Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life. Bob Marley
The other night I had one of those dreams that jolted me awake and left a current of fear surging through my body.
I was at a festival. Thousands of people were there with me, some watching a game in a giant stadium, while others were milling around going in and out of colourful marquees eating those overpriced twirly potatoes on a stick. A flicker of light caught my attention on the ceiling of the marquee I was in and I saw two faces reflecting down on me. One face was Jesus and the other was Behrouz Boochani, the Kurdish journalist and poet who has been locked up by the Australian government in Manus for more than four years. I stood there watching the two faces merge into one when I realised that Behrouz himself was walking past my marquee. His body was so frail that he seemed to be floating. His clothes were white and the breeze was blowing right through him. I stepped closer and I could hear him calling out saying that his time had come and that he had nothing left to give. He was repeating it over and over again like a chant or a mantra. I yelled out to him to wait and begged him to hold my hands before he left. He heard me through the crowds and turned to look directly at me. As I reached for him I noticed for the first time that there was a tall fence between us. Sky high metal bars blocked us from embracing but we could reach our hands out towards each other. As our hands clasped together I realised that it was in fact me who was locked away behind the bars along with the thousands of festival goers and it was Behrouz who was free.
The dream left me feeling uneasy the rest of the night as my mind tried to make sense of what I had seen.
Later that day I saw on Facebook that Behrouz had written to the people of Australia. Normally I don’t take the time to read long posts but with the dream still echoing through my mind I made sure to read it all. Behrouz was wanting to explain the motivation behind resisting being moved to a new compound and how these men who have been locked away for so many years are using this opportunity to share their message to the world. It’s almost impossible to imagine how the human spirit can rise above imprisonment and torture and somehow have the strength to unite as one voice. These men who come from different countries, religions and nationalities, who have had their food, water and electricity stripped away from them are still somehow able to come together so share a unified message to the world.
Our resistance had a broader purpose. It was to be a model and present a new way for humanity. We wanted to show how humans have this capacity to be kind and peaceful and care about humanity even in a harsh situation.
On a god forsaken island, in the middle of nowhere, there are a group of men who have been given no time line for their imprisonment, had their human rights trampled on, experienced trauma after trauma who are now leading the way for a better world. A world where we choose kindness and peace. A world where our freedom isn’t taken for granted. These men are leading the way by protesting peacefully, refusing violence despite being attacked by the guards and even sharing their small rations of food with the dogs that live with them.
I have felt so powerless as the situation on Manus deteriorates. What can I possibly do to make our leaders see the men’s plight from a different perspective? How many petitions do I have to sign and how many rallies do I have to go along to before these men are given the freedom that they deserve. What has to change in order for more people to speak out? There are activists blocking Border Force buildings with furniture. There are church leaders locking themselves to the Prime Minister’s front gate. Here in Melbourne there are young Jews setting up Sabbath tables at Jewish politicians offices singing their weekly prayers and reminding them that their own relatives came here fleeing persecution. How have these leaders numbed themselves to these desperate men’s plight?
I had this article brewing in my depths as I went for my weekly visit to the local detention center. So aware that those of us who have never had our freedom removed can’t fully appreciate what freedom means and maybe that is why so many of us seem to be able to turn a blind eye to the injustice happening on our watch. We have so much to learn from these men who have become pawns in a twisted political plot.
One of the men had busily been drawing during our visit. As we finished up and said good bye he handed me his drawing. When I saw it I knew that I couldn’t stay quiet about my dream. I have a moral obligation to speak up for these non violent freedom fighters.