ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian Kurdish writer Behrouz Boochani on Monday won the Australian National Autobiography Award for a novel he wrote. He accepted the prize via the mobile messaging application WhatsApp.
Boochani, an asylum seeker from the Kurdish city of Ilam, arrived in Australia by boat in 2013. He was immediately captured and transported to one of the country's offshore immigration processing centers, located on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
His debut autobiographical novel “No Friend but the Mountains” was published in 2018. It recounts his journey from Indonesia to Australia by boat, and later imprisonment on the Manus, where he has been for the past six years.
The book has already won three awards, including Australia’s richest literary prize, the Victorian premier literary awards and prize for literature, which cumulatively were worth 125,000 AUD. Boochani has not been able to attend any of the ceremonies to receive these awards.
The latest prize, New South Wales’ National Biography award, was worth 25,000 AUD, which was presented on Monday with Boochani appearing at the ceremony via WhatsApp.
“I don’t want to talk about literature; I would [just] like to say that I think the literature community as a part of civil society of Australia are part of our resistance in front of this system, and I think it is very valuable, and I do appreciate everyone for recognizing my work,” he said during his appearance, according to The Guardian.
The judges at the award ceremony praised the novel as “profoundly important,” and described it as “an astonishing act of witness and testament to the lifesaving power of writing as resistance,” the British paper wrote.
Boochani is one of almost 600 refugees that reside on Manus’ camps, where the tough conditions that asylum seekers are subjected to have drawn widespread criticism.
Australia claims its policies are meant to stop deaths of refugees caused by traffickers who bring them for money on boats that are often unsafe and can capsize or sink. Authorities at the processing centers are purportedly telling asylum seekers they would never be allowed on mainland Australia.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany