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The Messenger

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#4 Today I'm Really Smiling

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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?

Photo of Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Aziz, with his smuggled phone

'We don’t know what next, but this is really one of the first good news that we ever heard.'


When Aziz learns of Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruling that detention on Manus Island is illegal, he sends Michael messages describing his joy and excitement. But his elation soon turns to confusion as he and the other men understand they’re anything but free. Meanwhile, news of two separate self-immolations in Nauru’s centre reaches Manus – and hits Aziz hard.

Aziz and the men are always being reminded of two options to end their detention: go home or resettle in PNG. We’ve already heard why he can’t go home. Aziz describes the sometimes hostile relations with local Manusians – including the violent confrontation resulting in the widely-reported murder of his fellow detainee, Reza Berati – as well as some of the things detainees had been told about PNG in order to dissuade them from escaping.

Aziz explains why he firmly believes that starting a new life there is neither safe nor possible … and reveals the other fundamentally important reason why he won’t accept the offer to live in Papua New Guinea.

Warning: This episode of The Messenger includes graphic content and mentions self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact one of Australia’s national 24/7 crisis services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or at, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.


Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.

In this episode

  • Abdul Aziz Muhamat
  • Michael Green
  • Ben Lomai, lawyer

Our theme music was composed by Raya Slavin. Music used in this episode includes: ‘There’s Hell in Hello But More in Goodbye’ by Jim O’Rourke, ‘Floating in the Clearest Night’ and ‘The Heart Harmonicon’ by Colleen, ‘Blue Milk’ by Stereolab, ‘Sensuous’ by Cornelius, ‘Cells That Smell Sounds’ by Midori Haino, ‘Mala’ Strana’ by Gui Boratto, ‘The Flat Curving’ by Brokeback, ‘Iberia Eterea’ by Biosphere, ‘Niobe’ by Caribou, ‘Intimate Geometry’ by Anthea Caddy and Thembi Soddell, ‘Stars Aligned Webs Spun’ by Oren Ambarchi, ‘Gong Meditation’ by Cylob and ‘Forskjellige Gode Ting’ by Kim Hiorthøy.

More information

The Messenger is a co-production of Behind the Wire and the Wheeler Centre. It’s produced by Michael Green, André Dao, Hannah Reich and Bec Fary, with Jon Tjhia and Sophie Black at the Wheeler Centre.

Narration by Michael Green. With reporting by Abdul Aziz Muhamat. Additional fact checking by the Guardian's Ben Doherty; transcription by Claire McGregor, Victoria Grey, Camilla Chapman, Lena Lettau and many more​. This episode was edited and mixed by Bec Fary and Jon Tjhia.

Thank you

Dana Affleck, Angelica Neville and Sienna Merope. Also to Cameron Ford, and to Behind the Wire’s many participants and volunteers. Behind the Wire is supported by the Bertha Foundation.


Portrait of Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat is a 24-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. He is from the Zaghawa ethnicity, and with his family, he fled his village to a refugee camp. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island, where he remains.

Portrait of Michael Green

Michael Green

Michael Green is a journalist in Melbourne. He has written about environmental and social issues for the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Nature, Nautilus, Smith Journal, Right Now and Overland, among others. He is the coordinator of Behind the Wire, and has been working on a book of people’s stories from detention called They Cannot Take the Sky, which will be published in March 2017 by Allen & Unwin. He is also producing an exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum based on the stories in the book, which will open on 17 March 2017.


All messages as part of this discussion and any opinions, advice, statements, or other information contained in any messages or transmitted by any third party are the responsibility of the author of that message and not the Wheeler Centre.

The Messenger

From Behind the Wire and the Wheeler Centre, The Messenger brings you into the Australian immigration detention centre on Manus Island – and reveals, in intimate detail, one man's experience of what it's really like to flee tragedy and seek asylum by boat.