On Borders

Omid was 23 when he set him self alight in the courtyard of Nauru processing centre (prison) this May, having been held captive there for nearly three years since been recognised as a ‘genuine’ refugee. Video came out of him screaming in agony as the flames engulfed him. Before flicking the lighter, he says “This is how tired we are. This action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it any more.” Omid was not seen by a doctor for 22 hours, and died of his injuries. A few days after his death, a woman named Hodan Yasin, 21, attempted the same thing.

When it comes to self-immolation as protest, it is visibility which is at stake. You may rend my body invisible but you will taste this smoke. You will see me.  This method of protest is now so common that – get this – Australia imposes fines those found to have attempted it. Brutality as a ‘deterrent’ to desperate people has never, ever worked. What is missing in this equation is that desperate, traumatised people don’t make decisions in a vacuum. None of us do…

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