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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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IMG_0667

AZIZ

It wasn’t the noose, it was the bullet.

I looked around the flat for meaning. It was sparsely furnished, with only a couple of side chairs, a table and a sofa, three seat, blue in colour, with a warm yellow woollen blanket and a pillow on it, it served as his bed. Together it barely filled an otherwise empty space. A chair lie overturned in the middle of the floor next to the broken coffee table, oak, matching the parquet floor. The length of rope dangled ominously across the chair and table. On the floor I found two pictures in wooden frames. I had seen them before, Pictures of his beloved family. Aziz showed them to anyone who came to visit, but few ever came.

The day tried to peek its way in through the windows, casting what seemed a cruel light upon what lay on the floor. As I set the telephone back into the charger, I thought back to our conversations. They often revolved around his family. How his father had taught him to be a handyman, but also pushed him to become a doctor, and he did, a very good doctor in fact. His father told him that if a man is good with his hands, if he can find the patience to work well with wood, then he has the mindfulness to do anything. He had intended to pass that along to a son but was denied the chance.

Aziz never finished telling me what happened on August 27th, 2012, around noon. They knew about the fighting that had started but it hadn’t reached Damascus yet… The unrest in the poorer areas had grown and gross violence was becoming the norm. He told me the shelling started on the other side of the city at around 8:00 a.m. They started to grab what they could quickly. Aziz went downstairs to secure the transport when the mortar hit. His eyes filled with tears when he told me about his wife and two daughters, who did not survive, and all he could do was to wave me away, unable to say more.

In the ensuing days, he tried to use his considerable skills as a doctor to help the injured but realized he had to leave Damascus when a colleague of his was kidnapped by the fighters for a 100,000£ ransom. This is not an uncommon occurrence, he tells me. He left his office, his practice, everything behind for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The camp had been established about a month earlier and was already overpopulated. Protests were held daily about the lack of food and accommodation. Not long after his arrival he met a man who claimed that for a substantial fee he could offer him passage to Europe.

Unable to put the loss of his family behind him, Aziz was hoping for a new life here. Raised in an upper class environment in Damascus, he had never been subjected to racial harassment before. His Muslim beliefs simply did not allow for such thought, he believed. The fact that he was still waiting for his immigration paperwork to finalize when he first heard the taunts didn’t help, he knew he couldn’t react in any way or risk being sent immediately back to Damascus, which would mean certain death. This once proud man became only a shadow of his jovial, funny, intelligent self. I often wondered what his life had been like earlier in Damascus, but now he rarely left his apartment.

One Tuesday, about a month ago, he ran across a flier on the bus seat advertising a rally in support of refugees from Syria, although he didn’t speak Swedish, he was able to understand the meaning. In a rare moment, he decided to attend. It was an October afternoon, a Sunday, when the rally was held at Medborgarplatsen here in Stockholm. About 350 showed up and speeches were made, in Swedish. Although Aziz couldn’t understand, it moved him to see this. Perhaps he was misjudging Sweden, perhaps it was the open minded country he had heard about after all. Then everything changed. A group of about 25 skinheads decided to show up. What started as shouting and fist waving soon turned very violent. Aziz tried to get away, but was stuck in the crowd. Bottles and rocks were being thrown and Aziz went into a panic. Visions of his homeland overcame his logic as he started to fight back. Grabbing a stick, he swung at two of the Nazis, hitting one, Ole, across the back. Ole turned and they stood almost face to face. Fortunately, the police arrived, Ole turned away to avoid another arrest, and Aziz ran to safety. Ole made a permanent memory of Aziz, however, vowing to revenge.

Aziz was devastated. I had no idea, until I read his notes, just how deeply his sorrow rooted itself. He told of the nights of darkness, nightly visions of the explosion and the loss of his family. The aloneness and isolation he felt here in Sweden made so much worse by the fracas with Ole. He had no way out. He couldn’t practice medicine. It would take seven years to become certified, and he felt completely trapped. He had decided to end it all.

The police arrived and the ambulance, no one could understand the noose around his neck or the bullet hole in the window. What was the connection?

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