Behrouz Boochani wins Australia’s richest literary prize

Published: February 4, 2019

The Kurdish Iranian journalist, filmmaker and detained refugee, Behrouz Boochani has won the Victorian Prize for Literature for a book he reportedly wrote using the online messaging service WhatsApp. He was awarded the Aus$100,000 (US$72,600) prize for his book “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison”. He will receive an additional Aus$25,000 after it also won the non-fiction category. The award was accepted by the book’s translator Omid Tofighian, who worked with Boochani over five years to bring the stories to life. It is the most valuable literary prize of Australia. Boochani is an Iranian asylum-seeker, who detained in Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s Manus Island since 2013 under Australian asylum laws when he was found attempting to enter mainland Australia without a valid visa. He is among 600 refugees who remain in camps on the island despite Australia having closed its “regional processing center” there in 2017. Under Australia’s hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat to Manus Island or Nauru in the Pacific for processing, with those found to be refugees barred from resettling in Australia. The harsh policy is meant to deter people embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but the United Nations and other rights groups have criticised the camps’ conditions and long detention periods.

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