Book Shelf - The People Smuggler by Robin De Crespigny

Ali Al Jenabi’s life is anything but a walk in the park. From his upbringing in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, to his four-year stint in Indonesia, and, finally, his extradition to Australia in 2003, this tower-of-strength’s story is enough to reduce anyone to tears. Written in the form of a novel by Sydney based filmmaker Robin De Crespigny, The People Smuggler is an in-depth account of the life of an honourable and steadfast man who faces countless adversities one after the other and still maintains his moral ground.

A prisoner in one of Hussein’s notorious torture institutions Abu Ghraib at the youthful age of twenty, Jenabi’s experience of life had far surpassed many even at the age of ten. His father, whilst not engaged in any political movement, was still a man of many opinions, especially when it came to the controversial ruler Saddam Hussein; these ideas became increasingly dangerous to the family. 

A story that can only be met with empathy and sadness, De Crespigny takes us through tumultuous years of running from the secret police in Iraq, to seeking refuge in other countries such as Kurdistan, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and ultimately Australia. With her profoundly simplistic style, De Crespigny creates a heartbreaking atmosphere in the portrayal of Jenabi’s Australian people-smuggling venture and the hardships beyond.

The book challenges our perceptions with Jenabi raising an interesting point on the opinion many have on asylum seekers – seeing them as people who want to seek residence in our beautiful country by choice. Stating that he thinks it is odd how this opinion has been so universally accepted, Jenabi brings to light the simple reality that if these people had a choice, they would remain in their homes.

De Crespigny presents to us the vulnerability underlying Jenabi’s biography; emphasizing the enormity of his situation whilst approaching the injustices that were faced. Through The People Smuggler we see flaws in our own political system, accentuating the necessity for reforms in the area of refugees. Highlighting the shades of grey that accompany the decisions of those who resort to smuggling, The People Smuggler can’t help but soften people’s hearts to the plight of our fellow man.

Not a lighthearted book, The People Smuggler is a rollercoaster, with characters and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

Brooke @ Girl With a Satchel.


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