Habib (right) signs his book for Anglesea resident Sue Finucane.

AIRAR event helps keep Rohingya stories alive

September 5, 2019 BY

ON THE two-year anniversary of 700,000 Rohingya fleeing western Myanmar to escape ethnic cleansing, more 50 people gathered at Great Escape Books in Aireys Inlet to listen to the experiences of Rohingya refugee Habiburahman.

Interviewed by local award-winning author Greg Day, the audience heard about the responsibility placed on Habib to carry the torch of history and memory for his people in Myanmar.

The August 24 event was co-hosted by the Aireys Inlet Rural Australian for Refugees (AIRAR) and Great Escape Books, with all profits going to AIRAR to support local refugee projects.

Habib’s book, First, They Erased Our Name, was co-written with French journalist Sophie Ansel and recounts the story of historic persecution of the Rohingya people.

The ancestral stories of Habib’s people have been passed down the generations through storytelling. For the first time, Habib’s book gives written voice to the history and fate of his people who have been left stateless in their own country.

Habib’s own story is an odyssey of danger, resistance, torture and courage. Escaping first to Malaysia where he was detained and deported several times, Habib sought refuge in Australia. Leaving by boat, the voyage was an ordeal with no food or water or certainty where they would end up

When the boat began to sink, Habib and the other asylum seekers were rescued and diverted to Christmas Island, and then detained in Darwin.

After 32 months in detention, Habib was finally released in 2012 and is now living in Melbourne on a temporary visa. However, because he arrived by boat, he has no rights to citizenship, and remains stateless.

“Habib’s story is truly inspiring and tells of incredible strength of character and resilience,” Nicole Maher from Great Escape Books said.