Habiburahman – who goes by only one name – arrived in Australia from Myanmar, which was then known as Burma, by boat in 2009.
But he has spent 18 years as a stateless refugee and cannot currently leave Australia. He is pleading for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Rohingya people he says are silenced by the Myanmar military government.
His book, D’Abord, Ils Ont Efface Notre Nom – First They Erased Our Name – cowritten with French author Sophie Ansel, charts his own life and the persecution of his people. It is set to be launched in Europe this month.
Belgian MEP Marie Arena has invited him to address the European parliament about the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya people, and he is also scheduled to meet with representatives from Amnesty International. Letters of support have been sent to the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
“This is my chance to speak for my people, who continue to suffer, but who are voiceless,” Habiburahman told the Guardian.
The Rohingya ethnic minority has faced generations of persecution from the military junta which rules Myanmar. The Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, have previously been limited to having two children, and face arbitrary detention and internment in labour camps. They are excluded from education, certain professions and moving outside defined areas. The Myanmar government refuses to uses the term Rohingya: it regards the Rohingya as Bangladeshis living illegitimately in Myanmar.