Erfan Dana

My name is Erfan, I’m 21 years of age this year. Originally, from Afghanistan. I felt threatened and obliged to flee my motherland due to ongoing war and everyday fighting in Afghanistan. I arrived in Indonesia in 2014 when I had only 18 years of age. Since then I have been incarcerated in the state of constant uncertainty in one of the Indonesian detention centres, so-called “Pontianak” .  After many years of imprisonment, I still don’t know how long more I must stay in this prison camp before my freedom comes. So, whenever I miss my family members, especially my goodwill mother, I pick up a piece of paper with my pen then start writing about my unforgettable old sweet memories which I had with my family members back in Afghanistan. Though, I know they can’t read my heartfelt messages I will keep writing for them. I believe, there will come a day when I get reunited with my lovely and caring family members. I will show all my writings and tell them I never forgot their love and support even for a second while I was living in prison.


12th February 2018

To be virtuous is to be free. Being humane does not come at an enormous cost!

There was a moment when I recognised my humanity, and it was then that I also realised the sincerity and nobility of my humanity. From that time on I severed my connection with religion, I lost my faith, I broke away from the confines of racial hierarchies, culture divisions and ethnic conflict… forever. For me, to be a righteous human, to be humane, to be compassionate came to mean something new; for me they reached a greater level of valour in my contact with different peoples, and especially toward animals; for me they meant a deeper love for humanity. I realised true kindness, I recognised true affection, I revelled in togetherness.

For over four years I have been displaced and alienated from my family, I have suffered greatly, I have experienced so many forms of pain. There were times when I was degraded due to my Afghan identity. I would be verbally abused and denigrated when dealing with a whole range of diverse people, groups of people from completely different backgrounds, because I did not appear well-off, I did not wear expensive and fashionable clothes; but I always maintained principles of humanity, I maintained a code of ethics.

The hardest part of all these difficulties has been spending three years of my life in the corner of a prison. I have been reduced to a prisoner, forced to live in the worst state possible, even though I have not committed any crime – stripped of a life of freedom and dignity due to my status as a displaced person and my weak financial situation. I have ended up wasting time in this repulsive and depressing place. In most cases I have been resisting the injustice and violence of the guards and immigration officers, and I have become a somewhat expert in using whatever strategies humanly possible. Without fear of damaging my case for protection, I have been defending homeless and vulnerable refugees.
Ultimately, after all these bitter and edifying encounters I have realised that no one is your friend, no one will come to your aid, no one recognises you as a soul who deserves freedom. No one is there for you, just because you are not religiously inclined, because you do not have religious faith. And I have come to understand that humans, and humanity as a whole, have lost their values and principles.

I always placed honour on the highest pedestal in life – for me it has always been a source of power, merit, and kindness, and also the basis of humanity. This is what is valuable, what has been valuable from time immemorial!

I will do whatever it takes and overcome all obstacles so that I come to understand better, so that I experience more, so that I can tolerate loneliness, so I can confront the dangers, so that I become a model human being, so that I leave a legacy!

We are in desperate need of a world devoid of religious violence and racial violence.

Written by me Erfan Dana a refugee originally, from Afghanistan currently detained In one of an Indonesian detention centres.

Translated by Omid Tofighian

6th February 2018
(Art work by William Kentridge)

Have you seen a bird inside a locked cage?

Just imagine. The bird has no freedom, no calmness.

This is painful to behold. Do you know what is even more heartbreaking than this scene?

The life of the bird who becomes so accustomed to captivity that it begins to love the cage. Perhaps it has been kept inside the cage for too long. Or maybe the bird knows there is no place for it outside the cage.

The bird has neither wings to fly nor a place to stay in.

These days, I’m quite the same. I love the cage. It feels as if this cage is now part of my existence.

No sky is waiting for me to fly and no land wants to welcome me.

A forgotten person in the corner of the cage, who can only breathe.


  • A sad and tragic poem by Azad and me!
  • Translated by me Erfan Dana a refugee detained in one an Indonesian detention centres.

“Late report but necessary to read once”

It was 3am on the 1st of February 2018. As I wrote this report the sound of the cries from my cellmates rang in my ears.

The rain poured down and washed away my pain, the tears dropped from my eyes dripped onto my mobile keypad.

It has been fifteen consecutive days of protest in Balikpapan Prison camp, East Kalimantan, Indonesia now, we have been demanding freedom from incarceration and a safe and secure life. Now the refugees have decided to initiate their night-time protest.

The chronic pain of exile. Incarcerated for a period of four years. No real hope for ever achieving a peaceful life, no real hope in ever achieving a life without oppression; the refugees embarked on this journey purely because of their inner strength and stamina.

Minutes after they began their protest, after sounding their cries for freedom and their pleas for help, the head warden of the prison arrived together with a group of local police officers.

At this point everyone was calm and they raised their hands up in a show of submission. For some time the head warden of the prison camp hurled as much abuse and insults as he could muster up; he also threatened to press criminal charges and imprison the refugees in the local jails. This is what he told the refugees.

A few were so unbearably tired and felt so totally hopeless. They were completely shocked, their hearts had faltered and they felt they would never be free from this prison… they lost all control of themselves.

Two individuals collapsed for the first time ever and began to tremble. The refugees, who had no medical or first aid skills whatsoever, rushed over to keep the two of them stable lest they hurt themselves or anyone else.

The security guards watching the whole situation unfold not only did not help, they called the local police over and then closed the door and left the scene.

The situation continued like this for a period of time until more individuals began to suffer from heart pain and fainted from the shock. The whole thing was totally out of control. Everyone was screaming, and some were helping the fallen. Nineteen individuals in total had lost all hope and entered a state of shock. Among all this a small youth of fourteen years old also lost control, causing his older brother to enter a state of shock and panic for a short time. Actually, until a few months ago most of the people here were underage and had entered manhood while incarcerated.

The situation is now back under control. No one has any medical training, and there is no one else here to assist us. The immigration officers and IOM have left and gone to sleep in their comfortable beds. Total silence everywhere. Every now and then one of the people who collapsed would let out a yell and then weep. However, they have friends beside them to look after them; they hold down their arms and legs firmly so they do not hurt themselves or others.

It is unclear what will transpire tomorrow. I do not know the consequences of writing this report, I do not know if I will still be alive or not for exposing this. I do not know if I will be cuffed and taken to one of the local prisons, or if I will just remain here and continue to be a voice for the refugees and cry for help.

In any case, I have written this report for people to read and realise that we are still alive – do not let us be buried alive.

For more than a century we have been buried alive everyday and massacred. Tell me, is this civilisation and modernity, is this what you call support for human rights and the oppressed.

Just know that this situation is no different to the terrorist groups who make our lives a living hell and massacre us with bullets and blades.

When they kill us it happens once and our bodies are put to rest, but in here our very souls are dying everyday.

  • Erfan Dana in Indonesia
  • Translated by Omid Tofighian, American University in Cairo/University of Sydney


This is one of the good stories about my dedicated father I would like to share it with you all.


Father is one of the most magnificent words and worthy gift for this beautiful nature.  Every human being must know the importance and value of the fathers.  I humbly would like to thank my faithful and kind-hearted father from the core of my heart. His important existence has been a part of my meaningful life and his educational advice an effective lesson for a brighter and successful future.  Thus my father, who was a busy shoemaker, has never let me down by feeling lonely or helpless, he has accompanied me in every challenge and the worst aspects of my life. 

My father spent his whole springtime working tirelessly in order to provide comforts, warmth, health service, and a house with the modern facilities for me and our family members.  He worked very tough days and nights in cold and hot weather to find money to  support our family financially and educationally.   He lived poorly and has given all his life to us by working and being father.   For his wife and children, in addition, he would see to our happiness and superior days.  Though I had the physical power to work and get money from somewhere my sympathetic father, who always cared a lot about me prevented me from working.   He only wanted me to learn and make my future better.  Several times I decided to start working somewhere in order to cooperate with my father economically to carry the burden together.   He got angry because of the decision I had taken and swore me to my mother not to waste my time uselessly.   He didn’t accept that I work anywhere.   

After some years passed, I grew up into a young boy under the kindness and love of my mother and family members.  When i was 15 years old I finished grade 8 successfully and got second position.  While I was heading home with a satisfactory outcome I was feeling cheerful to make my parents happy with the result.  When seeing my good marks my noblest father appreciated me as much as the rest of my family members did.  I was fully an eligible student for grade 9.  But most of the time I felt furious because I was not able to contribute with my father at his work.  Finally an idea clicked me to take an English course but i I was unsure whether my father would agree to allow me to go to the English Center or not because at that time mullahs were preventing people from going to go English Center.  With fears I told my father that I would like to take an English course.   He became very happy to hear this good decision. 

I started learning English, full of interest and enthusiasm.  In every class i was getting first or second position.  After one and a half years I successfully got my diploma and certificate of achievement and moved up one level higher to professional advanced.  When i was ending my professional advanced the director of our Academy suggested to me to start teaching basic classes here in the academy.  They had no more staff members in the academy.   After I passed my presentation I would hopefully succeed to be a regular teacher.  So I received a monthly salary about 2500 Afghani.  It was enough for me to buy my school stuff so I didn’t take any more money from my father.  Every month my father asked me, ‘why you didn’t ask any money from me’?  I replied him, ‘now I have a salary and have enough funds to pay for my school fee’.   He became very happy and hugged me tightly because I was able to stand on my feet.

Although I don’t have a job to work and get money to send for my family I want  to write about our panic history I have passed up in my early age.  If today I’m able to write, speak, act as human with different people, I owe this all to my parents and my family members.

Love my dear father.  My family is my support system and my source of inspirations.




Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice , equality, and human dignity. We live in a vast world and interact with people from different backgrounds with completely different cultures, languages, customs and life principles.

The importance of multiculturalism lies in the idea that no culture is inherently superior to all others, and no culture is truly inferior to the rest.

Every human culture has the the potential to contribute positively to the human condition, and the benefits of a multicultural viewpoint give us all the humility to be able to accept, respect and understand one other better.

Differences are what bring color to this world, making it more beautiful and more enjoyable to live in. At the very heart of diversity and multiculturalism is the human need to bring people close together through embracing and not just tolerating their differences.

So get to know the next person sitting beside you. Share your stories, listen to theirs, and you will discover that this world is richly illuminated by many beautiful, colourful individuals.

Erfan, 2018