It is more than five years since Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani was dumped on Manus Island, having arrived in Australia just four days after Kevin Rudd’s infamous July 19 law, which claimed no one who arrived by boat would ever settle in our country.
Throughout his period of imprisonment, which lasted up until the camp was forcibly closed by the PNG government last year, Behrouz kept up a correspondence with the outside world… via text messages.
By this tortuous method, he managed to get the news out to newspapers including The Guardian about his plight – and that of thousands like him indefinitely imprisoned by the Australian Government despite having committed no crime.
His situation so moved Byron Bay illustrator Alex Mankiewicz that she determined to take the message to a wider audience, via the format of a graphic novel.
Except that nothing in this story is fiction.
Alex told Echonetdaily, that the 25-page graphic ‘tells Behrouz’s origin story, why he fled Iran and what he underwent trying to reach Australia and then during the closing of the camps last year’.
The book was published by PositiveNegatives, a group that produces literary comics, animations and podcasts about contemporary social and humanitarian issues. Alex volunteered her time for the project.
‘I’d been “looking” for a couple of years for a detainee who could tell their story but the few I was able to contact were too scared or mentally damaged,’ she said.
‘Until We Are All Free came about from the encounter at the Byron Writers Festival with Geordie Williamson after a session where Behrouz was a PEN 2017 ‘empty chair’ incarcerated journalist.
‘PositiveNegatives conducted the interview with Behrouz via WhatsApp, just as he used that and texting to write his entire of 416-page book.’
Tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 13) Behrouz Boochani will be in conversation with Julianne Schultz of the Griffith Review.
Behrouz will connect via WhatsApp and discuss his memoir No Friend But the Mountain and the current situation on Manus. He will be talking live to the audience and also that there’ll be a Q&A
Alex will talk about the graphic narrative, its origins and the process.
The Bookroom, is underwriting and promoting the event with the blessings of Behrouz Boochani’s publisher, Pan Macmillan.
Behrouz Boochani in Conversation
Byron Community Centre, Jonson Street, Byron Bay
Tuesday October 23, 6pm
Tickets $15 or $35 with a copy of No Friend But the Mountains
Book online here or tickets at the door.