From voice messages sent on WhatsApp by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a twenty-four-year-old Sudanese refugee detained on Manus Island, to Michael Green, a journalist, in March and April 2016. That April, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus was unconstitutional. In August, officials announced that the center would close, and that Australia would not resettle any of the 960 detainees. Muhamet is currently still in detention. His messages are included in They Cannot Take the Sky, which was published in March by Allen and Unwin, and are the subject of The Messenger, a podcast.
Yeah bro, how you doing? Good to hear from you.
My day? What can I say? I spent half of my day just pretending to be sleeping. The weather was really hot today. Sometimes we don’t have the motivation to do anything, so we just sit around and we have a coffee and talk—not about the resettlement process.
The phones we are using are illegal and when the guards find out they can confiscate the phone.
We made a relationship with the local guards who are working in the detention center. We buy cigarettes from the canteen and give them those cigarettes and they sell them outside and we ask them to buy a phone for us.
We started using them under the blankets. You cannot use your phone in public, or even inside your room, so you have to cover up yourself with the blankets.
People are really flat and tortured by this place. You know being in a cage for a long time is always affecting your brain.
We have only one option left: Every night, 300 or 400 people take sleeping tablets. Actually, you have got two options: Either you be a drug addict with sleeping pills, or you will start smoking some marijuana just to spend the night.
My situation, personally? Number one, I’m not a smoker. Number two, all my friends are smokers so I’m doing my best just to help them.
I’m the kind of person who, since I was a child until today, I haven’t had a good life.
As I’m talking to you now, this is the only thing that I can remember and describe. I feel now my chest is beating up into my mouth. I wish I could describe the situation more than that, but the problem is I cannot, because I have forgotten everything.
I was standing in front of the gate with one of the fellows, and one of the security guards held the fellow’s I.D. card and the guard was calling his name. The guard did it three times or four times but the fellow, he didn’t reply. I told the guard to call his I.D. number instead and the fellow looked right away. The security guard was thinking, Oh, this guy, he is just pretending, but I said to him, “Look, man. We forgot our names.”
What I can remember at the moment is, it was a very, very long journey that I took when I fled the country.
The incidents took place in Sudan. If you google now on the internet you can find some more information about what happened in Darfur.
Today’s one of my bad days. I woke up and it looked like, oh, a dark day. So I went for a walk and when I came back I felt a bit better.
Human nature? To be honest, the environment that we are in is very harsh, so it requires individuals to look after themselves. Why are people fighting because of just one spoonful of sugar?
My family doesn’t know where I am exactly. The first day I reached Christmas Island, I called them and said, “Oh guys, thank God, I reached safely to Christmas Island, and now I’m in Australia.” They still believe that I’m in Australia. When they want to talk to me about the place or the environment, I’m always trying to avoid that conversation.
Whenever I go to the phone I’m pretending like I’m really happy and laughing.
How was your day? How are things going with you? I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you. I have been really busy since this morning.?.?.?. One of my roommates, he has got a negative assessment. He was resisting and finally they brought the police.
Heaps of guys are trying to commit suicide. Some of them were jumping over the fence. Some of them were swallowing nail clippers.
Some people, when they finished the interview, were told that they were positive. And suddenly, later, they told them, “You are a negative.” That is why people are hurting themselves.
Everybody now is scared that this is not a real process, that this is just wasting time.
When you see someone trying to commit suicide, sometimes you just drag yourself away to avoid getting the pictures in your head.
When I was a kid I had heaps of dreams in my mind. When I went to the hospital with my grandma I saw the doctors and I was like, “I want to be a doctor one day when I grow up.”
I said, “If I fail to be a doctor, I want to be a pilot,” and that was my Plan B. And my Plan C is I want to be a person that can help other people.
But, you know, sometimes life is like that: You can’t predict your future.
I have just heard the news! I checked the link and I saw that the Supreme Court ruled that this place is illegal.
Today is the first day that I’m really smiling. And I’ve seen every man is smiling from his heart. It’s as if people were thirsty and you gave them water.
From now on when Papua New Guinea or Australian Immigration talk to us, we can say, “Look, stop there, this place is illegal. You’ve been fucking us here for a long time, so you have to stop now.”
I’m sorry for my language, but this is the point of view of everyone. People are hugging one another and cheering and walking around and spreading the news. We don’t know what’s next, but this is the first good news that we’ve heard.