When Behrouz Boochani became the Voice of Manus he revealed the chaos and cruelty of a secret regime and made a nation take notice. But five years on from finding freedom in New Zealand, who is Behrouz Boochani now? What happens to imprisoned writers when they are no longer in prison?
In this wide-ranging conversation, he reflects on his years in detention capturing in words and on film the madness of Manus, his more recent writing – including his book Freedom, Only Freedom – his poetry and playwrighting, and as a Kurdish activist his involvement in the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ uprising in Iran.
Behrouz Boochani will be in conversation with his friend Ben Doherty – international affairs correspondent for The Guardian – for PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
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, Birkbeck Law School; Associate Professor in Social Sciences at UNSW; non-resident Visiting Scholar at the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC), University of 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. His most recent book is Freedom, Only Freedom.
Ben Doherty, International affairs correspondent for The Guardian, has reported across the Asia-Pacific, including postings in Southeast and South Asia. His work focuses on human rights and humanitarian issues, and forced migration. He holds master’s degrees from Oxford University and UNSW, and is the author of a novel, Nagaland.
This initiative is proudly supported by the NSW Government through the Culture Up Late Program and presented in partnership with PEN Sydney.