Erfan Dana

My name is Erfan, I’m 21 years of age this year. Originally, from Afghanistan. I felt threatened and obliged to flee my motherland due to ongoing war and everyday fighting in Afghanistan. I arrived in Indonesia in 2014 when I had only 18 years of age. Since then I have been incarcerated in the state of constant uncertainty in one of the Indonesian detention centres, so-called “Pontianak” .  After many years of imprisonment, I still don’t know how long more I must stay in this prison camp before my freedom comes. So, whenever I miss my family members, especially my goodwill mother, I pick up a piece of paper with my pen then start writing about my unforgettable old sweet memories which I had with my family members back in Afghanistan. Though, I know they can’t read my heartfelt messages I will keep writing for them. I believe, there will come a day when I get reunited with my lovely and caring family members. I will show all my writings and tell them I never forgot their love and support even for a second while I was living in prison.


12th February 2018

To be virtuous is to be free. Being humane does not come at an enormous cost!

There was a moment when I recognised my humanity, and it was then that I also realised the sincerity and nobility of my humanity. From that time on I severed my connection with religion, I lost my faith, I broke away from the confines of racial hierarchies, culture divisions and ethnic conflict… forever. For me, to be a righteous human, to be humane, to be compassionate came to mean something new; for me they reached a greater level of valour in my contact with different peoples, and especially toward animals; for me they meant a deeper love for humanity. I realised true kindness, I recognised true affection, I revelled in togetherness.

For over four years I have been displaced and alienated from my family, I have suffered greatly, I have experienced so many forms of pain. There were times when I was degraded due to my Afghan identity. I would be verbally abused and denigrated when dealing with a whole range of diverse people, groups of people from completely different backgrounds, because I did not appear well-off, I did not wear expensive and fashionable clothes; but I always maintained principles of humanity, I maintained a code of ethics.

The hardest part of all these difficulties has been spending three years of my life in the corner of a prison. I have been reduced to a prisoner, forced to live in the worst state possible, even though I have not committed any crime – stripped of a life of freedom and dignity due to my status as a displaced person and my weak financial situation. I have ended up wasting time in this repulsive and depressing place. In most cases I have been resisting the injustice and violence of the guards and immigration officers, and I have become a somewhat expert in using whatever strategies humanly possible. Without fear of damaging my case for protection, I have been defending homeless and vulnerable refugees.
Ultimately, after all these bitter and edifying encounters I have realised that no one is your friend, no one will come to your aid, no one recognises you as a soul who deserves freedom. No one is there for you, just because you are not religiously inclined, because you do not have religious faith. And I have come to understand that humans, and humanity as a whole, have lost their values and principles.

I always placed honour on the highest pedestal in life – for me it has always been a source of power, merit, and kindness, and also the basis of humanity. This is what is valuable, what has been valuable from time immemorial!

I will do whatever it takes and overcome all obstacles so that I come to understand better, so that I experience more, so that I can tolerate loneliness, so I can confront the dangers, so that I become a model human being, so that I leave a legacy!

We are in desperate need of a world devoid of religious violence and racial violence.

Written by me Erfan Dana a refugee originally, from Afghanistan currently detained In one of an Indonesian detention centres.

Translated by Omid Tofighian

6th February 2018
(Art work by William Kentridge)

Have you seen a bird inside a locked cage?

Just imagine. The bird has no freedom, no calmness.

This is painful to behold. Do you know what is even more heartbreaking than this scene?

The life of the bird who becomes so accustomed to captivity that it begins to love the cage. Perhaps it has been kept inside the cage for too long. Or maybe the bird knows there is no place for it outside the cage.

The bird has neither wings to fly nor a place to stay in.

These days, I’m quite the same. I love the cage. It feels as if this cage is now part of my existence.

No sky is waiting for me to fly and no land wants to welcome me.

A forgotten person in the corner of the cage, who can only breathe.


  • A sad and tragic poem by Azad and me!
  • Translated by me Erfan Dana a refugee detained in one an Indonesian detention centres.

“Late report but necessary to read once”

It was 3am on the 1st of February 2018. As I wrote this report the sound of the cries from my cellmates rang in my ears.

The rain poured down and washed away my pain, the tears dropped from my eyes dripped onto my mobile keypad.

It has been fifteen consecutive days of protest in Balikpapan Prison camp, East Kalimantan, Indonesia now, we have been demanding freedom from incarceration and a safe and secure life. Now the refugees have decided to initiate their night-time protest.

The chronic pain of exile. Incarcerated for a period of four years. No real hope for ever achieving a peaceful life, no real hope in ever achieving a life without oppression; the refugees embarked on this journey purely because of their inner strength and stamina.

Minutes after they began their protest, after sounding their cries for freedom and their pleas for help, the head warden of the prison arrived together with a group of local police officers.

At this point everyone was calm and they raised their hands up in a show of submission. For some time the head warden of the prison camp hurled as much abuse and insults as he could muster up; he also threatened to press criminal charges and imprison the refugees in the local jails. This is what he told the refugees.

A few were so unbearably tired and felt so totally hopeless. They were completely shocked, their hearts had faltered and they felt they would never be free from this prison… they lost all control of themselves.

Two individuals collapsed for the first time ever and began to tremble. The refugees, who had no medical or first aid skills whatsoever, rushed over to keep the two of them stable lest they hurt themselves or anyone else.

The security guards watching the whole situation unfold not only did not help, they called the local police over and then closed the door and left the scene.

The situation continued like this for a period of time until more individuals began to suffer from heart pain and fainted from the shock. The whole thing was totally out of control. Everyone was screaming, and some were helping the fallen. Nineteen individuals in total had lost all hope and entered a state of shock. Among all this a small youth of fourteen years old also lost control, causing his older brother to enter a state of shock and panic for a short time. Actually, until a few months ago most of the people here were underage and had entered manhood while incarcerated.

The situation is now back under control. No one has any medical training, and there is no one else here to assist us. The immigration officers and IOM have left and gone to sleep in their comfortable beds. Total silence everywhere. Every now and then one of the people who collapsed would let out a yell and then weep. However, they have friends beside them to look after them; they hold down their arms and legs firmly so they do not hurt themselves or others.

It is unclear what will transpire tomorrow. I do not know the consequences of writing this report, I do not know if I will still be alive or not for exposing this. I do not know if I will be cuffed and taken to one of the local prisons, or if I will just remain here and continue to be a voice for the refugees and cry for help.

In any case, I have written this report for people to read and realise that we are still alive – do not let us be buried alive.

For more than a century we have been buried alive everyday and massacred. Tell me, is this civilisation and modernity, is this what you call support for human rights and the oppressed.

Just know that this situation is no different to the terrorist groups who make our lives a living hell and massacre us with bullets and blades.

When they kill us it happens once and our bodies are put to rest, but in here our very souls are dying everyday.

  • Erfan Dana in Indonesia
  • Translated by Omid Tofighian, American University in Cairo/University of Sydney


This is one of the good stories about my dedicated father I would like to share it with you all.


Father is one of the most magnificent words and worthy gift for this beautiful nature.  Every human being must know the importance and value of the fathers.  I humbly would like to thank my faithful and kind-hearted father from the core of my heart. His important existence has been a part of my meaningful life and his educational advice an effective lesson for a brighter and successful future.  Thus my father, who was a busy shoemaker, has never let me down by feeling lonely or helpless, he has accompanied me in every challenge and the worst aspects of my life. 

My father spent his whole springtime working tirelessly in order to provide comforts, warmth, health service, and a house with the modern facilities for me and our family members.  He worked very tough days and nights in cold and hot weather to find money to  support our family financially and educationally.   He lived poorly and has given all his life to us by working and being father.   For his wife and children, in addition, he would see to our happiness and superior days.  Though I had the physical power to work and get money from somewhere my sympathetic father, who always cared a lot about me prevented me from working.   He only wanted me to learn and make my future better.  Several times I decided to start working somewhere in order to cooperate with my father economically to carry the burden together.   He got angry because of the decision I had taken and swore me to my mother not to waste my time uselessly.   He didn’t accept that I work anywhere.   

After some years passed, I grew up into a young boy under the kindness and love of my mother and family members.  When i was 15 years old I finished grade 8 successfully and got second position.  While I was heading home with a satisfactory outcome I was feeling cheerful to make my parents happy with the result.  When seeing my good marks my noblest father appreciated me as much as the rest of my family members did.  I was fully an eligible student for grade 9.  But most of the time I felt furious because I was not able to contribute with my father at his work.  Finally an idea clicked me to take an English course but i I was unsure whether my father would agree to allow me to go to the English Center or not because at that time mullahs were preventing people from going to go English Center.  With fears I told my father that I would like to take an English course.   He became very happy to hear this good decision. 

I started learning English, full of interest and enthusiasm.  In every class i was getting first or second position.  After one and a half years I successfully got my diploma and certificate of achievement and moved up one level higher to professional advanced.  When i was ending my professional advanced the director of our Academy suggested to me to start teaching basic classes here in the academy.  They had no more staff members in the academy.   After I passed my presentation I would hopefully succeed to be a regular teacher.  So I received a monthly salary about 2500 Afghani.  It was enough for me to buy my school stuff so I didn’t take any more money from my father.  Every month my father asked me, ‘why you didn’t ask any money from me’?  I replied him, ‘now I have a salary and have enough funds to pay for my school fee’.   He became very happy and hugged me tightly because I was able to stand on my feet.

Although I don’t have a job to work and get money to send for my family I want  to write about our panic history I have passed up in my early age.  If today I’m able to write, speak, act as human with different people, I owe this all to my parents and my family members.

Love my dear father.  My family is my support system and my source of inspirations.




Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice , equality, and human dignity. We live in a vast world and interact with people from different backgrounds with completely different cultures, languages, customs and life principles.

The importance of multiculturalism lies in the idea that no culture is inherently superior to all others, and no culture is truly inferior to the rest.

Every human culture has the the potential to contribute positively to the human condition, and the benefits of a multicultural viewpoint give us all the humility to be able to accept, respect and understand one other better.

Differences are what bring color to this world, making it more beautiful and more enjoyable to live in. At the very heart of diversity and multiculturalism is the human need to bring people close together through embracing and not just tolerating their differences.

So get to know the next person sitting beside you. Share your stories, listen to theirs, and you will discover that this world is richly illuminated by many beautiful, colourful individuals.

Erfan, 2018

QUEENSLAND POETRY FESTIVAL a link to a review about QPF that includes Writing Through Fences.

WRITING THROUGH FENCES at the Queensland Poetry Festival 2017

We acknowledge that our voices, and some of us, are travelling to Yugerra Yugembul country, having passed through various other countries in this continent and world. We acknowledge your ongoing cultures and languages and offer out respect to all your peoples, Elders past, present and future.

This beautiful art work which will feature throughout our various events is by Mahmoud Salameh.  Thank you again for your constant support and inspiration Mahmoud.


art work, Same Moon by Mahmoud Salameh

Through The Moon – Saturday 26th August 2017
1pm – 2pm
BEMAC Level 1 102 Main St Kangaroo Point

with Juan Garido Salgado, Hani Abdile, Ahmad Aeinjamshid, Ahlam Moahamed, Ibtisam Ahmed,  Jenell Quinsee, Nick Theodoropoulos,


Farhad Bandesh, Kaveh, Maria, Kazem, Boush, Abdi, Areqou, Lilla, Jajee, Sajjad, Farhad, Rajan, Sri, Moh, Rahman, Sabaa, Milad, A., Iqbal, Ali, Mohammad, Janet

Through the Moon is a weaving of poetry, words, conversations,  song and music from members of Writing Through Fences – including those who are held hostage in off-shore and on-shore prison camps, and in limbo in Indonesia and in community in Australia.  Here we find resistance and the affirmation of life through creation and relationship.

Poetry and Displacement Panel – Saturday 26th August 2017
2:30pm-3:30pm BEMAC

Members of Writing Through Fences will speak a little of poetry and displacement and then invite questions from the audience.

Please be mindful of your questions. We are here to present and speak about our work. We hope you will respect us and limit your questioning to the relevant topics rather than our private lives.

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art – IMA Screening Room, 420 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley

AN INVITATION: We hope you watch and listen deeply – as you would with any encounter with any artist or art work – and, importantly, that you listen with a desire to listen openly, not for what you expect but to allow yourself to be absorbed, slashed, challenged by something other than what you expect.

1. Moz from Manus: Rap with video clip: ‘All the same’ with Artists Against Detention

2. Aziz (check out his collaborative award winning podcast ‘The Messenger’) with Michael Green and Behind The Wire
‘Daily Dreams’written and spoken by Abdul Aziz Muhammat (Manus Island) recorded and produced by Michael Green, Through The Wire.

3.’ Who I am’ written and performed by Hani Abdile recorded and produced by Christopher Miles

4. ‘Writing Through Fences’ for ABC by Jane Curtis

5. 11pm , 11 December 2015, Australia’s black site on Nauru
‘Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia’
PM Turnbull March 8, 2016 written by Maya (psuedonym) and Janet Galbraith. Production by Hannah Patchett

6. ‘We need you’, written and spoken by Ibtisam Ahmed, art work by Iqbal. Production: Jane Curtis

‘Resisting Silence: Poetry and stories from Australia’s political prisoners’. An Empty Chair Sound installation. Sunday 27th August, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art 
From four years on bunk beds in Manus refugee detention prison camp, the streets and detention camps of Indonesia and Malaysia, the prison camps on Nauru, in Brisbane and Melbourne, men, women and children have storied and mapped some of the most intimate impacts of nation building in Australia, nation building that occurs on their bodies.
1. I am 67 years old
Thank you to Farhad Shah who worked closely with a woman from Burma to write down her story as she requested and send to Writing Through Fences. The woman’s story is voiced by Janet Galbraith.
2. Lina – Friendship.  Thank you to Michael Green and Through The Wire for recording and production.
3. Imran Mohammed – Four years in a bunk bed. Recorded by Imran Mohammed.  Production by Rose Ertler.
4. Amir Taghinia – Multilingual Negotiations. Recorded by Amir Taghinia. Production by Rose Ertler.


Some of WTF members have been invited to read from Writing to the Wire Sun 27 Aug 5pm Judith Wright Shopfront, free

Hani Abdile has been invited to read at Voices of Colour Multilingual Slam Sunday 27 Aug Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art

Janet Galbraith will be reading (via distance) at The Day is Here: Poetry + Spoken Word Sat 26 Aug 4-5pm Judith Wright Screening Room, free

If you were not able to pick up a copy of  I Will Rise or Our Beautiful Voices at the event, you can buy on line at the Shop

Blog 3 from Imran on Manus

Imran Mohammad won the 2017 Amnesty International blog competition. He is an astonishing young writer who has been imprisoned in Australia’s prison camp in Manus Province PNG for almost 4 years now. You can find his work published in the Age, on the Amnesty website and as part of Writing Through Fences publications. His booklet detailing life in the prison camp is to be launched in the next months. Here we feature Imran’s latest blog. Please read on.

‘My relatives walked over 5,000 kilometers to reach Saudi Arabia’




Rahman is from Bangladesh and has been incarcerated on Manus Island detention prison for 3 years.  He has written his memoir of that time.



(image via

Yesterday I went to play soccer. After we finished we took some rest. The security officer told us: ‘Everyone go back to the compound’. I told him “I am waiting for the moon’. He said, ‘There is the moon, you can see, look up’. I saw the moon it was very big, looked beautiful. I looked and smiled at the moon and I asked the moon, ‘You light over the world so brightly. Why not our life? How long will we live in this darkness?’ The moon smiled at me and said, ‘Wait patiently please! I look around the world then I come to you’.

But still I don’t know how long it will take.

I feel restless.

  • Rahman (Manus Island August 2016)

image by scrapper9000

Nature Breaks

Sometimes nature breaks down into a hundred thousand pieces

when she sees our sorrow.

But no-one realises this.

When security gives us trouble we wait patiently and look at the sky,

for nature to gives us inspiration and sympathy for our lives.

Peace is hiding from us.

There is too much distance between peace and where we are.


  • Rahman (Manus Island 2016)


Of Youth

Youth is like summer flowers.

Suddenly it withers away.


  • Rahman (Manus Island 2016)




Here is the work of a man who was incarcerated on Manus for 2 years.  He returned under pressure to his country of origin only to have to flee again.  We have kept in contact and he remains part of Writing Through Fences.  Here is some of his story.


image from

Confusing life

I and a dusty road and a cloudy sky.

I and a long dusty road and a dark cloudy sky.

I and a dusty road, nobody knows where is it’s end.

I and a cloudy sky, nobody knows whether it will get rainy or not.

I and a dusty road, nobody knows how long it takes to get to the end of it.

I and a cloudy sky, nobody knows when it will be stormy or what will happen

to me and dusty road.

Maybe we will get green, maybe we will get puddle.

I and a dusty road, nobody knows whether I can get to the end of it or not.

Maybe we will become friends,

maybe we will finally part.

– M.

I am not a poet but these poems sometimes come to my mind and I can write them.  Not really my mind, they come from my heart.

Thinking about my destination… I came from other side of the world and I came through many countries to get to your country and I couldn’t.  They banished me to PNG, to that prison camp – worse than prison camp.  I went back to my country and had to run away again, to cross many countries again.  I climbed mountains, walked so far, was packed like sheep in a container for 12 hours, took taxi’s, walked so far, slept on streets in freezing rain, boats, camps, sleeping on the wet ground, sometimes in tents, much – too much walking, travelled on buses, walked so far, waited for long times stuck on bridges.

Some days we just had 2 pieces of bread.  I lost too much weight.

When I ran away I was not thinking where I would go. I just had to run away. Now. Run. During 3 years, since I first ran away, and then this second time, I crossed more than 15 countries.

Somedays, yes I get depressed because when I think about future, what will happen…  I am not young and I don’t have time for another journey – and I am a little bit tired now!

I know this country can accept me but do they want to or not?  They can, but will they?

Sometimes I think my life has been wasted.  On the other side I say to myself: Hey boy, you are trying to help yourself and many people don’t have the opportunity you have.

I have faced many kinds of people in my life.  Here, I find that people are kind.  They look at you with open face. Maybe they will accept me.  Maybe this big sky will make a storm again and I will have to stay friends with long dusty road.  Nobody knows if I can get to a destination or not.  I don’t know the answer.  I hope that someone will help me solve these problems, that they will accept me and I can stay here in a peaceful place and let go of that dusty road.

– M.




4th of September 2014

Seventy One per cent of australian people disagree with boat trip because their media told them they are not immigrants. Abbott said: ‘I want and I can stop the boat’ and those people became happy and gave him their votes.   After a few months, high court said offshore processing center is legal.

People of australia be aware during that time – I mean after 2013 July 19 till now 2014 September 5 – many innocent people on offshore processing center getting mental illnesses, a variety of funguses and other skin problems. Even in one conflict – which G4S and your immigration department organised before-hand – they killed one young asylum seeker, Reza Barati.  About two hundred people were injured – their damage serious, some people are missing parts of their bodies and some people dissappeared but and no one ever took responsibility about that.

NOW AN OTHER YOUNG ASYLUM SEEKER [ HAMID KHAZI ] IS DEAD BECAUSE OF INFECTION IN HIS BLOOD and it’s reason is lack of health on the torturing center that you and your high court gave vote to.  How many people must lose their life till you change your idea and allow them to come to Australia?

People of australia be knows and be aware that your government abuse those people and they don’t care whether those asylum seekers are alive or not. 

At least you australian people care about those innocent asylum seeker. THEY ARE HUMAN’ LIKE YOU.


What Matters – Feature Story

A message from Eaten Fish and Dismal Manus

eaten fish and dismal manus



Where is the freedom and flight?


They sign the swallow’s migration as forbidden,

surround the disordered sky with fences,

whip its wings.

Is this his only right?


When will the celebration of paper and words be?


An unsolved conundrum in a cup of tea!

They cross out the forbidden answer

and burn paper and words simultaneously.

Is this our only right?


In this wounded body,

covering its sick soul

they sign ‘forbidden’ on the flower petals,

they burn its stems.


Yes, all my rights are the light of a lantern’s flame taken from me.

They sign ‘forbidden’ on my kind moon

They burn stars and night.


When will the celebration of paper and words be seen?

  • M. 2015


On Peace: A letter to Australia


copyright WTF.

On Peace: A letter to Australia

I didn’t run from my country to come and destroy yours.
I came here to join you.
Because we both want the same “peace”
I have chosen to run
so they don’t push me
use me for their criminal plans..

I didn’t want to be victim to their goals
I am here to be united with everyone who is seeking peace

so we can be more numbers than them.
All we want is a world full of joy and peace.

That is not gonna happen if you don’t start believing in me.
I have made that choice

I came here without knowing if you will believe me or not
If you will trust me or not.
No matter what the results are

I will not regret that I have chosen to come here.

I will not regret

I have chosen peace.


  • written by I.

Hodan Macanto

This week we are featuring work by Macanto Hodan : Sisters of Hodan.  This group of women are also members of Writing Through Fences.


  • Friend and boat mate of Hodan’s



My dear Hodan caady

I’m thinking of you macnto

one day your life will turn around

your silence will make a sound

you will breathe fresh air

and you will speak loud

sing and roar louder than a lion

and those who imprisoned you will realize

they can no longer dumb your voice.

  • Hani Abdile




Falcon my friend i need your help, please fly,
fly up high, above the ocean, and give my message 💌 to Hodan,
You seek no permission,
You need no ID
You are well protected,
You won’t be harmed,
Carry my 💌 and fly,
Fly up high above Dutton,
We are grieving do not greet him he’s greedy,

🇭🇴🇩🇦🇳 💌🌷

Whisper on her ear and say,
Macanto we love you,
Macanto we need you here,
Macanto don’t leave,
Macanto we care,
Macanto we are here ,
Macanto you’re never alone
Macanto we hear you,
Macanto you’re brave,
Macanto you’re strong,
Macanto you’re amazing,
Macanto you’re beautiful,
Macanto Angels are watching,
Macanto God will heal you,
Macanto can you hear me ?
Macanto i gotta leave before the nurse comes,
May God be with you….
By Maria






‘Hodan bad’weynta burahaan daraada baafin ka dayaaye ,
hadiyaanan bari arag beerka iyo wadnaha iyo qalbiga basaaso baryi waayey awga. Baaqenu wuxu yahey Hodan qurux wanaagey Hodan taan jecleenen barito bogsan.

The following English translation is a rough summary.

The ocean and the mountains could save your heart and keep you alive but Australia couldn’t. Your heart will recover because you are beautiful, Hodan.