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Kurdish-Iranian Man Celebrates Freedom in New Zealand

Kurdish-Iranian Man Celebrates Freedom in New Zealand

Friday, 15 November, 2019 - 08:15
FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands guard outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

A Kurdish-Iranian refugee who penned a book on a mobile phone while held in an Australian detention camp said Friday he was celebrating life "as a free man" in New Zealand.

Award-winning author Behrouz Boochani is in Christchurch to attend a literary festival and discuss his work "No Friend but the Mountains" which was painstakingly tapped out on WhatsApp and sent to publishers, Agence France Presse reported.

Boochani, 35, spent more than six years in the notorious Australian detention center on Papua New Guinea's Manus island after being caught in 2013 in Australian waters on a boat packed with asylum seekers. 

The book, which has won numerous awards including the Victorian Prize for Literature -- Australia's richest literary honor -- chronicles his perilous voyage from Indonesia towards Australia and his subsequent incarceration, describing in detail the lives, deaths and hardships endured by the refugees.

"It is the first time that I feel that I am happy because I survived," he told the Guardian newspaper after landing in New Zealand on a passport organized by the UNHCR refugee agency with a New Zealand visitor's visa sponsored by Amnesty International.

Boochani said he appreciated being in Christchurch which he knew as a city that had "educated the world" with the kindness and humanity in its response to the deadly attack on two mosques this year.

He told Radio New Zealand that seeking asylum in the country was not an immediate issue while he focused on sharing his story, but it could be addressed later.

He said he was "tired but happy" after his long journey from Port Moresby to New Zealand, and was enjoying the seasonal spring freshness after being in the tropics for six years.

Boochani fled Iran for Indonesia in 2013. He then paid a people-smuggler to take him to Australia where his boat was intercepted and he was placed in the Manus Island center for asylum seekers.

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