From Behind the Wire and the Wheeler Centre, The Messenger is a podcast about Abdul Aziz Muhamat and his life inside the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island.
Aziz and I have sent each other several thousand voice messages since early 2016. The Messenger reveals, in intimate detail, one man’s experience of what it’s really like to flee tragedy and seek asylum by boat.
The podcast won the Grand Award at the 2017 New York Festivals international radio awards and the 2017 UNAA Media Award for Best Radio Documentary. It has been nominated for a 2017 Walkley Award for Radio/Audio Feature.
Subscribe to the feed now in iTunes or your favourite podcast app. Or just listen below… #messengerpodcast
#1 Aziz, Not a Boat Number
In March 2016, Aziz and Michael first made contact. For more information, including a full transcript, extra links and credits, see The Messenger on the Wheeler Centre website.
#2 I Need to Format My Memory
Aziz begins to paint a picture for Michael of daily life in the detention centre. Where is it, and why is it there? More information about this episode.
#3 I Have Got Some People Waiting For Me
Aziz’s life has been a story of chance—and choice. He has been searching for a for a safe place for about eight years. What gives him the ability and the energy to speak out? More information about this episode
#4 Today I’m Really Smiling
A major ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court offers hope for Aziz – but, amidst the promise, the men receive devastating news from Nauru. Meanwhile, they’re encouraged to accept the option to resettle in PNG. So why doesn’t Aziz take it? More information about this episode
#5 A Safer Place
Stopping the boats. It’s one of the most fraught topics in Australian politics, and most of the time it comes out in two soundbites: saving lives at sea, and securing our borders. In this episode, Aziz tells Michael what it actually feels like to make that journey, and why he made the decision to get on a boat bound for Australia. What was going through his mind? Did he know what he was getting himself into before he stepped onboard? More information about this episode
#6 A New Plan
After months of interviews, Aziz finally sits facing an immigration officer and an interpreter, about to find out whether he’s been granted refugee status. But he’s too angry to talk about that. What he’d rather know is why he’s just spent weeks locked in a jail cell in Lorengau, before being abruptly released without charge. In this episode, Aziz tells Michael about the hunger strike that lead to his imprisonment, and why he continues to pursue big and small acts of resistance – despite the consequences. More information about this episode
#7 A Small Village
Even though Aziz is in detention, far away from both his home and from the country whose government is holding him, he’s on his phone all day. He’s hyperconnected. But his connection to the outside world is complicated and, despite their constant communication, Michael and Aziz never really get to have a regular, real-time conversation.
In this episode, Aziz observes his third Ramadan inside detention. And, along with many of the men on Manus, the Australian federal election campaign raises Aziz’s hopes. Meanwhile, Michael investigates the possibility of travelling to Manus Island. Could they really meet face to face? More information about this episode
#8 Kind Of A Dream
It’s July 2016. On the morning Michael flies to Manus Island, Aziz leaves the detention centre for the first time in nearly three years. In this episode, Aziz and Michael finally meet in person. Michael also meets some people from Manus Island, who explain how they feel about having the detention centre on their island.
Together with Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and detainee, Aziz and Michael take a boat to a nearby island to swim, eat together, and escape the shadow of the detention centre. For Aziz, it’s an exhilarating time, full of new experiences and unexpected joys – but he knows it will soon come to an end. More information about this episode
#9 Freedom Is Not Free
Just before Christmas of 2016, Aziz is transferred to Port Moresby for knee surgery. With better phone reception, Michael and Aziz share a long phone call in which they reflect on the year that’s ending, the holiday season and the months since they met face to face on Manus Island.
The change in Aziz’s circumstances is only temporary, but it’s still a change – and the call feels like a rare break in the clouds. But just two days later – on Christmas Day – Michael hears news that Aziz’s friend and fellow Sudanese detainee, Faysal Ishak Ahmed, has died. More information about this episode
#10 It Runs In My Blood
After seven long months in Port Moresby recovering from knee surgery, Aziz finally returns to Manus Island. He’s overjoyed to be home in the detention centre – seeing his friends and sleeping in his old bed. But just as he returns, the Australian government begins shutting some of the centre’s compounds – trying to force refugees to go home, or accept resettlement in Papua New Guinea. Aziz and the other detainees refuse to leave.
This episode brought The Messenger into realtime. The closure of the Manus Island detention centre is expected to be complete by the end of October 2017. What will happen to the men who live there? More information about this episode
With just ten days left before Australia closes the detention centre on Manus Island, Aziz leaves a few short voice messages, explaining how he is feeling.
Position is Clear
As the days count down to the end of October – when Australia has promised to close the detention centre on Manus Island – Aziz’s short voice messages outline the situation as he understands it, and how he intends to respond.
We Never Had Any Storm Like This
The security guards and other staff are leaving the detention centre. Aziz explains how the detainees are preparing for life without power.
We Are Just Ready
Mere hours from Australia’s deadline to close Manus Island’s immigration detention centre, tensions are running high amongst detainees. Why does Aziz seem calm?
We Wait for the Day to Make a Plan for Us
Three days after the official closure of the detention centre, several hundred detainees remain barricaded inside the gates without water, power or food supplied. Aziz describes the scene, and explains some of the ways the men are getting by.
We Are Hoping to Find a Way to Communicate
As the detainees’ isolation intensifies, Aziz tells Michael about the burden of his responsibilities – and his hope of some negotiation to end the stand-off Like many of the other men, Aziz has tried to shield his family from knowing about his predicament. But with reports about the centre emerging in international media, he is compelled to lie his brother, who’s recognised him in a photo.