OUT OF THE VOID: Voices from Detention (Yasaman Bagheri and Farhad Bandesh )

(Curated by Saba Vasefi)

When the moon is the only light in a home you haven’t known, you feel separated from your swan-song language.The moment of standing on a precipice to take a risk and write with a melancholy that smells like fresh blood, can seem lethal. Numerous displaced writers arrive in the void where everything starts from nothing, but they strive to traverse the systematic impasse of prejudice and resurrect themselves. It gives me a great pleasure to work with some of them.
From writing about their turbulent lives in refugee camps, to reading their poetry, I have been inspired by their resilience. Their words are vigorous and unite us.
By broadcasting their poetry on United Nations Human Rights Day, I am delighted to welcome these new-arrival refugee poets from the offshore detention regimes of Nauru and Manus. —Discoursing Diaspora Editor, Saba Vasefi 
Hostage (Yasaman Bagheri)

(Edited by Saba Vasefi)

The school van is driving back to detention
and reading — To Kill a Mockingbird
is my homework.

I don’t know anything about mockingbirds
but as much as you want
I know about High Security Checks
and being a Hostage.

Like a butterfly trapped in a cobweb
in my own tears and blood 
the officers encircle me.
Thirty security guards gazing at me
and I’m only seventeen.

I am the Hostage
covertly and nocturnally sent back to Nauru,
a noxious island,
my witness is the darkness of Darwin.

I am a Hostage
enfettered in terror,
sentenced to a constant cycle of displacement
from Christmas Island
to Nauru, Darwin
then back to Nauru again.

To whom should I say
I am a human, I have rights, 
I got my period on the drive back;
I don’t have clean underwear or pants?

To the security man
who doesn’t allow me to close the toilet door?
Or the Australian Border Force man,
who owns my imprisoned body?

The reading of —To Kill a Mockingbird —
is the time to visit the officers again.
The new uniform comes
with a cold mask on his face.

He rolls my paperwork in his hand.
My small image cracks.
His answer to my query for freedom remains:

His business hours pass.
He leaves,
but his words
never leave:

Mother (Farhad Bandesh)

(Edited by Michele Seminara)

A mother calls from an extreme distance
and her shouts shake the earth.
Even the sky grows impatient and dark
as she cries ‘why are they captive? Why?’

When her son returns from working in the camps
she begs for answers —
‘Why can’t you bring these seekers of asylum
home to me, where I can give them life?
Next time. Promise me. Next time you come!’

But when her son says, ‘I can’t do it,
they live in a cage. Immigration forbids it’
then tears fall down her face
and she collapses with grief in her throat
unable to find words.

Every day, with your heart filled with love,
you pray for our freedom, dear Mother —
and it is for you that I write this poem.

I write and I say, ‘Wait!
Our day of freedom is near,
and all of us love you,
our Mother’.

Artist’s Statement

I have been imprisoned by the Australian government for almost seven years with really hard and bad conditions, getting worse and worse, with lots of pain and suffering. I cannot understand the cruelty of imprisoning children, women and men like this. It is music and art I focus on to help me get through this, but it is very difficult. I am a guitar maker. I write music and songs. I also write poems, paint and draw. When I create music, songs and poetry it is my way of telling our stories, of what is happening to us. It is my way of telling news and documenting history. To keep myself from going crazy I lose myself in art, music and nature. I have to find a way to escape the stress, pain and hopelessness, so I create and make things. When I create something, it means I am alive, I am not a forgotten person.

Yasaman Bagheri is a 21-year-old writer. In 2013, she fled Iran due to religious and political persecution and sought asylum in Australia. Since the age of 16 she was incarcerated in Australia’s offshore detention regime. She was detained on Christmas Island detention centre, the Australian-run Nauru offshore detention centre, and Darwin detention centre for a total of five years. In 2018, Yasaman was medevacked to Australia and is currently living in Queensland in community detention. Yasaman is not allowed to study or work but this hasn’t stopped her from writing.

Farhad Bandesh is a Kurdish artist from Ilam — a refugee imprisoned for six years by the Australian Government on the remote island of Manus filled with pain and suffering. He was transferred three months ago to onshore detention in Melbourne for medical treatment, but is still awaiting care. 
Throughout these years of torture and suffering, Farhad has written poetry, worked with painting, drawing and graphic art, and with stones and gems. He is also a musician, composer, guitar maker and singer. He uses his art to reach people and make sure they know refugees are still indefinitely imprisoned and tortured. It is something he needs to do
Farhad’s song Flee From War was written inside the prison refugee camp. It is about human rights. It is about who has the power and kills innocent people. Farhad says: ‘When I hear or see this happening I feel really heartbroken and thought I had to do a song about this.  We ask for humanity, for human rights, for decency and kindness towards people fleeing war, torture and horrific situations’. Another of Farhad’s poems and songs, The Big Exhale, was made into a music video-clip. You can find more from Farhad on his Facebook Artist Page.