Behrouz Boochani: Freedom, Only Freedom
They banished us, they tortured us, they dehumanised us, but we fought back.
Kurdish-Iranian refugee and award-winning writer Behrouz Boochani delivered the 2022 Wallace Wurth Lecture at UNSW Sydney on Tuesday 13 December, sharing why a human narrative is integral to fighting Australia’s current refugee policies. Boochani, who is an adjunct associate professor at UNSW, spent over six years in offshore immigration detention in Manus Detention Centre, where he and his fellow asylum seekers endured conditions that violated international refugee law.
His new book, Freedom, Only Freedom, is a collection of his prison writings, translated and edited by his long-time translators and collaborators Omid Tofighian and Moones Mansoubi. Mr Boochani's work is combined with essays from experts on migration, refugee rights, politics, and literature.
Following an introduction by Sarah Dale (RACS), Omid Tofighian and Moones Mansoubi, Boochani is in conversation with human rights lawyer Madeline Gleeson sharing his stories of resilience and shed light on the shameful refugee policies that the Australian government continues to endorse.
Freedom, Only Freedom can be purchased here.
ABOUT THE WALLACE WURTH LECTURE
The Wallace Wurth Lecture was first held in 1964 to commemorate the memory of the late Wallace Charles Wurth, the first Chancellor of UNSW Sydney (at the time known as the New South Wales University of Technology) and first President of the Council of the University. The first Wallace Wurth Lecture was delivered by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies and recent acclaimed speakers include Gail Kelly, Stan Grant and Daniel Dennett.
Behrouz Boochani and Madeline Gleeson
Omid Tofighian and Moones Mansoubi
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. Boochani was a writer and editor for the Kurdish language magazine Werya in Iran. He is a Visiting Professor at Birkbeck Law School; Associate Professor in Social Sciences at UNSW Sydney; Honorary Member of PEN International; and winner of an Amnesty International Australia 2017 Media Award, the Diaspora Symposium Social Justice Award, the Liberty Victoria 2018 Empty Chair Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya award for journalism.
He publishes regularly with The Guardian, and his writing also features in The Saturday Paper, Huffington Post, New Matilda, The Financial Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time; and collaborator on Nazanin Sahamizadeh’s play Manus. His book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison won the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature in addition to the Nonfiction category. He has also won the Special Award at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Australian Book Industry Award for Nonfiction Book of the Year, and the National Biography Prize.
Photo Credit: Ehsan K Hazaveh
Omid Tofighian (Introduction)
Omid Tofighian is Adjunct Lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media, UNSW Sydney and Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck Law, University of London. He is an award-winning lecturer, researcher and community advocate, combining philosophy with interests in citizen media, popular culture, displacement and discrimination.
His publications include Myth and Philosophy in Platonic Dialogues; translation of Behrouz Boochani's multi-award-winning book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison, co-editor of special issues for journals Literature and Aesthetics, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media and Southerly; and co-translator/co-editor of Freedom, Only Freedom: The Prison Writings of Behrouz Boochani.
Moones Mansoubi (Introduction)
Moones Mansoubi is a community, arts and cultural development worker based in Sydney. Her work is dedicated mainly to supporting and collaborating with migrants and people seeking asylum in Australia. She has managed numerous community and cultural projects, and the first translation of Behrouz Boochani’s work when he began writing from Manus Island. She was translation consultant for Boochani’s book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. Her translation of the article 'An Island Off Manus' (Saturday Paper) was included in Boochani’s winning nomination for the Amnesty Media Award in 2017. Moones has a Masters Degree in International Relations and is passionate about social justice and social cohesion. She is currently coordinator of the Community Refugee Welcome Centre in Inner West Sydney and a content producer for SBS Radio, Persian program.
Madeline Gleeson (Chairperson)
Madeline Gleeson is a lawyer and Senior Research Fellow at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney, where she directs the Offshore Processing and Regional Protection projects. Madeline specialises in international human rights and refugee law, with a focus on the law of State responsibility, extraterritorial human rights obligations, offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island, and refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific region.
She has extensive experience working with forcibly displaced people around the world. She has conducted research on asylum seekers and refugees, statelessness, human trafficking, labour migration and land grabbing with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, and worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Geneva, Switzerland. She also has human rights experience in South Africa and Indonesia, and previously practiced as a solicitor in Australia.
Sarah Dale (Host)
Sarah Dale is the Director and Principal Solicitor at RACS. She joined RACS in 2013 after spending a number of years working with people seeking asylum and refugees in visa cancellation and civil law issues. At RACS, Sarah was their first Child Specialist Solicitor, developing an outreach legal service to assist unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Australia, and worked tirelessly with children who were detained on Christmas Island and faced transfer to Nauru. She continued this outreach to young people who were transferred to Nauru as unaccompanied children. Sarah became Principal Solicitor in 2016 and has led RACS in responding to a shifting policy environment. In 2017, Sarah participated in the UNHCR Expert Roundtable in Brussels on family reunification, and in consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders at York University.