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13th February 2020

Negar Rezvani: "When the gleam light of life was in the possession of my torturer"

By Negar Rezvani

Image of Negar Rezvani: "When the gleam light of life was in the possession of my torturer"

In awareness of World Day of Social Justice, we turn our hearts and eyes to those in our wider community who continue to struggle for their basic daily freedoms, both corporeal and visceral.
We believe that through poetry, we can help to emancipate and elevate voices that have been dampened by oppressive cultural and societal systems.
One such voice belongs to Negar Rezvani, who fled Iran in 2013 at the age of 18, and who was subsequently held in detention on Nauru for six years. In collaboration with poet and filmmaker, Saba Vasefi, we are proud to publish Negar’s poem ‘My dear prison officer’ along with her reflection.
We’re grateful to Negar for allowing us the privilege to share her story. Our eternal thanks go also to Saba, whose translation of the poem to English helped make all this possible.


One day
you remember my eyes
how they hunt the sunrise.

 روزی چشم هایم را به یاد می آوری
که چگونه طلوع خورشید را شکار کرد


Poet reflection 

By Negar Rezvani


‘My dear prison officer’ is the first poem that I wrote during my imprisonment in the Australian detention system. It gives me hope to move out from the isolation of incarceration and be embraced and respected by Red Room Poetry, its writers and readers.  
In 2013, at the age of 18, I fled Iran to seek asylum in Australia. Australia’s strict immigration policy forced me to live in an offshore detention center on Nauru, a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was granted refugee status in 2014, but remained detained on Nauru for six years until 2019.
In 2019 I was transferred to Brisbane for medical treatment. I am still living under house arrest with a community detention visa, forbidden from the right of education, work and traveling interstate.
The series of my prison poems have been inspired by Saba Vasefi. She was my mentor in this process. I knew Saba through the other women she had helped. On a chilly night, I contacted her to assist me to escape from indefinite prison. However, Saba linked my dark nights to the light of writing and reading. Instead of suffering from the bondage of my body, I learnt from her to “strive for emancipating my soul by writing in a way that no one can take my inner power and inner peace away from me”. I learnt from her to “shift the ugliness of my surroundings to the beauty of creation”.
In May 2019, my first interview was published in The Guardian. In June 2019, I chose to use the pseudonym name Nesha* for my contribution to The Guardian’s report on the critical situation of the refugees locked up in the Kangaroo Point Hotel. In November 2019, I contributed poetry to a reading at the International House of literature in Brussels, Belgium.
I wrote ‘My dear prison officer’ in a room where my prison officer was invading my privacy for inspection with a flashlight every midnight. I’m talking about the nights when the gleam light of life was in the possession of my torturer.
I tried to depict my faded youth, my infectious wounds and my fears that lead to chronic insomnia. I’d like to cherish all innocent humans who suffer and are still stuck in the unjust Australian detention system. And by dedicating my first poem to them, I would like to let them know that I will never forget those whose lives were crushed in the detention system.

Read 'My dear prison officer' >