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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  December 5, 2019 12:30am-1:01am GMT

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our top story: the impeachment inquiry against donald trump has entered a new phase, as the house of representatives holds hearings aimed at drawing up articles of impeachment. three constitutional experts called by the democrats say the president's actions require him to be removed from office. but a law professor selected by republicans disagreed. meanwhile, president trump left the uk after attending a nato summit. divisions emerged between leaders, despite a show of unity at the 70th annniversary alliance celebrations. and this news about a gadget is popular on our website. it is to be used by police in los angeles to bring down suspected criminals. it works by firing a cord which then wraps around the legs. the bolawrap has recently been adopted by several other forces. that's all, stay with bbc world news.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk‘s stephen sackur in conversation with behrouz boochani, iranian author, journalist and refugee. welcome to hardtalk, i am stephen sackur. in 2013, the australian government adopted a draconian anti—immigration policy which involved sending all seaborne, would be asylum seekers to de facto detention camps in remote papua new guinea and micronesia. my guest was one of them. behrouz boochani is an uranium kurd who has written about his experience. he is now a prize—winning author, but is his long—term fate any clearer?
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behrouz boochani, in auckland, new zealand, welcome to hardtalk. yeah, thank you for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show, behrouz. i think we have to begin with an explanation of how you're in new zealand after this epic, very long journey, difficultjourney that you've been on. how come right now you're talking to me from auckland? i was invited by the world festival in christchurch in new zealand a few months ago, and then i applied to visa through my lawyer in new zealand and then so i did it
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through unhcr and then amnesty international and amnesty australia, new zealand and finally so i reached through to new zealand. but the interesting thing is that the most short way to new zealand was that i fly from port moresby, the capital city of papua new guinea, to australia, then transit and fly to new zealand. but i was scared that if i did that they would deport me from australia. so that's why i flew to the philippines. i was in the philippines for 19 hours in transition, then flew to new zealand.
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interesting that you didn't feel you could possibly take the risk of going into australia, even in transit, and you call it a "long journey" but it is nothing like the many years ofjourneying that you have had to endure to get to where you are today. let us go back in time to pick up this story when you were still a young man in iran of kurdish origin. you decided to get involved in activism, both political and cultural activism as a kurd in iran. what happened to you to make you feel you had to leave? i was born in war and i grew up in discrimination against kurd in iran. so, most of my life, when i became older, i was struggling just to educate the young generation and people who keep kurdish culture alive. so all of my activities ended up in myjournalism works, so i was working as a freelance journalist in tehran,
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the capital city, and at the same time i was working in other cities. so my problems were happening through those activities. so finally, you know, some of my colleagues were arrested by the intelligence agencies and so that ended up in my, you know... i had to leave iran. when you felt you had to flee because many of your friends had been arrested, and you felt you were in grave danger, i wonder why you decided to go all of the way from iran to australia, the other side of the world. it would have been so much easier to perhaps aim to get into europe, why did you decide on australia?
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actually, i didn't have time, so i had to leave right away, one of my friends introduced me to a person that i met in a park in tehran. he told me that the best way would be that he would send me to indonesia. so, if you feel unsafe in indonesia, then you can go to australia. so that's why, you know, ijust followed him and i didn't have choice, i didn't have time to make a decision. at that time in 2013 there was a well—established people smuggling route from indonesia across the sea to australia. but it is extremely dangerous, that crossing. you, i believe, tried it twice.
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what happened to you when you tried in one of those refugee boats, to get to australia? in indonesia i was in a place called kalibata city, so i remember that sometimes immigration police attacked the refugees. unfortunately, the police in indonesia attacked refugees and twice i witnessed that they arrested many people and they deported them back. so, they didn't ask any questions. that's why i was really worried about my safety and i imagine if theyjust deported me back. so that's why i went to, i decided to go to australia. and after 48 hours our boat broke
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and i drowned in the sea, and they took me from the ocean and put me in prison. then i escaped and again i went to australia by boat. so it was a really dangerous time. and now looking at the past, i think, you know, sometimes i feel that it was work that really i had not needed to do that, because it was so dangerous. but at that time, i just wanted to feel safety and find a safe place. yeah. i know that you saw people who were on the boat
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with you drowned, actually, killed. you survived because you were picked out of the water but other people did not survive. but then of course you ended up subject to the australian authorities‘ decision not to allow you or indeed, any of the other "boat people" coming by boat. the australian government decided not to allow you onto their territory, but send you to manus island in papua new guinea. they set up two camps, one in manus island and one in the one of the islands of micronesia, nauru, and that is where all of these would—be asylum seekers ended up after 2013. what were your feelings when you arrived in manus island? you use this word, i think we should make it clear,
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"boat people", it is one of the main concepts that the australian government is using for describing us, and they call us "boat people", and you know, it is like a negative meaning in australian political context. so australia is using this word just to create fear and people are scared of us. you know, i call this policy "exile policy", the australian government and the media called this "pacific solution." but for me, innocent people who arrive in australia by boat, it is an exile policy and i was exiled to manus island. and the way they did that, it was a big humiliation and deep humiliation. so of course, i never forget that. i describe that in the book about how they were treating us. so, definitely, you know, it is like, i use another word, modern slavery, so i think we should understand this. did you feel as though
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you are being treated as a prisoner? because of course, you had made the journey seeking safety, seeking asylum. but when you were in the hands of the australian authorities and then they sent you to manus island, did you feel like somebody who was going to have an opportunity to explain your story or did you feel like a prisoner? definitely. we were in a real prison and a place worse than a prison. and that's why i renamed that place in myjournalism works as a prison, although i think a prison isn't enough word. it isn't the correct word to describe that place. because in prison, you know, they don't torture prisoners and also they send people to prison
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through a court process. but for us, just they took us from the water and exiled us to manus island, to that prison, and detained us. and they never asked us questions and they didn't send us to a court. and also they tortured us, you know. they tortured us for years and years and they put us through a systematic torture for years, just to humiliate us and destroy us and take our identities. now that i'm talking with you,
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you know, so far, 13 people died, and i can say, killed by the system because of medical negligence, because of violence. and so i think, for people who want to know, if they do research, small research, they can see how this story is and how the system works and what the australian government has done in manus island and nauru. and now that i'm talking with you, more than 200 people remain in there. behrouz, you make a very, very serious allegation there by using the word torture. of course, the australian government had a rationale for what they did. they said it was a deterrent policy. it was only by making it clear to the people smugglers and to the would—be refugees that it was impossible for them to make it to australia
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and that they would end up in this very difficult situation in manus island or in nauru, that was, according to the australians, the only way of deterring people from making this journey and many of them losing their lives, because we know more than 1,000 people had lost their lives at sea. that was the australian justification. what do you say to that? you know, you cannotjustify, you know, this barbaric policy. you cannotjustify, you know, violations of human rights. and so what the australian government has done is not sending a message to people smugglers or people around the world don't come to our country by boat. they, in fact, they are sending this message to their people, i mean to their supporters
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and people of australia. and we should never forget, when we arrived on christmas island it was two months before the election, federal election, and the labor party introduced this policyjust because of the election and over the past six years the australian government have used us for political benefits and just that. of course it was very difficult, almost impossible, for journalists like me to get access to nauru or to manus island to see the conditions inside the camps where people like you were held. and let's not forget you were held there for pretty much six years. you tell me what conditions were like, because i'm very struck by the fact that, of the dozen or so people who died in the camps,
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at least five of them, it seems, were suicides. so what was going on in the camps that left so many people so desperate that some of them were taking their own lives? we should think about these, that how they exiled people, exiled innocent people to a remote prison in a remote island and keep them for more than six years. how they kept the children and the women in indefinite detention for years and years and still justify that. so the main concept is exile and also the main thing is that, you know, time. you know, keeping people in limbo for years and years. so i think that is enough to, you know, living in that condition and that situation is enough
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that we understand how this system is cruel. in another part, we should look at the people who died, you know. 13 people died, you know, under this system. and hundreds of people are damaged. and we should look at the, you know, the reports by the respectful, the most respectful international human rights organisations such as amnesty, such as, you know, human rights watch, and also unhcr. so it is illegal, what the australian government has done is illegal and also png supreme court order that keeping people in that prison camp is illegal. what the australian government has done is a crime against humanity. and i say this strongly, and it is not only me. many people, many
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organisations say that. and i think the australian government has nothing to say in front of this. in 2015, i think it was, you and a group of other people decided to stage a hunger strike to protest the conditions and, i believe, some of you sowed your lips together to refuse to eat. what was the response of the local staff, because let us not forget these detention centres were actually run by people from papua new guinea? how did they treat you when you tried to protest? you know, before that hunger strike, after six months, there was a protest in manus island and the result of that protest was the authorities, the australian guards with the local people, they attacked us and they injured 100 people very seriously and they killed reza barati.
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and after 18 months we did a big hunger strike, which i think was more than 800 people participating in that protest. so after 12 days they attacked us, and because our protest was a peaceful protest, a completely peaceful protest. they came and arrested, you know, some of the refugees, because they say that you are leaders or... and they arrested people and sent them to local prison, and they kept people there with the local criminals for days and days. then they put people in solitary confinement and, again, another solitary confinement. i was there for a0 days. i want to ask you about something
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that strikes me as very, in a sense, ironic about your situation today. i'm in london holding a copy of your book no friend but the mountains. it's called the true story of an illegally imprisoned refugee. it's been a big success, this book, and it's based on the text messages you were able to send to friends on a smuggled phone when you were still inside the detention centre. it is an extraordinary piece of work. the irony is it has been extremely well—received in australia. you have just won a major literary prize in australia worth aud$125,000. how do you feel about the fact that your story, which is so negative about australia and the decisions taken by its government, has now resulted in a book that the australian public
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is so eager to read? how do you feel about that? before publishing this book i was, you know, i've published many journalism articles, opinion articles in australian media and internationally. then i made the movie chauka, please tell us the time with my colleague arash kamali sarvestani, which reached international film festivals such as the london film festival. then the book was released. so before that i was known in australia. but the award, actually, brought too much attention to others of my work. one thing i would like to mention is that i should acknowledge a big part of australian society and civil society in australia to stand up for humanity and support the refugees.
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so this recognition to my works, actually i understand it in this way. the civil society in australia, and the literature community in australia actually resisted, in front of this system, because this, by this recognition, by giving this award, resisted in front of the system, because this policy had a negative impact on political culture in australia. behrouz, you know there are hundreds of thousands of desperate people in our world who feel they have to leave their homelands, just as you did, many because of fear of persecution. but it is clearly a huge risk. you now are aware of the dangers and risks involved. what would your message be
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to desperate people around the world who are considering whether it is worth fleeing from their home countries? you know, people leave their countries because of discrimination, because of persecution, because of religious dictatorship, because of war. and i think that problem created by this system, this global system, and people, i think superpowers should take some responsibility. so of course i no have a message to people. the people who just think about their safety, how can i send them a message, what can i say to them? you should be a refugee to understand what a refugee wants
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and why people leave their countries, you know? so that's why definitely, if i send them a message to, don't do that, it's risky... i knew that it was risky, you know? refugees know that. but they take that risk and they do that because of safety. so of course, you know, my message, if i have a message, that message is not for the refugees. my message is to the superpowers, to the countries, to the politicians to take some responsibility and respect human rights and help people to find the shelter, help people to find safety and start a new life. so that is my message. my message is to the politicians, not to the refugees. behrouz boochani, in auckland, i thank you very much indeed for being on hardtalk. thank you.
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some of us have got quite murky conditions to come over the next few hours. the fog patch is to the south—east of this weather front but if we zoom out of the uk and look at what is upstream of us we can see the next area of low pressure showing its hand and this will bring wet and windy weather to the north—west of the uk in a few hours time. for the time being we have showers across the north—west so if you step outside here, take your umbrella. dense fog patches are forming around the thames estuary.
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we have seen fog at heathrow, around the m25 and some of that is freezing fog with temperatures well below freezing as well. some of these murky conditions, some of the fog patches may last into the first part of thursday morning ringing poor travelling conditions out and about. but for thursday's weather for the most part, really we're looking the next weather system moving in and that will bring strong wind with it to the north—west and outbreaks of rain which will quickly spread across northern ireland and scotland before sinking southwards later in the day into the north of england and wales. in the highlands of scotland we will see the largest accumulations of rain with 70 or 80 millimetres of rain in the forecast here. that is a lot of rain, enough for localised surface water flooding issues. damp in the northern half after the murky start in the south—east, things should brighten
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for a few of us with sunshine around and foremost it is a relatively mild day with temperatures widely into double figures. through thursday night we will see the rain push southwards across all of england and wales for a time with all the cloud around and south—westerly wind it be a very mild night. thursday night into the first part of friday morning for most, temperatures into double figures. a mild start to friday with a few of us a wet start as well. mild and wet with south—westerly wind later in the day the rain will tend to eased to a mixture of sunshine and shower, north—westerly winds will start to move in bringing cooler air to the north—west of the country and a significant drop in temperature. so later on in the afternoon, five degrees in some areas, eight in aberdeen. still mild further south with highs of 11 or so in london. this weekend we're looking at a ridge of high pressure to start the weekend. later in the weekend we will see the band of rain come through and quite a bit of that might come through overnight there will be further
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pulses of rain for sunday. 0verall, saturday looks like being the better of the two days of the weekend and sunday could see rain at times for many of us. and that is your weather.
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i'm rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: donald trump's impeachment inquiry enters a new phase, as constitutional law experts give evidence on whether the us president should be removed from office. if what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. i'm concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. nato celebrates its 70th anniversary, but divisions and tensions emerge as donald trump takes aim after leaders are caught gossiping about him. i'm kasia madera in london.


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