It was just another hot and humid day inside the Manus Island detention centre, more than 12 months ago, until a large group of detainees began gathering near the fences that separate the two biggest compounds.
"That always means a new worry and I went to see what was happening," explains Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist who remains in what he calls the Manus Prison.
What he saw was a skinny young man collapsed on the ground and surrounded by security guards. He looked more like a little boy, with an angelic face and long curly hair.
"Seeing him on the ground like that affected me profoundly and I kept thinking about him until I saw him next in the medical centre," says Boochani. This time, the young man was trembling in a corner, a security guard sitting either side of him.
His name was Ali, though many of the asylum seekers called him "Little" or "Kocholo", the Persian word for small. It wasn't until later that Boochani knew him by the pen name he gave himself when he was plucked from the ocean on the way to Australia, Eaten Fish.
He had just turned 22 when he arrived at Christmas Island in August 2013, two weeks after Kevin Rudd declared that no asylum seekers who arrived by boat would ever be settled in Australia as refugees.
Even then, it was clear that Ali was different. "Eaten Fish is always wearing plastic gloves," says Boochani. "He is not only scared to touch people, but also things, even doors. Everyone knows him as a young man who is always washing his hands or cleaning his room."
He also had a talent for drawing, and aspired to be a cartoonist in Iran until a cartoonist friend was arrested and taken away. And there was another thing. Something very bad had happened to him when he was very young.
In conversation with trauma worker Janet Galbraith, he had referred to himself at times as "Little Ali", who was 11 and good, and 12 and bad. "I asked if he wanted to tell me what happened when he was 11 and he said he couldn't," says Galbraith.
It took Eaten Fish a while to tell Galbraith that something very bad had happened to him inside the Manus detention centre, too: he had been the victim of a prolonged sexual assault by several detainees and he was too scared to make a complaint because he did not trust the guards.
"I could tell that something had happened as Ali was quite altered," Galbraith wrote in a private note last April. "His anxiety was extremely high and his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also exacerbated. His showering was extreme and he was sending me messages saying he scrubbed and scrubbed until he bled."
It was Galbraith, who started the group called Writing Through Fences to give asylum seekers in detention a voice, who put Eaten Fish in touch with the Guardian Australia cartoonist First Dog on the Moon.
And it was First Dog on the Moon, aka Andrew Marlton, who encouraged Ali in his art and helped introduce his cartoons to the world. "It was very strange to be mentoring someone who is essentially in a gulag," say Marlton, who was struck from the start by the naïve immediacy of the work.
"We have talked on and off on a regular basis over the last couple of years while he's wasted away, along with 900 other men on Manus Island. The cruelty he faces on a daily basis would have killed me two years ago, I can tell you."
Last August, Eaten Fish was awarded the courage in editorial cartooning award by the Cartoonists Rights Network International, who praised his ability to "keep up a stream of cartoons documenting the unspeakable abuses and excesses of the guards and administrators of the camp".
"I congratulated him and I remember that, for the first time, I saw great happiness in his face," says Boochani, whose work as a journalist, writer and advocate on Manus Island has also won international recognition.
But the joy was fleeting as a cup of tea. Ali's medical records chronicle his deteriorating mental health, his terror at the prospect of another sexual assault, the fear of harassment and bullying by certain guards and his difficulty living in an isolation unit, the only place his safety was assured.
It was in May last year that Ali moved to the area reserved for those with acute mental health or protection needs, where his every move is monitored. The notes of consultants report how Ali continued to find his situation "perplexing and upsetting", and how he saw "escape or death as a realistic solution".
In October came a removal order signed by Papua New Guinea's immigration minister, Rimbink Pato, followed by a notice from PNG's Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority that Ali had been determined not to be a refugee.
This came as no surprise to Galbraith or Susan Ditchfield, a GP whose first contact with him was through Doctors for Refugees.
"Ali was unable to complete the refugee status determination process because of his illnesses and the panic attacks that were triggered each time he was expected to speak of what happened to him in Iran," says Galbraith. "Rather than being an indication of his not being a refugee, this was an indication of how unwell he is."
Then, on Christmas Eve, came the news that Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a 27-year-old Sudanese refugee, had died from injuries suffered after he fell inside the isolation area not far from of Ali, who witnessed the frantic efforts of a doctor to save him.
Ali saw Ahmed taken away and was asked to sign a statement about what he saw, but he did not know of the death until he received a message from Galbraith that night. An hour later he began working on four-part cartoon that told the "true story of Faysal", completing the task at 7am on Christmas Day.
He called it "Happy Bloody Christmas", and told how helpless he felt ("I could feel the pain he had inside but I could not do anything to help him") and expressed his anger at the ambivalence of the guard who told the doctor Ahmed had been "doing fine" before he fell ("Why would he say he was doing fine? He was not fine.")
A couple of weeks later, Ali sent me a message introducing himself and offering a cartoon called 'How people die in Offshore processing centre' that attempted to sum up the utter hopelessness of the situation he and many other detainees face on a daily basis.
Then, on January 29, he was told his allegations of sexual assault and abuse had not been substantiated and that he would be returned to the main compound where he says his attackers and harassers remain, prompting his decision to begin a hunger strike.
"Eaten Fish has received a deportation order, but he wants people to know that he is not on hunger strike for that reason," the Greens' Scott Ludlam told the Senate this week.
"He is on hunger strike because he has been the victim of sexual assault, chronic sexual harassment and abuse in Australia's immigration prison camp. He cannot bear the suffering anymore."
Galbraith and First Dog are in daily contact with him, but so far have been unable to convince Eaten Fish to eat. In messages to me, Ali says he now weighs 46.7 kilos, which he says is close to the weight of Bobby Sands, the Irish nationalist, when he died in prison in 1981.
For First Dog, it is a bizarre experience, chatting on a messaging app to someone who is wasting away. "I tell him you'll get so weak that you won't be able to talk to me any more, and then you'll really be alone, so I want you to understand that that's coming," he says.
"What am I to say? 'Mate, eat a sandwich, you'll be all right.'? I can't say you'll be all right. I want him to end the hunger strike, I really do, and I'm encouraging him to do that, but I'm not able to say it's going to be OK and you'll make it through because I don't know that."
The best hope for Ali is that he is reassessed, his protection claim is upheld and he is included in the resettlement deal with the US, where a network of cartoonists have committed to help him access the services he will need to recover. But there are too many unanswered questions, there is too little time and Ali's reservoir of hope has run dry.
On the messaging app, I ask Eaten Fish why he wants to die. He replies that he does not want to hunger strike and has "pain inside", but that this method of dying gave him the chance to tell his story of suffering to the world.
"I think you should give me the right to die and stop this torture and suffers and pains," he said in one message. "I have no energy left to tell my stories to Australians any more."
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