Tales From Manus


Julie Bishop. Image Courtesy: Chuck Hagel

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is on the verge of signing a deal with Iran to forcibly return failed asylum seekers. Some of these asylum seekers are gay men – I am aware of at least 30 on Manus. The Iranians face almost certain death by hanging if they are returned.

UPDATE: Iran has refused to accept forcibly returned citizens 

Many of them have not disclosed their sexuality to Immigration, because they have been deeply closeted in the past, and are still living in fear.They have been told that if they are found to be gay, they will be reported to the PNG police. PNG law makes gay sex punishable by up to 15 years in prison.The PNG police tell them they wouldn’t want to waste the money, so they will be killed on the way to jail.

Here is the story of one refugee who has disclosed his sexuality, and has received an initial positive assessment. If he is offered resettlement it could be in PNG or a third equally unfriendly country, which he will refuse, for reasons he explains.

I would love to tell you more, but I daren’t. To do so might identify him, and to identify him would put his life in danger. I could describe the people who have threatened his life. I could let him describe how he narrowly escaped getting raped, and who his attackers were. I could tell you what he looks like, how old he is, even his height and weight. I could show you photographs. But it’s too dangerous.

So apologies in advance if you find his story a little bland, a little unconvincing. All those telling little details that help to bring a story alive have had to be cut, because they might bring him death.

These are his own words, taken directly from the transcripts of many conversations, edited for clarity and to obscure his identity.


Well dear you have no idea what I have been through in my life, and now what is happening to us here. I have been humiliated so much that I am truly broke.

My family are in Iran/Tehran, Middle class. If they find out or I tell them I have no family any more. I left my country due to 3 reason

  1. I could not be who I was as being gay is illegal + dead sentence.
  2. I challenged Islam and I was interested in Christianity which is also illegal and dead sentence and
  3. I had some issues regarding election day, a fight [with some] Revolutionary Guards

I had a green flag during the election time and it meant supporting Musavi… so I got beaten up… after I decided to not be Muslim [the Revolutionary Guards] were very furious. So all of this together was causing a lot of life difficulties, they would stop me anywhere they see me or even disturb my family.


When I registered with UNHCR in [redacted] I was given an appointment years ahead. It was not even an interview. It literally meant that I had to hang around indefinitely, the corrupt police could deport me anytime that they wanted, so I had to get on the boat and seek asylum in Australia.

Well we were on the sea for 3 days until we were running out of food, drink and diesel and we were ready for death until we were rescued by the Aussie Navy. I thought it’s the end of torture trauma and execution but I did not know it’s not. We were told under the new policy we will be sent to PNG which we had no idea where it is. They forcibly put us on a plane and sent us in Manus.

  • Have you been told get the fuck back to your fucking boat and piss off to your shitty country?
  • Have you been humiliated by someone saying this food and clothing is my fucking tax spent on u?
  • Have you been called sandnigger (niggers of desert)?
  • Have you been pushed and insulted and you never has power to do anything?
  • Have you been sitting in toilet while a person is guarding you?

That’s just a tiny part of life here. The only thing I am waiting for is natural death right now. Australian guards do whatever they want here by name of PNG. A corrupted country.

I was [on Christmas Island] for 1 month, then flew to Manus. They said you will be processed and if found to be refugee you will resettle in PNG

They did not know I was gay when they said that, they didn’t ask anything or any interview. And even some who told them were ignored. I told them in my first interview but nothing happened. That’s my refugee claim. But when Scott Morrison was asked about LGBTI in Manus he said he is not aware and there are non-exist here. Literally means we do not exist for them


pic: Takver


We refugees need help. What we are worried is the cruel regional resettlement which is the worst part. [This was written before the current plan to force refugees back to Iran against their will] Australian government wants to resettle people in PNG, Nauru and Cambodia to death and poverty not in peace and security.

Boats get turn and those who get turned will have ways to apply for like UNHCR or …. Those who get process in offshore like us will endure the inhuman treatment and humiliations but at the end at least we want to be resettle in a safe place not PNG, Nauru or Cambodia which still have their own problems and dying in corruption and poverty. We never see people raising this issue of regional resettlement.

Two detainees were sent back to Tehran, unfortunately. I was not I got my positive refugee assessment so they won’t. But they might dump me in PNG

Speeches must be clear, releasing people can happen in a second but WHERE? That is the matter. I strongly suggest you to read this and please pass it to those who want to speak for us because I personally believe this is the most sophisticated and right informed speech I have seen during my years in here.


When we came here the Australian government told us if we find out about gay people we will report it to PNG police and we will hand them to police.

I was told by many PNG staff that they throw stone or rubbish at them if they know them. They said we do not tolerate gay people and normally we will kill them before we hand them to police, and police normally rape them in prison or kill them.

The Australian government never protected us here at any kind of threats from locals or detainees. They never investigate any incident relating to gay abuse or assaults. Their plan was and is always to deter us so we go back to danger. This is absolutely 100% fact.

During the Salvation army the first or second month, we were all gathered we were told by a team leader Andrew that this message is from DIAC or Immigration, that we have heard of gay activities in here. If we find out about it or if we catch you we will report it to the authorities, we will call the police and we will hand you to the police.

He then said: there is no jokes we will do it and you should know that gay activities are sentenced up to 14 years of jail punishment in PNG.

People will not leave the center. Fear torture beaten up by locals being raped in jungle and eventually death. The government side: I have heard police wouldn’t want their money to be wasted for people in prison so they finish the job before it reaches to prison.

I am desperately tired of my life I am not sure if I can live for long even though I go to Australia


Manus most terrible place I could ever live. I got many diseases here because of dirtiness of this place. Many people tease gays here and look at them as prostitute a guards threatened gays of imprisonment in PNG.

I had to wear prescribed glasses and during the first G4S search they broke my glasses and it took me 18 month to get one because they had no optometrist here.


Manus Island Processing Centre : Global Panorama

They sent me to prison for 20 days in Lorengau in a dirty prison in the town for no reason just because I went on hunger strike.

we use to find fly and bugs in the food all the time and once we found human tooth which was belong to the local cooks

Medical is terrible they just say drink water regardless of ever sickness you have. There is no proper exercise are and a broken gym with few broken weights.

And no lawyer for us in an indefinite detention.

We learned 2 things from Australians. The best way to describe is

  • same shit different days.
  • Grand hug [groundhog] day

Gays get caught in toilet and been asked to blowjob. Or got disturbed while taking shower by other detainees. 2 times I was threatened that I would get raped

But there were guards who have beaten people up I have personally seen with my eyes. One time this guy was very frustrated because a very young guy swore at his wife and children so when he was telling the guards they ignored him dragged him to the green zone and he got frustrated and started harming himself by his watch then the guards restrained him and one guard jumped on his head and banged his face on the ground. He had bad wounds on his face

I’ve faced no violence but a lot humiliation, by saying bad words like go back to your country, piss off, stupid boat people, from Australians. Specially during G4S.


Medical is really poor. It takes 3 to 6 days to see doctor. Many people are addicted to drugs like Tramadol because there is no treatment for their pain in their need in their back or anywhere in their body which needs a surgery or proper treatment so just to shut their pain they made them addicted to drugs. Many people are having serious illness but never get treated.

About psychological issues just forget it because I can almost say nothing is happening or they do not have any facility or anything to help people who are suffering from mental conditions. There are many avoidable illnesses like eye ear and skin problems that there is no medical plan for it. Glasses we got them recently which myself did not have glasses because mine were broken by G4S and I did not get glasses for 12 months. Dentist is poor and in most cases they pull teeth, in some cases they pulled the wrong teeth or they filled the wrong tooth.

1 guy shattered his teeth when he chewed those teeth in that food and the other lost him front down whole row teeth by biting a stone in a burger inadvertently, got to see a dentist after 1and half year. The one who lost front teeth had to go on hunger strike till he got his teeth repaired.

Washing facilities always available but very filthy, no privacy at all. There is gym but not enough equipment. Extremely hot,dirty,dusty and small. Extremely hot and humid. Almost 35 to 40 everywhere. Used to use but not anymore after my skin allergy got worse and started to get allergy due to too much dust in the gym and the unhygienic environment of the gym


Every day same. Nothing, eat breakfast wait for lunch eat lunch then wait for dinner then eat dinner then think how desperate we are until midnight then go to bed roll in the bed until 3 am then sleep and have terrible nightmares and then jump out of bed from fear and repeat the same thing everyday

Lunch start at 12 ends at 2 pm in a mess area, if you go after 1pm there is almost nothing left. Rice chicken and beef which always taste awful but (sometimes ok).No proper veggie food for vegetarians.

Dinner starts at 6pm to 8pm Same thing chicken or beef and rice

Always we used to find flies in food and small cockroaches in the bread and once we found 2 human tooth in food and many times worms during G4S time. Many times gastro

We actually starve at night time because there is nothing to eat from 8pm to 6am and nobody is allowed to take food out of the mess

[Sometimes we are] not able to eat food [and lose weight]. We used to wake up at 6.  [Many] now 1pm due to sleeping difficulty

After dinner, we just sit around or in the dorm or line up for medication to receive tablets. Many people get medication due to mental health issue and we have to wait a long queue Then we get back to the compound and get ready to go to bed

We had literally no clothing until the government decided to change the service providers and now we get some stuff. When I came here at first a case manager had to look in the rubbish that was dumped near the shore to find a pair of thongs.

It’s so hot that when [redacted] I had to run to my room after lunch and stand in front of the fan for hours to cool down now, I don’t go for lunch because it’s too hot or if I go I would come back in the dorm to get cool down then sleep or just talk to friends about our misery which we are stuck in or talk about the boat journey that we had or …


Beatings by Australian guards at Feb2014 and this year Jan2015 they beat many people and handcuffed them. PNG guards just show their thumb slitting around their neck so means we will kill you I used to see that every day when I was on fox and now almost every week or more


pic: Gwydion Williams

Yesterday one Iraqi guy attacked 4 people [redacted]. He was and is suffering from mental health issue. He is paranoid and thinks there are people chasing him

When I came here at the beginning I was threatened by some people and once I was about to get raped in the prison by some of the detainees. I was sent to the prison 6 days in Lorengau Manus Province after the riot in January. But there were people whom were told by PNG guards that they will be raped and killed.

The Australian guards act like Jailor of prisoners of war. PNG guards just want cigarettes they are very careless towards us and wild outside of the fences

Detainees now depressed hopeless and helpless. Hanging by robe. Swallowing razor blade. Swallowing nail clipper. Swallowing detergent or mosquito repellent. Cutting wrist by razor. Climbing trees to jump…. and many others. And these are the way people attempt suicide


An alarm plays almost 5 times a week and I believe its meant to disturb and remind us of trauma


I guess it’s hidden under the guard hide of Delta and Fox it says EVACUATE!EVACUATE!EVACUATE.after the alarm and then after 2 min it says ALL CLEAR! ALL CLEAR!ALL CLEAR! Almost at the same time every day the guards do nothing.Some guards say it’s the fire alarm but there is no fire and in the afternoon 12:00 to 13:00 it starts playing


I am sure its planned. They know our disturbing points and they poke on it. When police in Iran want to arrest someone they play this while they come around and some people say in war zone when there is air strike they play it as well

Many of us use sleeping medication so we are sleeping during the day as it’s hard to sleep at night and it’s extremely hot and bright in day time to go out so the alarm wakes people up or during sleeping it turns to a nightmare of arrest by Iranian police for me


I wish I could complete my education. I studied [redacted] I wish to [redacted] but now the studying opportunity is taken off from me. There is not much of resources here but I am not aware of any method that might be available for me in this situation like online studying.

I am not a trouble maker unless talking and involving in politics and human right is trouble lol, and interested in equality for everyone even plants and animals and the earth, with a lots of conspiracy theory ha-ha

But in general I believe in think good speak good and behave good

I have a lots of plans

If I not die here

I had to leave Tehran. I cannot go back. I cannot live in PNG or Nauru or Cambodia.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)