Manus Island Refugee Wins Major Human Rights Award In Geneva
From hunger strikes and being shot in the leg, to being celebrated by world-leading human rights groups, Abdul Aziz Muhamat's life has been in turmoil for years.
The Sudanese refugee has been on Manus Island since 2013, after fleeing conflict in the Darfur region of his homeland. Despite being granted refugee status in 2015, Aziz has been stuck on Manus after being unable to find a host country to accept him.
But along with Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, he has become one of the major voices sharing information and news from the Australian-run facility in Papua New Guinea.
Aziz is a powerful advocate for the roughly 600 men still on Manus.
His award-winning podcast The Messenger is a prominent source for journalists and he posts daily updates on his Twitter profile.
On Thursday, just days after Australian politicians signalled a major shift in federal refugee policy by passing a bill to expedite medical transfers from offshore detention facilities, Aziz won some recognition of his own.
At a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, Abdul Aziz Muhamat was named the winner of the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders.
"This is for all brothers and sisters on Manus and Nauru," he said.
The award's jury -- a panel of international humanitarian groups including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch -- praised his work on Manus, which included helping lead the refugee men after the previous detention centre was decommissioned, and basic facilities like food and water were shut off.
"He showed extraordinary tenacity and courage, always resisting peacefully even after a police officer shot him in the leg”, said Martin Ennals Foundation chair, Dick Oosting.
In accepting the award in Switzerland, Aziz paid tribute to the refugees still on Manus and Nauru.
“This award sheds light on the very cruel refugee policy of the Australian Government. It also brings international attention to the dangers and ill-treatment faced by refugees all over the world, including in countries that claim they uphold the Refugee Convention”, he said.
"Opposing this cruel system helps preserve my self-esteem and my human dignity," he continued.
I will continue to fight until all of us are safe and free.
Aziz travelled to Switzerland after receiving a travel document from the PNG government. He will return to Manus later this month.
His win was praised by Australian refugee advocates, as well as federal senator Nick McKim.
Katie Robertson, a director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the award "is a powerful reminder that the world is watching."
"It is also shines a powerful light on the Australian Government’s harmful policy of detaining men women and children in offshore camps," she said.
Aziz's award comes just weeks after Boochani was named as winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, the richest award of its type in the country.
"I don't want to celebrate this achievement while I still see many innocent people suffering around me," he told The Age at the time.
"We have committed no crime, we are only seeking asylum."