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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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A beautiful poem by a new friend that puts the immigration issue into perspective, Please read!!

 

Source: We Can All Hear The Voices

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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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IMG_9964

 

 

Loosely translated, the above caption means I am NOT Charlie, but NO ONE will stop me from expressing myself. 

 

  This is a tough one, to be honest. There are boundaries to free speech, in some countries one cannot without valid reason legally shout the word “FIRE” in a crowded theater, for example. In other countries blasphemy is punishable by death. It is illegal to threaten the life of the US President, as another example.(that one has caused me to bite my tongue on occasion, just kidding)  One CAN do these things, but there may be ramifications. Where does it stop?  Where is the line crossed from satire to blasphemy and who decides where the line is drawn? The reader? The public? The police or legal system?  If someone were to tell me they idolized Adolf Hitler or Benjamin Netanyahu it would probably irritate the hell out of me, but certainly that isn’t sufficient reason to kill them, is it? If someone were to show me a pornographic rendition of Jesus Christ, it would certainly make me question their judgement and taste level, but is it right for me to shoot them?

If I may speak in generalizations for a moment, allow me to say that while I am not a Francophil in the classic sense, I love the France, Paris and the French. I love their passion, their contradictions, their art and poetry, their love of life. I would have easily joined in the resistance to fight the nazis as I would have to fight Franco in Spain. Anyone who knows me well knows this.  OK,, I even have to say I love Depardieu, or at least I did up to a point. One of of the things they do best is satire. They are masters at it and have been for centuries. As far back as Moliere and Voltaire at least. They have a wonderful irreverence that makes it natural for them. To hear that a French magazine such as Charlie Hebdo is writing pieces or publishing drawings satirizing religion, be it Christian, Jewish, or Islam, comes as no surprise to me, for exactly the reasons i mentioned above. A satirical humour is practically inbred, part and parcel of being French, if I may say so. However, saying that, I have to wonder if there are limits to what is satire and what is a slap in the face.

I suppose it has to do with how one perceives the INTENTION of the satirist. Is it their intent to give us a slightly evil laugh at our own foibles, fuckups and inconsistencies, a wink, a nudge or a push towards the reflection we give off in the mirror as we go about our lives? I am no expert on satire. I wish I had the gift. I love it when it’s good. I love it when I can laugh at it, and at myself and at my own foolishness.

I’m NOT implying that I agree with the murderers. Of course not. NOTHING ABSOLVES ONE FROM MURDER. I have heard reports that a “more calm group” of Muslims has taken Charlie Hebdo to court several times, to seek a legal means of settling the issue. As everyone reading has probably heard by now. apparently the Koran does not allow one to do ANY visual representation of the prophet Mohammed, be it in a drawing based upon their Muslim belief or certainly not in a satirical or provocative sense. It is, according to common interpretation, a crime punishable by death. In the Old Testament of the Bible, there were many crimes punishable by death. Adultery, theft, murder, and blasphemy were among the things that could lead to you to being stoned to death. That is the religious heritage of the West.It IS dreadful and still continues in those countries with the death penalty. Those facts are indisputable. In the Islamic faith, they still hold fast to an even harsher interpretation, at least in those areas that are more, what shall i say, closer to tradition, or in the more common word, “Extremist. We may find them abhorrent. I know that I do.  It’s easy to judge from the outside. We have every right to our own opinions on this. As I stated above the common belief is that murder is a crime against humanity, but then, in my opinion so is capitalism. Shall we shoot the bankers? (There’s a thought!)

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There is no greater injustice than the continued gender based oppression of and violence against women across the world.

http://commondreams.org/news/2014/11/24/end-hunger-empower-women-study

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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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Well all, it’s mid-term election night back in the good old USSA and it seems like I’m due to be disappointed in “my fellow Americans” one more time. According to CNN’s latest information, while election results are still being counted, (it is now 04:26 GMT +1 here in Stockholm)  it seems that the Tea Party Fascists are only two seats away from claiming control of the Senate for the first time in eight years and are in the process of boosting their control of the House of Representatives. Obama will continue to be frustrated by a congress that blatantly refuses to give him any respect he may or may not deserve. Nothing will be passed through congress which began in the White House and anything passed by the TP controlled congress will most likely be vetoed or fought bitterly before being forced to the President’s desk. This my friends is called a “stalemate”. In other words, the American voters once again fucked things up.  This is not even considering the state and local elections, a concept that I find, frankly to scary to even begin to think about thinking about.

While I’m one of the least likely to give a great deal of creedence or support to Obama, the idea of the Tea Party continuing to gain in  control of the congress scares me even more. Perhaps it’s the lesser of two very evil evils here. There was a wise man who once said, “Hey, WTF are you  doing?” I’m sure this question has arisen more than once in the erratic and oft confusing history of politics, and voting in America is certainly no exception. It saddens me greatly to think that American voters continue to get the proverbial wool pulled over their eyes and ignore what is so obvious to the rest of the world. When oh when will the great American conscience rising happen? Will the sleeping giant that is the American dream wake up before it’s too late? Will America ever get the hands of the GOP OUT of their wallet and OFF of their freedoms? Will the Bill of Rights ever be what they were intended to be? Will the USSA ever be the beacon of peace instead of the bacon of the GOP breakfast? My doubts continue to grow. I want to believe. I want to say I’m proud of my country, but I just can’t. It seems that in this world, in this lifetime, I never will.

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Masha Shekarloo was a young, energetic pioneering passionate brilliant women’s rights activist in Iran, Just saying that should earn her respect, that she in a country so built on oppression, especially towards women,  would dare to stand up is admirable.  She was a pioneer but a woman, born in Tehran, educated in Chicago, who returned to Tehran and saw an oppurtunity to make a change.   Please read the article below and share it, share her passion, her belief in the possibilities and her work.

 

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/10/10/remembering-mahsa-shekarloo-the-womens-rights-activist-and-internet-pioneer-born-in-iran/

 

Also, I highly recommend following the link to her online magazine, called badjens. It’s truly worth a follow!

http://www.badjens.com/

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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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