Open letter in support of award-winning journalist and author Behrouz Boochani

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WE, the undersigned, write this letter as Australian journalists, writers, editors, publishers, academics, and lovers of literature, to call for our colleague and fellow award-winning journalist and author, Behrouz Boochani, to be allowed to enter Australia.

Boochani, 36, is a Kurdish writer, journalist, and film-maker. He fled Iran in early 2013 following a campaign of persecution and harassment, and attempted to seek asylum in Australia. He has been imprisoned on Manus Island since August 2013.

In the six years that the Australian authorities have detained him, Boochani has courageously continued to work, writing for publications in Australia and overseas, tirelessly reporting on the conditions on Manus Island, while also helping Australian-based journalists cover the situation there.

In December 2017, the International Federation of Journalists recognised Boochani’s work as a legitimate journalist and granted him an IFJ press card. As Australian journalists, we are acutely aware that his continued detention undermines Australia’s credibility as a leader for press freedom across the region.

Boochani is undeniably talented. In 2017, he co-directed a film that he shot on mobile phone, titled Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time, which was selected for screening at numerous film festivals. His book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Picador) published in late July 2018, is an extraordinary account of his experience of the Manus Island offshore detention system. It has been highly acclaimed by critics and in January, it won two of Australia’s most prestigious prizes at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

We are deeply concerned for Behrouz Boochani’s welfare and safety. The success of his book and his status as a journalist have made him a target of the Manus authorities; a danger that has only increased with his rising profile.

As Australian journalists, writers and readers, we extend a welcome to Behrouz Boochani. We regard him as a valuable member of the contemporary Australian literary community. He had the courage to stand up for the rights of his people in Iran, and in the past six years, he has borne witness to the trials of his fellow-detainees on Manus Island. It is our fervent hope that the suffering endured by all the men on Manus island will end as soon as possible.

We call on the Australian government to allow Behrouz Boochani into our country, where he can continue to work safely as a journalist and writer. We also urge that he be offered a pathway to permanent residency. We will all be enriched by this.

I was proud to sign as editor of the Honest History website and a member of MEAA, the union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists. The above letter will be published also in the May edition of Australian Book Review. ABC TV’s Australian Story was on Behrouz last night. David Stephens HH

2 April 2019

Image result for behrouz boochani(Time)