My name is Erfan, I’m 21 years of age now. I’m a Hazara refugee originally from Afghanistan. I felt threatened and obliged to flee my motherland due to ongoing war and everyday fighting in Afghanistan. I arrived in Indonesia in 2014 when I was only 18 years of age. Since then I have been incarcerated and in a state of constant uncertainty in one of Indonesia’s detention centres. After many years of imprisonment, I still don’t know how much longer my fellow inmates and I have to stay in this prison camp before our freedom comes. Writing and fighting for everyone’s freedom is my passion.

Dana’s work has been published by Charles Town Maroon International Conference Magazine, June 2018, Writing Through Fences, and in various news outlets.

Photographer: Azad, Indonesia, 2018

Unremitting, incurable pain

For some pain we can’t do anything to heal it
For some pain we can’t cry.
We can’t shout too loudly.
We can’t express our pain to anyone.
We can’t find a cure for it.
We can only feel the heaviness of it and, in silence,
break down into pieces and burn for it slowly, so slowly…

We will be free

Our stolen time and freedom will be given to us again.
Our exhausted minds and hearts will be restored.
We will start re-building our shattered lives in freedom.
We will re-start living in the heart of beautiful, calm and clean nature
without being surrounded with black, despicable high fences
and closed metallic doors and sharp-barbed wires.
My heartfelt clear message to the rest of my brothers
still detained in the corner of dark detention  centres in Indonesia and across the world.
We will start flying in blue skies like free birds
I promise
We will outlive again.

(Balikpapan Detention, Indonesia)


On Freedom

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I did not leave my bitterness and hatred behind I would still be in prison” – Nelson Mandela.

This is one of my favourite quotes. From the first time I read it I resolved to bury forever my own hatred and bitterness about the dark days I have experienced in this prison. I understood that if I didn’t reject the pull of resentment, I’d never recover from the immense psychological damage I have suffered here. I promised myself not to dwell on the ways some of the people who were entrusted with our care here mistreated us.

Those in charge were the employees of a cruel system designed to kill the human spirit and destroy hope. They humiliated us in the worst ways possible. They killed our hopes of finding a safe shelter, confining us in disgraceful conditions that lacked even basic amenities, let alone educational and recreational facilities. We felt this was done to punish us for seeking safety and peace in their land. We refugees feared for our existence.

I will need enormous strength and tolerance to forget the people who kept me captive for years when I had committed no crime, but had come here only to live in peace. It would be easy to feel resentful that the years of my youth were ruined by being held in detention against my will, my quest for freedom ignored and ridiculed, my values as a human disrespected. I know that recovery may be a slow process, but I am determined to set aside everything which could negatively impact on my future life.

Today as I walk toward the big, tall metal door which has confined my life for years, I will leave my anger, bitterness, sad memories and hatred behind. I will bury them here. I will go and start a new chapter of my life.

Let me confess one important thing. Without the love and immense support of my family members around the globe, and especially without the love and constant support of refugee advocates, I could not have survived here. You all supported me and loved me and encouraged me when I needed it. And I will love you all forever.

4 July 2018
My sixth day of freedom. It’s still hard to believe that I am here, living in an open and clean environment, breathing the sweet fresh air of freedom.

I no longer wake to the predictable, dreary misery of the detention centre where I spent years of my life. There are no intimidating high fences around me, no more massive locked doors to confine me to my room. No Immigration security guards chase me when I walk in the street, freely, like an ordinary person. It feels wonderful to be able to step outside and go for a morning beach walk. I relish my freedom to walk uninterrupted down a broad street bordered on both sides by tall, beautiful green trees.

From the first day I arrived here, I’ve been overwhelmed by an unfamiliar feeling of happiness. The accommodation – an apartment on the top floor of a four-storey building – is very good. I have a comfortable bed and a quiet room. I’m sure I will live here happily for the time being.

However, I’ve decided it’s important to build up excellent, positive relationships with the Indonesian people living in the area. Although I can’t work, I intend to participate in community volunteering services, like environmental clean-up. I’m looking forward to learning more about Indonesian culture. I will respect the local people and treat them with friendliness, and I am 100% sure that my brothers in this community will do the same.

We are all determined to do everything possible to show the people here what refugees are really like, to counteract the distorted stories the guards and prison camp officers told the locals about us, stories designed to present us as a threat. By our words and actions, those of us who are free now will work to establish good relationships with people here so that they will see who we really are. Then they will understand our situation, and our need to live here in safety, with dignity and value.

To my brothers in prison camps, know that I can’t be spiritually happy and free until you are all free and safe.