It's Wednesday afternoon here in the Delta Prison, the compound where I am imprisoned in Australia's detention camp on Manus Island. Dozens of refugees with ill-fitting clothes and plastic thongs are gathered in the dirty canteen to watch the power of justice on the only TV monitor inside this prison. Many of them stayed awake the whole night and many others woke up very early in the morning.
The refugees fix their eyes on the monitor and the presence of the powerful and neatly dressed politicians wearing ties and elegant suits. These politicians keep talking and the refugees are following their speech with an excitement similar to watching a penalty shoot-out. However, the refugees look absolutely puzzled. No one can fully understand English.
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Finally the High Court's decision is declared. After a few moments, a big argument erupts between the refugees. Nobody completely understands what has happened. One group thinks that the outcome was positive and the other group insists that it was negative. As their voices rise, an Australian officer resolutely and simply announces that the court outcome was in favour of the Australian government; offshore detention of asylum seekers is constitutional.
A deep silence falls over the prison. With a lump in their throats, the refugees return to their windowless rooms.
The decision on Wednesday that resulted in feelings of frustration, failure and hopelessness is rooted in an absurd and false hope for justice. The night before, the refugees imprisoned here assumed they would definitely win. We have languished here so long, and we believed in the Australian High Court. Nobody imagined that the dream of freedom would abruptly change to a horrible nightmare.
I distinctly remember that during the refugees' conversation the night before, they assured one another of victory. They could not, or were not willing to, consider that the court would rule against them. Not even the messages received from refugee advocates emphasising that there was a possibility that the government would win made us realistic. We believed the High Court could not turn a blind eye to the deep trauma and suffering we had experienced through the past 31 months. We believed that the court's justice would condemn the government. We were all shocked.
It is now Wednesday afternoon, normally the busiest hours living in Manus prison, but everywhere is abnormally quiet. Everyone locks themselves up in their rooms. The sandy ground of the prison is empty. During previous days, dozens of people played soccer in this uneven field, but now there is not a living soul. Nobody has a motivation to play. This type of deathly silence spread cross the Manus prison before, when the riot broke out in February two years ago and Reza Barati was killed. Now, after two years, in another February, a silence falls over everything.
In the corridors a few people are sitting in front of the rooms, doing nothing. No one is playing the common games of the prison such as chess, backgammon and dominoes. Even the English class under the tent is closed.
The number of officers has diminished. They had been on alert over the past few days, crowding the compounds and practising their handcuffing and manhandling skills. They had installed metallic fences under the wall of the prison to prevent the possibility that someone may dig the ground and escape. With cameras fixed on their bellies, the officers searched most of the rooms.
On Wednesday, however, they do not engage in any inflammatory behaviour; they avoid any aggressive treatment of the refugees. We ask ourselves where all these officers have gone? Is it that the security contractor has understood that no one would participate in a violent protest? Some officers try to express their regret to the refugees and some others seem content that the refugees will remain in their position for a longer period. It has always been similar: some officers offer their sympathy to refugees and some others seem to enjoy beating them.
A verbal argument arises between a young refugee and one of the officers. The officer taunts him by saying that he would not celebrate tonight. It makes him crazy. But all the refugees have come to conclusion that a protest or hunger strike would not have any good outcome for them, as a previous riot and a peaceful hunger strike had not brought any benefits, only beatings.
By Wednesday evening, the prison has become busier. As usual, lines have formed for using the toilets and eating food. Many refugees are waiting to get marijuana and smoke it at night in their small gatherings. Many people here are addicted to marijuana; they think that using it helps them to endure prison. Some are addicted to psychedelic, painkiller and sleeping pills. They go to the medical centre three times a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening, to receive their pills. In the previous days, when they passed by each other, they started telling jokes and exchanging the immigration news. Sometimes they sang all together the song of "We heard that they want to give everyone to Guinea" to entertain themselves, but this time they pass by one another without whispering even one word.
Nobody imagined that the dream of freedom would abruptly change to a horrible nightmare.
Late at night, a message from Ben Lomai, the lawyer of the Manus case in the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court, spreads out all over the prison. The gist of this message is, "We are studying the outcome of the Australian High Court to use it in our case at Papua New Guinea court." Once again, hope springs up – but this time, the refugees are slightly fearful. They are now looking for justice in Port Moresby, as the sound of justice is not heard from Canberra.
As before, they drift into sleep while harbouring hope, fear, agony and nightmares. The Manus prison is dark, heavy and quiet, but the moon is visible behind the clouds – the beautiful moon is showing herself slowly, coming out of the clouds.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish journalist and human rights defender from Iran and a co-founder of the Kurdish magazine Werya. He has been detained on Manus Island for 31 months. This article was translated by Farsi Moones Mansoubi.