Curator Caitlin Gibson shares the journey of speaker Behrouz Boochani 

Caitlin Gibson

TEDxSydney curator Caitlin Gibson shares the journey of speaker Behrouz Boochani in the weeks after he delivered his talk remotely at TEDxSydney 2019

Tell us about the process of working with Behrouz on his talk?

Working with Behrouz was unique. Unlike all our other speakers, he could not come to Sydney to deliver his talk in person. For the past six years he, like hundreds of others who have sought asylum in Australia, has been imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru.

Where did he record his talk and what was happening at the time?

As he was unable to leave PNG, we arranged for Behrouz to pre-record his talk at a TV studio in Port Moresby. This was just days before the federal election, which returned the Liberal-National Coalition to government. This result has had a huge impact on the mental health of the refugees who live on Manus Island.

At the time of writing there have been at least 26 suicide attempts and instances of self-harm by refugees in detention on Manus Island.

“Refugees hoped that with a Labor win the government would accept the New Zealand offer and they would finally be rescued from this place. Refugees on Manus were counting down the days to the election. But our hopes have been dashed and the future is grim”

— Behrouz Boochani 

Where do we go if we want to know more?

If you are interested in knowing more about this ongoing situation, follow and read Behrouz’s writing and journalism. Gifts for Manus & Nauru provides financial assistance to the refugees in detention so they can continue to share their stories, and remind us all that they are still living without freedom, without hope.

If we do all we can to tell our government to release them, we amplify their voices.


“Even at the height of the violence and when confronted with death the refugees always maintained a sense of hope. However, the day after the election, everything sank into an abyss of darkness. The outcome of the last election extinguished the last glimmer of hope for freedom, it shut out any hope that remained after six years of purgatory. Overnight everything just slipped away”

— Behrouz Boochani


Associate Professor Behrouz Boochani graduated from Tarbiat Moallem University and Tarbiat Modares University, both in Tehran; he holds a Masters degree in political science, political geography and geopolitics.

He is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He is currently a political prisoner incarcerated by the Australian government in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (Papua New Guinea).

Boochani was writer for the Kurdish language magazine Werya; is Associate Professor in Social Sciences at UNSW; non-resident Visiting Scholar at the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC), University of Sydney; Honorary Member of PEN International; and winner of an Amnesty International Australia 2017 Media Award, the Diaspora Symposium Social Justice Award, the Liberty Victoria 2018 Empty Chair Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya award for journalism.

He publishes regularly with The Guardian, and his writing also features in The Saturday Paper, Huffington Post, New Matilda, The Financial Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. 

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