Guantanamo 6b - Chauka


Chauka: cultural symbol or torture compound?

[imagecaption] In his film ‘Chauka Please Tell Us The Time‘, co-produced with Arash Kamali Sarvestani, Behrouz Boochani recognizes the cultural significance of the Chauka to Manusian people and challenges how it has been appropriated by Australia. When questioned about the title of the film, he stated, ‘from a political perspective we can see how the politicians and Australian government are using this island and the beauty of this island for their own political aims. We can see that the thinking of the Australian government is still based on colonialism because they used the name of the beautiful Chauka for a place to torture people. In other words Australia is destroying the Chauka concept and customs for its own political ends.’ Promotional poster for "Chauka Please Tell Us the Time" film. A large figure clutches onto Australia, while a small figure looks up at them holding a small boat with a suitcase beside them.Poster Design: Hesam Fetrati. [/imagecaption]

They used the name of the beautiful Chauka for a place to torture people.’


In July 2014, two men alleged that they were tortured, physically assaulted and threatened with rape while being held in isolation in what was known as the ‘Chauka’ compound in the Manus prison camp. One of those was a witness to the murder of Reza Barati and stated that he was pressured to sign papers withdrawing his witness statement. The men claimed they were cable-tied to chairs and beaten. The same men and others were again held in ‘Chauka’ during the hunger strike and peaceful demonstrations in January 2015. Between 23 May and 17 November 2014, asylum seekers were held in Chauka 74 times. In March 2015, then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, dismissed allegations of torture stating that Australians were ‘sick of being lectured to by the United Nations’.

Behrouz Boochani has described ‘Chauka’ and what it is like to be held in solitary confinement on Manus, while Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, who grew up on Manus Island, has articulated how Chauka is a symbol of Manus identity and morality. Australia’s perversion of ‘Chauka’ is emblematic of the neo-colonial disruption to the culture and identity of local people by the offshore processing regime.


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