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Kurdish-Iranian Detained On Australia's Manus Island Wins Biography Prize

Behrouz Boochani (center right)

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian who has been held in an Australian detention center for asylum seekers for six years, has won another literary prize for his autobiography.

Boochani won the Australian 2019 National Biography Award for his book No Friend But The Mountains, organizers at the State Library of New South Wales announced on August 12. The prize money for the award is 25,000 Australian dollars ($17,000).

The journalist, who fled Iran in 2013 under fear of persecution, composed the book one text message at the time from the immigration-detention center on Manus Island. It was translated from Persian into English by a friend.

In his memoir, Boochani details his journey after fleeing Iran, arriving from Indonesia to Australia's Christmas Island on a boat, and being detained by Australian authorities on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

The judges at the National Biography Award called the book "profoundly important [and] an astonishing act of witness and testament to the lifesaving power of writing as resistance.”

Boochani, unable to accept the award in person, thanked Australia's literary community and civil society for being "part of our resistance in front of this system."

"I think history will judge this generation and will judge all of us in this hard and dark period of Australian history," he said via WhatsApp from Manus Island.

Boochani has won several other Australian prizes this year, including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, and nonfiction book of the year at the Australian Book Industry awards.

Based on reporting by dpa and The Guardian