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A still from Remain by Hoda Afshar, 2018, featuring journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani

Purification
by Love

“Thinking about love has been a cure to my wounded soul throughout the years that I’ve been in this prison,” says Behrouz Boochani. “To me, love is the only shared language among people of the world—it’s what we all desire and what gives our being a purpose and meaning. And that is what has been taken away from us in Manus and Nauru: We’ve been denied the right to love and to be loved back.”

After being forced to flee the oppressive political situation in Iran, and leave behind his war-weary Kurdish homeland, Boochani was intercepted in Australian waters while seeking asylum by boat in 2013. His first attempt to reach Australia failed and he nearly drowned; he made a second dangerous journey from Indonesia and was picked up by a British tanker after being lost at sea for a week. Passengers were then transferred to the Australian Navy and detained—he has been trapped on Manus Island ever since. While there, he has managed to release an award-winning and critically-acclaimed book, along with nearly one-hundred articles and even a documentary film from the island. Here, Boochani reflects on that which has helped him resist the violence of the prison system—and find freedom within.

Poem by Behrouz Boochani

You kissed me

Thousands of times, you kissed me

With anxious lips—those lips reveal the mysteries in your eyes

Those lips—I had to traverse thousands of oceans to arrive at those lips

You kissed me deep within a jungleAmong a carnival of crickets

In amongst the friction between the light upon the leaves

You kissed me, I sensed your lips like salt…or possibly they were sweet

You embraced me

Thousands of times, you kissed me

…upon a bed that played host to our sweat

…on a balcony facing the rain

…beside the innocent gaze of a cat while it nourished kittens with milk

…in the middle of an island, looking up at the flight of an eagle with crown of white

You embraced me

In that moment of wonder you devoured me

You enveloped me, up alongside the course veneer of a branch

That branch epitomizes the land

You cried my name

Thousands of times, you cried my name

…among the sound of waves

…facing the moon and clouds

…under a starless night

Penetrating

Sitting on a tree trunk that lays there on the sand

You called my name

…through the choir of song that surrounded us

You beheld my face

Thousands of times, you beheld my face…

in the sunlight, your eyes concealing tears of the past

In the middle of gentle rainfall, moistening your cheeks

Flowing with dew

Beside a seaside abundant with identical boats

Boats carrying stocks of bananas…possibly coconuts

Within a cottage…

this could be a dream

You beheld my face beyond the hundreds of eyes gazing at you

Through the smoke that evokes the memory of a clan

You smiled at me

Thousands of times, you smiled at me

Beside an indigenous woman who embodies the smell of fish

Beside a man whose skin embodies the bitterest bitterness

…he feels like the coarseness of a branch

…his arms resemble bloodied axes

He was gentle, but full of desire

You smiled at me

With lips the scent of wine

But…

But this is a confession

However…

However, none of these draws me in like the depths of your eyes

I am a man purified by your love


TRANSLATION OMID TOFIGHIAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO/UNSW

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