained in offshore centres to Australia.
Australia’s border security policy was also condemned by Mr Zable in his speech, w
hile photographer Hoda Afshar spoke about her refugee project ‘Remain’ and a documentary she has made with Boochani and other people seeking asylum, an undertaking which she said brought her closer to the horrific living conditions and issues faced by them.