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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35311709

Hundreds of writers are taking part in readings in support of the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.

More than 120 events are being held in 44 countries on Thursday as part of a campaign organised by the International Literature Festival Berlin.

It is calling on the US and UK governments to intervene on behalf of Mr Fayadh, who is accused of apostasy.

He denies the charges and claims that another man made false accusations.

Human rights activists also say Mr Fayadh was denied access to a lawyer throughout his detention and trial, in clear violation of Saudi and international law.

‘Unjust and morally repellent’

Mr Fayadh, a 35-year-old poet and art curator who was born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian refugee parents, has been a key figure in taking Saudi contemporary art to a global audience, according to the International Literature Festival Berlin.

Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern gallery in London and a friend of the poet, has described him as “someone who is outspoken and daring”.

Mr Fayadh was arrested in August 2013 following a complaint by a Saudi citizen, who alleged that he was promoting atheism and spreading blasphemous ideas, according to Amnesty International.

He was released the next day, but was rearrested in January 2014 and charged with apostasy because of his supposed questioning of religion and spreading atheist thought through his collection of poetry, Instructions Within, published in 2008.

He was also charged with violating the country’s anti-cyber crime law by taking and storing photos of women on his mobile phone.

In April 2014, the General Court in the city of Abha sentenced Mr Fayadh to four years in prison and 800 lashes for violating the anti-cyber crime law. But it found his repentance in relation to the charge of apostasy to be satisfactory and not requiring further punishment.

However, an appeals court overturned his original sentence and sent the case back to the General Court, which sentenced him to death for apostasy on 17 November.

Mr Fayadh has asserted that the poems are “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee… about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.”

Irvine Welsh, who will read at the Two Hearted Queen coffee shop in Chicago on Thursday, said he hoped the worldwide reading campaign would put “pressure on governments who espouse democracy and freedom to consider their actions in dealing with [Saudi Arabia]”, according to the Guardian newspaper.

A L Kennedy, who will be attending a reading organised by PEN England at the Mosaic Rooms in west London, said Mr Fayadh’s persecution was “very obviously unjust and morally repellent”.

The Saudi government has not commented publicly on Mr Fayadh’s case.

 

This is a sample of his beautiful, moving poetry, translated by Mona Kareem,

http://monakareem.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/ashraf-fayadhs-disputed-poems-in.html

Ashraf Fayadh’s “Disputed” Poems, in English Translation

1
petroleum is harmless, except for the trace of poverty it leaves behind
on that day, when the faces of those who discover another oil well go dark,
when life is blown into your heart to extract more oil off your soul
for public use..
That.. is.. the promise of oil, a true promise.
the end..
2
it was said: settle there..
but some of you are enemies for all
so leave it now
look up to yourselves from the bottom of the river;
those of you on top should provide some pity for those underneath..
the displaced is helpless,
like blood that no one wants to buy in the oil market!
3
pardon me, forgive me
for not being able to pump more tears for you
for not mumbling your name in nostalgia.
I directed my face at the warmth of your arms
I got no love but you, you alone, and am the first of your seekers.
4
night,
you are inexperienced with Time
lacking rain drops
that could wash away all the remains of your past
and liberate you of what you had called piety..
of that heart.. capable of love,
of play,
and of intersecting with your obscene withdrawal from that flabby religion
from that fake Tanzeel
from gods that had lost their pride..
5
you burp, more than you used to..
as the bars bless their visitors
with recitations and seductive dancers..
accompanied with the DJ
you recite your hallucinations
and speak your praise for these bodies swinging to the verses of exile.
6
he’s got no right to walk however
or to swing however or to cry however.
he’s got no right to open the window of his soul,
to renew his air, his waste, and his tears..
you too tend to forget that you are
a piece of bread
7
on the day of banishment, they stand naked,
while you swim in the rusty pipes of sewage, barefoot..
this could be healthy for the feet
 but not for earth
8
prophets have retired
so do not wait for yours to come to you
and for you,
for you the monitors bring their daily reports
and get their high salaries..
how important money is
for a life of dignity
9
my grandfather stands naked everyday,
without banishment, without divine creation..
I have already been resuscitated without a godly blow in my image.
I am the experience of hell on earth..
earth
is the hell prepared for refugees.
10
your mute blood will not speak up
as long as you pride yourself in death
as long as you keep announcing -secretly- that you have put your soul
at the hands of those who do not know much..
losing your soul will cost time,
much longer than what it takes to calm
your eyes that have cried tears of oil
* These poems appeared in Fayadh’s poetry collection Instructions Within which was published by the Beirut-based Dar al-Farabi in 2008 and later banned from distribution in Saudi Arabia.
Translated by: Mona Kareem

For information on what you can do to help with his release, go to Amnesty International at this address..

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/free-ashraf-fayadh-saudi-arabia-palestinian-poetry-apostasy-execution

 

I highly recommend reading this gifted poet, and of course, signing Amnesty’s petition for his release.

 

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I will see nothing
But the children of peace
Their hair spread against the wind
Like the wings of angels

I will hear nothing
From the tombs of your dead
But the voices from my own thoughts
Like the salve of the ages

I will not open my door
To you as a visitor
Bringing your unrepentant anger
To my thirsty soul

I will no longer dance
With you parents of war
Your darkness blots out
The light from my feet

I will not see your world
Nor read your newspaper
Not hear your symphony
I will not say your prayers
But those which I make myself
The words of empowerment
The songs of unison

I will not drink at your table
I will not eat of your meat
You have no nourishment
To offer such a one as I

The end of the world
As you know it
Will be our only salvation

I will not die
Until we, all of us,
Can die under peaceful skies
Our souls drifting quietly across the sunset
Like a shroud of the finest linen

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This is what I hope will be the first of numerous posts about the Nakba, the “Catastrophe” in Arabic, which is generally used to describe the forced removal of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. The anniversary, if that is the proper word is generally recognized on May 15, the day after the foundation of the state of Israel, according the Gregorian calendar, being of course, May 14, 1948. But as this very well written history points out, it didn’t begin in 1948, but some 200 years earlier. This is a very sad tale of long term oppression, of brutal imperialist  governments without a care about the people in their rule, but outside their borders. I would ask EVERYONE to read this, to ask questions, to find out what REALLY happened in 1948,, why those who were forced out of their homes and country are STILL not allowed to return. I promise it will anger you, I truly hope it will open your eyes.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2013/05/20135612348774619.html

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With the thought of the awful attack on the Jerusalem synagogue, it is worth a reminder of our shared humanity. We are all Palestinian, we are all Israeli, we are all Iraqi and American, and Russian, and Rom, and Hopi.

I can definitely understand the sense of frustration coming from the muslims in east Jerusalem as the see their history  being evaporated as Israelis rename streets, overtake homes and even disallow prayer in Al Asqa Mosque, the third holiest site in the Muslim faith, this going against a long-established agreement between the ruling Israeli government and Muslims living in Jerusalem. All of this, of course, on top of everything else they have had to endure. However, there is never a justification for violence. I will always believe a peaceful settlement can be found but not until both sides are ready. I can say with all certainty that Netanyahu is far from ready. Sadly until the rest of the world, the US and Great Britain especially, stop their blind support for Israel things aren’t going to change much. But about the photos…..

These beautiful photos celebrate Palestinian music, sculpture, art and the human spirit. That part of us that no one can truly conquer. Not war, not racism, not apartheid, not poverty, not illiteracy, but rather our souls, our essence. In that sense at least, we are indeed all Palestinians. As I’ve said many times before and will repeat many times, No one is truly free until we are all free, no one is equal while another is oppressed.  I urge all of you to take in the photos, the text and the spirit.

 

 

In Pictures: ‘We are all Palestinians’ – In Pictures – Al Jazeera English.

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I found this article this morning while surfing the dreaded but unavoidable Facebook and it struck a chord with me. I remember the nights  directly after Obama won his first term as President. I was in Stockholm and everywhere there was a sense of enormous relief. Not only did it mean the imminent departure of Bush and Cheney, but we all wanted to believe it would bring about changes the likes of which we hadn’t seen for some time. The types of changes that we had been longing for, the types of changes that people were fighting and dying for. A government,  with a considerable amount of power, might turn back  to diplomacy as the first course of action. A government that might actually keep its promises, closing gitmo, ending the illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A government that finally would repair perhaps the biggest wrong in the 20th century, and force Israel to return to its 1967 borders, one that would force Israel to rethink the nakba and allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. A government that would free its political prisoners both those inside their own prisons and those illegally kept in prisons throughout europe. etc etc etc

 

Did we expect too much?   How much IS too much? What do we have the right to expect from our governments and from those who proclaim to be the world leaders?

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts after reading this article..

 

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/10/obama-europe-s-biggestdisappointment.html

 

 

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I found these three wonderful poems written by Zeina Hashem Beck on a page I follow on Facebook. (NO, my friends, not everything on FB paltry pics of someone’s breakfast. )  I was immediately moved to share them with as many readers as possible.

The first  poem, entitled “Inside Out” is a strong poem, showing the terror of war against the backdrop of the World Cup. The images are strong as they should be, but it is so very moving at the same time. The second poem, entitled “Gaza Mothers Soothe Their Kids” is a beautiful work, short and simple it shows the difficulty of trying to explain something as terrible as war to your children in a way that comforts them and hides the horrible acts of men. The third and last poem is also short and to the point, which I love. It is entitled “Maysam” and I’m going to let you read that one without the unnecessary introduction from me. Her work speaks for itself. Do follow the link below. I truly hope you find Ms. Becks” work as beautiful and moving as I do.

 

Inside out: three poems on Gaza by Zeina Hashem Beck.

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cohen

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen, who in my humble opinion is one of the coolest and kindest people on the  planet, is also a gifted poet, as most people who have heard his music know from his wonderful lyrics and if you’ve read his poetry even more so.  I admire him greatly for his gifts his class, his style his poetry and his music,  but also for the sense that if we had somehow been alive together in the earlier part of the 20th century, we might have been freedom fighters, partisans, fighting with words perhaps, side by side. A nice fantasy perhaps.

Today  he celebrates his 80th birthday. In honor of his birthday, I’m posting both a poem he wrote called “Questions for Shomrim” about Gaza, and the lyrics to one of my absolute favorite songs ever. They both speak to me in many ways. The poem, because of it’s beauty, but also the fact that it was written by a Jew and is a strong condemnation of Israels policy of apartheid with regards to Gaza. The poem because of what I mentioned above. The song is called “The Partisan”.  Enjoy this wonderful genius!

“Questions for Shomrim”

And will my people build a new Dachau
And call it love,
Security,
Jewish culture
For dark-eyed children
Burning in the stars
Will all our songs screech
Like the maddened eagles of the night
Until Yiddish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Vietnamese
Are a thin thread of blood clawing up the side of
Unspeaking steel chambers
I know you, Chaverim
The lost young summer nights of our childhood
We spent on street corners looking for life
In our scanty drops of Marx and Borochov.
You taught me the Italian Symphony

And the New World
And gave a skit about blowing up Arab children.
You taught me many songs
But none so sad
As napalm falling slowly in the dark
You were our singing heroes in ’48
Do you dare ask yourselves what you are now
We, you and I, were lovers once
As only wild nights of wrestling in golden snow
Can make one love
We hiked by moonlight
And you asked me to lead the Internationale
And now my son must die
For he’s an Arab
And my mother, too, for she’s a Jew
And you and I
Can only cry and wonder
Must Jewish people
Build our Dachaus, too?

— Leonard Cohen, poem from 1970’s

 

“The Partisan”

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I’ve lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning
I’m the only one this evening
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows.

Les Allemands e’taient chez moi, (The Germans were at my home)
ils me dirent, “Signe toi,” (They said, “Sign yourself,”)
mais je n’ai pas peur; (But I am not afraid)
j’ai repris mon arme. (I have retaken my weapon.)

J’ai change’ cent fois de nom, (I have changed names a hundred times)
j’ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)
mais j’ai tant d’amis; (But I have so many friends)
j’ai la France entie`re. (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a cache’, (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands l’ont pris; (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise. (He died without surprise.)

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows.

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