Salim Kyawning: Man of Flowers


‘Salim and many others were driven to death by the application of systematic torture. The death of Salim is the outcome of organised tactics of violence that involve a chain of command and administrative procedures. These are deaths ordered by political actors and a government that knows what it is doing; strategic manoeuvres designed to eliminate people incarcerated on Manus in the most violent way. The deaths that have taken place have had a profound effect on the inmates. Physical violence is only one aspect of the attacks; after all these years the system also plays sick games with tortured and vulnerable souls.’

Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish journalist and political prisoner

Salim Kyawning sits with his back toward the camera. He is sitting on a white, plastic chair. He tolds a bouquet of flowers in his hands. In the background detention centre fences can be seen along with other plastic chairs, rubbish bins, a marquee and trees.

Salim Kyawning was a father of three in his early 50s, who escaped genocide in Myanmar, sought asylum in Australia and was sent by force to Manus Island after arriving in Australia by boat. Salim was known to have suffered from epilepsy for several years. He was transferred between Manus and Australia for medical treatment on multiple occasions however in recent years pleas for medical attention went unheeded. During the peaceful protests on Manus in 2017, ahead of the November siege, Salim could often be seen bearing flowers; he was known to many as the ‘man of flowers’. On 22 May, Salim was killed on Manus Island after he jumped from a moving bus. PNG police believe his death was a suicide. His death is the 7th death in Australian custody on the island since 2014. Friends and activists in the Lorengau Camps held vigils to remember Salim, while vigils and protests were held in Australian cities including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

In response to Salim’s death cartoonist, Eaten Fish, who were previously detained on Manus, published the cartoon below, entitled ‘Death Angel’.
A cartoon by Eaten Fish shows a van travelling along a road through a tropical terrain covered in palm trees. A sign points towards a fence and CCTV camera, behind the van, that reads 'Manus Island Refugee Centre', another sign points in the direction the vehicle is travelling and reads 'Freedom'. Inside the van are two characters. One represents a refugee while the other appears to be a grim reaper. A speach bubble from the grim reaper who is driving the van reads 'Death Angel. Taking him to his freedom by bus!'.
Fellow prisoners held captive in PNG took to social media in an articulation of collective grief. Their posts can be viewed as testimonies of resistance and love.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.