‘Something Unbelievable, To Have Somebody…Arrested for a Poem’

Last Friday, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman filed a report from Qatar on the life sentence for Mohammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami stemming from his 2011 “Jasmine Poem.” 

ajamiGoodman spoke with al-Ajami’s attorney, Najeeb al-Nuaimi, who explained the sequence of events that led to al-Ajami’s 11 months in solitary confinement and the ruling of life in prison.

Although admitting he is not connoisseur of poetry, Al-Nuami was vigorous in his defense of al-Ajami, and repeated that it was a “shame” on the nation. Al-Nuami suggested that if the emir didn’t like al-Ajami’s poetry, then there were other options:

I mean, even in ancient Islamic time, there are—you know, everything about the kings, about the prince, nobody hanged them. They gave them money to shut their mouth. That’s the way. They give him money, then he shuts his mouth. But why him? They said, “I don’t know.” So I felt something unique in this case, something unbelievable, to have somebody to be arrested for a poem.

Goodman ran an English excerpt of the poem, trans. Ali Issa, which I have modified only slightly:

Knowing that those who satisfy themselves and upset their people will tomorrow have someone else sitting in their seat,

Knowing that those who satisfy themselves and upset their people will tomorrow have someone else sitting in their seat,

For those who think the country is in their names and their children’s names — the country is for the people, and its glories are theirs.

Repeat with one voice, for one faith:

We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites.

We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites.

The Arab governments and who rules them are, without exception, thieves.

Thieves!

The question that frames the thoughts of those who wonder will not find an answer in any official channels.

As long as it imports everything it has from the West, why can’t it import laws and freedoms?

Why can’t it import laws and freedoms?

Meanwhile, Mohamed bin Saif al-Kuwari, part of an official state Human Rights Committee, told Goodman that if anyone in Qatar were to read “The Jasmine Poem” out loud in Qatar today, his understanding was that they too would be sentenced to life in prison:

“Yes. Now this is according to the judgments last month.”

Al-Kuwairi defended the ruling by saying that certain symbols could not be attacked.

Watch the Democracy Now! video:

Listen to “Tunisian Jasmine”:



Categories: Qatar

2 replies

  1. This account is nothing less than Kafkaesque!! First this incomprehensible life imprisonment of a writer who dares to speak the truth to those in power. And then this little additional warning, this mocking slap to the face of anyone who might contemplate reciting this poem aloud!!

    I truly want to live in a world where a poem can strike this much fear in the hearts of any despot.

    Along with so many others I stand with, and salute Mr. al-Ajami. And of course I will begin my next poetry reading with some of Mr. al-Ajami’s poem. A small far away echo, one of many I’m sure.

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