Aziz: thank you for the attention but now I have go back to detention…

February 18, 2019

Last Wednesday, 13 February 2019, Abdul Aziz Muhamat was awarded the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defender in Geneva. Some time earlier Behrouz Boochani was awarded the Australian Victorian Prize for Literature. What they have in common is that they are detained – for almost 6 years – on Manus Island under Australia’s off-shore refugee policy.  Their stories testify to the cruelty of this regime and the humanitarian deficiency of a country that claims a strong liberal tradition and is itself a nation based on immigration. Successive governments have defended this policy as necessary to stop trafficking although it is hard to see how forced stays of such length would attract anybody except the most desperate refugees. And anyway even those recognized as refugees would not be allowed to settle in Australia!

Aziz’ impassioned acceptance speech in Geneva, spoke of the solidarity he feels for his fellow detainees in the face of daily humiliating and degrading treatment. Therefore he vowed to return to his detention centre in the Pacific, return to be a number (“On the island, officials refer to me as QNK002. I have no identity other than that number“). See:

Exceptionally the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) congratulated him: “I have the deepest admiration for Mr. Muhamat, for his courage, his humanity and indomitable spirit,” said Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, who met with him, “His testimony is a wake-up call to the world about what happens when policies dehumanize and mistreat other human beings.” (https://www.unhcr.org/5c6461574) Official reports by UNHCR after a 2018 visit have described as “shocking” the psychological state of the men. The U.N.’s human rights Committee called the camps “unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to its [Australia’s] human rights obligations.

The international media have seen the tragedy of the situation on Manus island, as illustrated by this selection:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-47239350

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sudanese-refugee-wins-major-human-rights-award/article26277804.ece

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-australia-refugees/sudanese-refugee-detained-on-manus-island-wins-prestigious-human-rights-prize-idUSKCN1Q32AP

https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2019/feb/15/the-cage-made-me-strong-manus-island-detainee-abdul-aziz-muhamat-wins-human-rights-award-video

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/it-s-absurd-to-return-human-rights-prize-winner-to-detention-say-refugee-advocates

https://allafrica.com/stories/201902150008.html

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/victories-for-human-rights-highlight-australia-s-tarnished-reputation-20190216-p50y97.html (“Aziz and Behrouz have been at the forefront of exposing the horrors of Australia’s offshore processing system. Their awards are a triumph for refugees everywhere, and an embarrassment to the Australian government, whose cruel policy toward refugees casts a lasting stain on Australia’s global human rights reputation“, quote from Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch.

For the French speakers among my readers, the Swiss media also paid close attention this time:


https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/13/breaking-news-mea-2019-goes-to-sudanese-refugee-activist-caught-up-in-australias-off-shore-detention-policy/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/04/manus-island-detainee-behrouz-boochani-wins-major-literary-prize-putting-more-pressure-on-detention-policy/

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/2019-mea-award-ceremony/

2 Responses to “Aziz: thank you for the attention but now I have go back to detention…”

  1. Robert Lee Says:

    Outrageous. Given Australia’s history, it’s immigrant policy is shameful. Aziz is the new Mandela. 🙏

    On Sun, Feb 17, 2019 at 7:03 PM Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders wrote:

    > Hans Thoolen posted: “Last Wednesday, 13 February 2019, Abdul Aziz Muhamat > was awarded the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defender in > Geneva. Some time earlier Behrouz Boochani was awarded the Australian > Victorian Prize for Literature. What they have in common is th” >


  2. […] SBS news reports that award-winning Manus Island detainee Abdul Aziz Muhamat has spoken before the United Nations Human Rights Council over Australia’s ‘cruel’ asylum seeker policy. Speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Law Centre, the 25-year-old said: “After 6 years, we deserve our lives back and a future. We urge your mandates to take this up with the Australian government, which deserves to be held accountable by this Council.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/18/aziz-thank-you-for-the-attention-but-now-i-have-go-back… […]


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