I am from Burma and I am 67 years old






image c. Janet Galbraith

I am from Burma and I am 67 years old

as told to F.S. in Nauru
Voiced by Janet Galbraith
A woman from Burma held hostage in Nauru for more than 4 years now asked F.S. to share her story.
Thank you to F.S. for your sensitive work.
Her story was part of WTF's empty chair installation at QPF 2017.



Please listen to this poem in Farsi with guitar accompaniment at the link just below:

An unpassable bridge 2017-07-31 Kazem poem 2

image by Hannah Patchett







An un-passable bridge

My guitar is my soul mate nowadays
I don’t care for the world anymore
I play my guitar with a heart full of sadness
My eyes drizzle like rain.

My heart is absent minded.
It’s going to tell the secret words.
It has a heavy pain to reveal.
It is profoundly sad,
sad like someone who has lost his sweetheart.
It has many words to say
but there are no worthy people to talk to.

My restless heart wants to fly
to take a message to someone.
But what benefit is there when there is no way to fly
My heart is exhausted from waiting and effort.
It’s breathless and alone.
It’s become weak.
It’s looking for a way to fly.

My heart with a hidden secret
and a world full of wounds in a jail
has no path to freedom.
It’s been condemned to a sorrowful separation.

I wish there was a kind person to give a chance to this prisoner
Give him a smile again as a gift.
Let him free from fetters and alienation.
What a pity that it’s all a dream!
My helpless heart has never seen bliss.
The jailer is bringing new chains to fasten.
This is a different prison
Oh, banish the sorrow of my unblessed heart.

I’m like an iron, you know, I am strong!

The white demons have arrived with anger
to promise another Reza’s death.
They have sharp claws
They are roaring
The ground is wet from blood
though no-one has been killed yet.

They want a volunteer.
Someone like Reza Barrati.
Someone to be annihilated again.
The white demons are starving again.
They want to feed themselves with my own body
and celebrate until the next day.
They have no sorrow, no sadness, no pain.

My mother, my love, be strong.
I know it’s hard to say goodbye to your son.

Without seeing it, I can read the verdict:
My young body must be killed.
There is no sign for humanity.
There are no rights for humanity.
Power is in the hands of wicked people.
They have made the world
an un-passable bridge.




Nowadays, there is no foundation for the concept of humanity,

no understanding of humanity itself.

It’s name remains from the past, and this is the only sign for humanity – its name.

The only sign of humanity is its name.

I’m staggered by human beings – they are social creatures.

I’m staggered by the society that they have now formed.

Human beings and their societies stagger me.

I’m staggered by wickedness, by the wrong behaviour of humans.

Elders from the past were a guide for the demonstration of humanity.

They aspired to live well so to manifest the nature of humanity.

Wickedness and wrong behaviour now stagger me.

There is no longer any word for human or humanity.

The opposite only exists .

The description of humanity does not depend on any religion, race or ethnicity,

no, not the description of humanity.

You find humanity. It is not something to buy.

It’s achievable, it’s obtainable, it’s retainable.

I mean the name of humanity.

Turn on the luminous light of humanity now, today.

Don’t be silent, and useless. Don’t draw back from the name of humanity.

The name human and humanity are valuable – an alchemist’s gem.

Don’t make the noble and great name disgraceful and contemptible.

Do your best to serve people, love them, be kind with them, until you are present;

until you live again under the glorious and magnificent name of humanity

– Kaveh

Translation: Moones Mansoube with Ahmad A. and Janet Galbraith


To the creator of the July 19 2013 Policy.

It’s morning now and I see the outside

Manus sky is still above my head

My feet are weak and the ground is feeble

The sun is shining, hotter than yesterday

Again another repetition, again another day

Our surroundings are closed, all around a bunch of fences

We see the same faces, same people

their faces have been empty of laugher for so long.

Although the world is colourful, big and beautiful

Our world has been gloomy, tiny and dark for so long.

We are all similar. Our pains are similar.

If we are frightened and nervous, there will be no one to listen

To our agonies and stories.

If we are in an awful situation with too much misery

There will be no one found, to solve even one problem,

No-one who will be as balm and make us happy.

But I have a close friend, a companion

My cigarette, burning beside me, burning like me.

Sorry, I talked a lot without introducing myself:

We are a bunch of luckless victims of 19th of July who have been sacrificed.

But I don’t know why, what we had done.

On what basis we were chosen that we were separated from them, and moved.

We were brought from Christmas Island of Australia to here, I mean Manus Island, one of the

offshore detentions of Australia. It has been a long time that I’ve had this question

‘What made the difference between us and those coming on a same boat that day?”

You let them settle in the land and they’re livin to stay

After that law, after that year, after that month, after that day

This is the biggest injustice that I’ve ever seen in the world still

We’re in limbo here, living in the dream of going to the USA.

You’ve been keepin us for so long illegally

You’ve shown no respect, neither to law nor to the PNG court rule

With all your inhumane bad behaviour

We are still hostages hungering for freedom

You have violated human rights, why?

I was askin why, why several times

But they have been useless, my words, my questions –


If I object, I protest in PNG, they will reply that ‘you’re on Manus, country of PNG

You will face the law of PNG’.

But who’s listenin to these words?

Hey mate, take it from me I know you’re busy, busy with politics, interests and war

But have a bit of heart at least

How can you place your head on the pillow at night

with peace of mind?

Refugees on Manus, on Nauru, each of them

Has become sick and depressed, got shattered internally

In order for you to achieve your goals and interests easily.

Open your eyes wake up! this is a reality. After all the damages we just need support.

If bringing us to the offshore was to close the ocean routes and stop the boats –

It has been so long that no boats have arrived. Stand up! Time is up, why are you killing time?

Make a decision based on logic and sanity. Don’t let us become more pissed off.

We are teetering on the edge of insanity

Either you give us a hand and help us, let us free, we are human,

Or shoot the final bullet and get rid of us.

I don’t wanna beg anymore.

I am looking for a deep sleep so as to get permanent relief

– Kaveh (Manus)

Translation Moones Mansoube

Why not our life?


(image via angelfire@deviantart.com)

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)

A long dusty road

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 hemantsoreng.com

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.


This writer from Bangladesh has been incarcerated in Manus Island detention prison for 3 years.

Read and share his beautifully heartbreaking words.


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.


Of Youth

Youth is like summer flowers.

Suddenly it withers away.


  • words by Rahman (Manus Island)

‘Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia’ – PM Turnbull 2015

‘Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia’ – PM Turnbull

arezo final image women day 2016

drawing by Janet Galbraith

11pm, 11th December 2015, OPC 3, Australia’s black site, Nauru

Take off your clothes.
I have nothing to hide
I carry only my identity card –
letters and number you have gifted
my hand, my psyche, the ever diminishing pulse
of my heart.
Open your legs
Do I exist only as cavities?
Take off your clothes.
Am I a criminal?
Take off your clothes.
I am a piece of meat.
Afraid, I am crying
I am shouting.
They laugh
They mock
Take off your clothes
‘Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia’*.
Open your legs, your hands.
‘It is a national disgrace*’.
A female guard steps forward
Forces open my legs, my hands.
Another guard pushes the wand between my legs, lingers there.
Take off your t-shirt and bra
Leering, they laugh
I lift.
Take off all your clothes.
I hold tight
A male guard closes the door.
My ID is in the woman’s hands.
I push through the men.
Push through the door.
As I have been leaving for so long.

– Arezo and Janet Galbraith

* words from PM Malcolm Turnbull in the public domain


11pm, 11th December 2015, OPC 3, Australia’s black site, Nauru

Take off your clothes.
I have nothing to hide
I carry only my identity card –
letters and number you have gifted
my hand, my psyche, the ever diminishing pulse
of my heart.
Open your legs
Do I exist only as cavities?
Take off your clothes.
Am I a criminal?
Take off your clothes.
I am a piece of meat.
Afraid, I am crying
I am shouting.
They laugh
They mock
Take off your clothes
‘Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia’.
Open your legs, your hands.
‘It is a national disgrace’.
A female guard steps forward
Forces open my legs, my hands.
Another guard pushes the wand between my legs, lingers there.
Take off your t-shirt and bra
Leering, they laugh
I lift.
Take off all your clothes.
I hold tight
A male guard closes the door.
My ID is in the woman’s hands.
I push through the men.
Push through the door.
As I have been leaving for so long.

– Arezo and Janet Galbraith



photo by Anne Galbraith


Sudan – West Darfur

My name is A.  I am from Sudan. Especially from West Darfur, place called Eftina.

I’m from minority Islam group in Darfur called Zaghawa. We are the only Islam group that the government targeted us.  They persecute us in all corners of Sudan.

It comes a time when the Janjawed (Janjaweed are the militant groups supported by the government)  their aim is to erase all the other blood african islam groups living in that region and their aim is to kill and to rape and to steal all the livestock and land and to chase us away from where they are.  We have been having – me and my family – we have been one of the people who fall in those problems first time.

I have lost my elder brother, his name is Mosef. He was the elder around 26-27. He has been killed by Janjaweed militant.

Fleeing : Struggle day and night

The rest of us fled Sudan and we went to Chad which is close and is a border between Sudan.  We went there and sought asylum from Chad. They sent us to a refugee compound called ‘Farshanah’ which is about approximately 2-300 kms from where we are from.

We spend there about 5 or 6 years in that place. A very very horrible time in my life.

The place is not safe and there is a shortage of everything: shelter, food, security and stability inside the compound. And as you know the place has been run by the two main organisations WFP and Red Cross.  Also we have a UNHCR.  They duty of the WFP is to provide food and shelter for us.  Red Cross, health.  And we have a French organisation called Drs Without Borders.

I spent 5 years in that place which is like spending 50 years of my life in that place.

I used to struggle day and night, just to do two things. One – to feed my family. Two – to keep my family and myself safe.

During that time every single day an abduction would take place around the compound. And that abdication is from the Sudanese police that they flew in from Sudan to Chad.  And they used to come around that compound just to abduct the young men like me and recruit them forcibly to work with them.

You have only one choice. Either you accept to be recruited forcibly, or you will be hiding, or you will flee the place where you are.

All the men that I know, they recruit them forcibly and if you refuse they will kill you.  They will take you far away from your family and they will kill you and nobody will know where you are. If they don’t kill you they will use you as a slave to work for them to do something which is really like unacceptable job such as they kill people and then they force you to dig the ground to bury those people.

They go and they steal the goods of some people and they force you to carry those goods in your head and walk around.  They go and take away all the livelihood – livestock of people and then they force you to look after the livestock.  You have no right to complain and if you refuse your prize is one bullet in your head and you are gone.

Everywhere gunshot: Family pray for safety

After all those years I used to go outside to the markets and I know what when I leave the compound I know that sometime I will not come back to see my family again because there is a real lack of security in that place.   Every corner of the market you can hear a gunshot. Everywhere you go you can hear gunshots. So it makes you feel that if you leave the place I will never come back to my family again. So that is what I used to do every day before I leave the place to go to market to find food to feed my family I would tell them to please pray for me to come back and they always praying for me. So I go there. I walked for 12 hours sometimes 14 hours just to get food for our daily meals – lunch and dinner. I could not afford to pay for breakfast for my family. This is the way I kept my family for 5 years in that place.  Until today when I decided to leave that place.


I had been planning to leave for many many years. Chadian government refused to give us any documents and refused to provide any security for us. They are always saying in the media that they are providing safety and security and stability for these people but all this was really a lie.

They say look we can help you to go to Indonesia but we don’t know what will happen to you.  I said ‘No problem I am happy to go to Indonesia’.  They made me fake passport, fake travel documents and they arrange everything for me. It was not even really clear. It was all fake.  And I came to Indonesia, to Jakarta.

Genocide in Darfur forces us to leave

As you know everyone knows what is happening in Darfur especially between 2001 and 2013.  There was a massive genocide in 2005 which leave up to 25000 – 26000 Sudanese from Islamist groups lost their lives. This is the only reason that forced all the young people like me to flee their country, their homelands.  They went all the way to different countries and some lost their lives on their way to seek asylum from any part of the world.


So the reason that this affect most of us aside from the genocide is that we Zhagawa have been marginalised and not accepted in the Sudanese community.  It doesn’t matter what sort of qualification you have or where you reach in terms of education at the end of the day they discriminate against you because you are from the West part of Sudan.

If you say you are from West part of Sudan – like if you say something like you’re abusing them or you say something funny. Everyone will start looking at you and laughing at you like you are a strange person like you are not a real Sudanese.  So there are a lot of things that are happening right through to today especially for the young people. And so if you are from West part of Sudan you have only one option. You must join the army or police and you go and kill your own people. If you refuse probably you will be killed. If you say yes – you have to go and do that.  Many many people took the risk.  The majority were killed and those left …  whenever they got the chance they escape.

Indonesia and relationship with Sudan

After I came to Indonesia – I spent 3 months in Indonesia.  I came to Indonesia on 14th of July. That is the date we arrived 14 of July 2013. I spent 3 months in Indonesia and I tried 3 times to cross the ocean because I have no chance and my desire was to stay in Indonesia but unfortunately Sudan government and Indonesia have very very close relationship which leads to the Indonesian government to authorise the Sudan government to send their own intelligence to monitor the young Sudanese who have left the country and are seeking asylum from Indonesia and around the world.

In Indonesia for us, the Sudanese, we are not allowed to walk around like other nationalities. We used to be hidden in places like Bogor so we hide in a villa.  During all the day we cannot leave the rooms until night time when we buy things we need like our mess [food] and it is really terrible times that I seen in my life. When I was in Darfur I saw so much and took a lot of risk and go through terrible times but in Indonesia is the only time I got scared because you are not going to die. If you are scared that you are going to die it is good but you are not going to die.

Fighting with the waves #1

Chance that I have.  I said look I have to try.  Even though it might cost me my life I have to try because I have no other chance. So I have to fight with the waves. If I made it good, and if I lost my life in the sea I will be food for the fish instead of just taking me back again to Sudan and torturing me in Sudan and doing a lot of shitty stuff on me in Sudan.  So the first time I took the risk we spend more than 48 hours in the boat.

You are not going to die there because of the torturing.  What made me afraid there in Indonesia was the torturing. You know we have one of the worst torturing of our intelligence in Sudan. When they capture you they torture you and they do a lot of shitty stuff that will always drive you crazy completely.  Even though you didn’t do anything you have to admit that you did just to stop the torture.  The first time I tried to cross the ocean – because I’ve got no chance. I have not chance either to go back or to stay in Indonesia. I have only one chance.  More than 48 hours in the boat.

So we moved from Indonesia. I can’t remember where in Indonesia we moved from. At night time the smugglers came to us at midnight and said: ‘Hey guys get up and pack your stuff’ and he said ‘you guys are not allowed even to take any stuff just only the clothes you wearing and put on your shoes and get in the car’. So we did what he told us. We came to a place even I can’t remember the name…. it was midnight.  I can’t see anything. Just I see some Indonesian men started helping us. They put us in a small boat.  I asked why that small boat and they said ‘Look there’s another big boat or ship down there so you have to get on this small boat and it will take you all the way to the ship’.

As I haven’t seen the ship I said ok. So I agreed to go. After we got in that boat they took us to another bigger boat – a fishing boat and it was bigger. We jump on that boat.  It was night time so no one realise the boat was broken from everywhere. So we just say ok. We asked the guy are you sure that this is going to take us.  And they guy said ‘yes its going to take you there so don’t be afraid’.  We start from there about 5am in the morning.

From there we just keep moving until – the only thing i remember from that day is I asked the crew: ‘So how far are we’.  He told us that ‘we are very close to the international sea – about 200 kms from Christmas Island.  Suddenly we realised that this boat cannot take us to Christmas Island. We were stuck in the middle of the oceans with no way behind us and nothing there. The only thing that I could see around me was just the sea everywhere.

We stopped the boat there and the crew talked to us and said ‘hey guys this boat cannot take us up to Christmas Island so what should we do? Can we go back to Indonesia  or we just keep going’.  So we had no options.  We say if this boat cannot take us to Christmas Island no way we can risk our life. We already risked our life.  So we have to look for an alternative solution. The alternative solution that we were looking at is that we all agreed that we have to go back to Indonesia.

From there we were coming back to Indonesia, suddenly the boat – the middle of the boat – you know one piece of wood is just came out and suddenly we realised there was a big hole so all the salty water started coming up on the boat. We just by ourself. We had nothing there. We were just by ourself so we took off all our tshirts and we put them in that hole to stop the water and from there we drove to the Indonesian coast. So it took us about a day or a day and a half.

46 of us straight into the water

We went to one island, i don’t know the name of the island, but it was really like the island was between two mountains on each side. We arrived there about 3 o’clock and we could see the light, the light of the houses of Indonesia and suddenly we came very close to the shore and the wave came and hit the boat and the boat turned over on one side and everyone went straight to the water.  At that time only we were 56 guys and 46 of us went straight into the water and only 10 or 15 guys they just went on.

They were trying to take out all the guys who fell into the water but there was no way we could help them so what we did was trying to help ourself to get out of that place.  At the same time at that place – we were 56 and we just lost 6 of our friends.  They just gone. We have’t even see their dead body.

I was the only guy there and remained there for 10 or 15 hours because I have no place to go and nobody know and I don’t know anyone or have any phone number to call. Most of them got out of the water and they just ran into the jungle and I just remained there.

Half of my day was with no money to buy food, no water, nothing.  Suddenly some of the villagers they called the police and the police came and when the police came – you know its good that they speak English because I do speak English and I started speaking to them.

Return to Indonesia: no guarantee of safety

They asked a lot of questions.  The first thing they say is they have to take me to the police station.  They took me to the police station. After that they started interrogating with me.  They asked me how many people were in the boat. All i could remember was only 58 people.

After the interrogations.  I spent 3 hours with the police in the police station there.  And after that they made contact to an IOM office in Jakarta and from there they put me in a mini-bus and sent me to Jakarta. So when I arrived in Jakarta and I had been welcomed by IOM officers there and they provided me with a few things: like shelter and they asked me if I am able to speak English they want to do an interview with me.

On the second day I told them that ‘Look, guys I ended up in here and I don’t know anyone or anything about this place. And they asked me why I didn’t want to stay in Indonesia and I explained to them all the reasons and they said well we cannot guarantee you that you can stay safely here in Indonesia.

So when I heard that from them I said ‘what do you mean you can’t guarantee to me?’ and finally he just clarified that ‘Look , your government has got a strong connection with the Indonesian government so anytime anywhere they can just come and take people from here and send them back.

So I was panicked when I heard that from them and I – so from there I was thinking what should I do to get out of that place.  So finally I find a way to get out of that place.  All my story – I have tried 3 times just to cross the ocean.  And I know the risk of the ocean , I know all about it but I haven’t got any option.  So the only option I have got is that I have to fight with the wave that is in front of me.

My last journey to Christmas Island

On my last journey, on the way to Christmas Island we have seen a boat that carrying about 100 or less than 100 people – women, kids and adult people and families in that boat.  And the boat sunk infront of us.

It had been maybe 2 days or 3 days ahead and when we just came close to that boat I think the crew he just saw all the people dying and all the people dead and they just floating up on the water. The water just lift them up and they were everywhere and the crew saw that and he doesn’t want everyone to see that action.

If all people we saw that dead bodies we probably be shocked and also we make the same accident like them and the crew decided to trick us and he say : ‘Guys, I really heard something that the Indonesian navy they were somewhere near here so I want you, all of you guys to lay down and put the tarpaulin cover your heads and keep your head down.

When he say something like that – you know I realised we were really far away from Indonesia so how come the Indonesia navy will come all the way up to here. So, I cover my head and just I bend my head down and at the same time I was just staring outside and suddenly I saw … you know,  I heard some noise on the boat.  The boat was  moving on top of the dead bodies you know – and something was really really really  – again I don’t know even how to describe it but it touched my heart and I start crying.  I’m just seeing myself, my eyes are tearing and I don’t know even what to do and people were asking me ‘Whats wrong with you?’ and I say ‘Oh I just remember some of my friends that I lost on my first journey’.

PNG – Manus Island – Australia’s prison camp

When I saw that incident it took me far back to where I start my life in Darfur. It remind me of every corner of Darfur and every village that burn in Darfur. It remind me of many many incidents that took place in Darfur.   You know I still remember that incident – it is still in my mind.  And sometimes I used to have a nightmare due to that incident. So I don’t know what to say but it is really really hard for me to explain to people you know.  You know it is really hard to explain to somebody because if I explain it or I say it  to somebody, if I say – it doesn’t make sense but I still feel it.

You know, at night time I can see those people that I have seen them dead in Darfur and I’ve seen the people that are dead in the oceans. So with all that history I’ve just – I don’t know what to say but I have ended up in PNG here.  After even I came in here in PNG I’ve realised that they are still persecuting me and I make a comparison between PNG and my country that I fled from – you know there’s not really a big distinguish because the same things – lack of security and stability its here in PNG here and you know in my country we have the same problems – corruptions and you know unjust government that kill their own people, forcing their own people just to escape their country.

So after that all, I never imagine that one day I will leave this compound and I will go somewhere else.

Suddenly I realised I was locked up in the [Lorengau] jail with several other people and I started asking myself : I never been in a jail before and I asked my self,  ‘What did I commmited that deserve this kind of punishment’.  And you know so many questions that circling around in my mind but you know I can’t find any person that can answer those questions that I have with me.

So after I spend all my time in the prisons and I come out of prisons I just realise that I’ve got a view and I haven’t had a view before but I’ve just realised that I’ve got a view.

Oh my god.  Somethings is really indescribable.

A. 2016