So, you thought poetry was just for fun rhymes and wooing women? Without music poetry is often backhanded as a literary form ignored and disdained as too esoteric or too convoluted for straightforward no nonsense reading. By the way, if you think Mother Goose nursey rhemes are just silly ditties, you’ll think again after going a few rounds with an annotated copy with the darker references to realities. Oh, speaking of reality.
A while back I had an actual face to face conversation with a young woman who insisted no one had never been imprisoned for writing literature. I found her literal ignorance astounding not only for her lack of awareness of the historical contexts in which writers in all genres have run into very serious trouble for expressing their views, but also for what it revealed about her lack of comprehension of some of the works she’d claimed to have read. Hence, this post. I believe it makes my point in a very very contemporary fashion.
From Democracy Now!’s headline news
15-Year Sentence for Qatari Poet Upheld
Democracy Now! Headline News for 22 October 2013
In Qatar, the top court has upheld a 15-year jail sentence for a poet convicted of incitement against the regime. Mohammed al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 for allegedly disparaging members of Qatar’s ruling family in a poem. But activists say the real motivation was his poem “Tunisian Jasmine,” in which he expressed support for the Arab Spring uprisings, writing, “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites.” Al-Ajami was initially dealt a life term but that was reduced to 15 years in February. His lawyer said he has been held in solitary confinement for two years. Al-Ajami’s only recourse now is to appeal to the emir. Click here to see our interview from Qatar with Mohammed Al-Ajami’s lawyer.
Qatari poet Mohamed Ibn Ajami Imprisioned for Life for Reading a Poem
[“Tunisian Jasmine” audio text]
Published on Feb 9, 2013
February 6, 2013 7:23pm PST
From Democracy Now: “Three days after the United Nations Climate Change Conference began here in Doha, a Qatari court sentenced a local poet to life in prison, a move that shocked many activists in the Gulf region and human rights observers. The sentencing of Mohammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami came nearly two years after he wrote a poem titled “Tunisian Jasmine,” supporting the uprisings in the Arab world. “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites!” al-Ajami wrote. “The Arab governments and who rules them are, without exception, thieves. Thieves!” We speak to his attorney and a member of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.”
From the Guardian “A Qatari poet has been sentenced to life in prison for an Arab-spring-inspired verse that officials claim insults Qatar’s emir and encourages the overthrow of the nation’s ruling system, his defense attorney says.
It was the latest blow in a widening clampdown on perceived dissent across the Gulf Arab states.
The verdict in a state security court is certain to bring a fresh outpouring of denunciations by rights groups, which have repeatedly called for the release of the poet, Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami. It also marks another example of tough measures by judicial and security officials in the Gulf against possible challenges to their rule since the Arab spring revolts began last year.
The poet’s lawyer, Najib al-Nuaimi, said he planned to appeal.
“This judge made the whole trial secret,” said Nuaimi. “Muhammad was not allowed to defend himself, and I was not allowed to plead or defend in court. I told the judge that I need to defend my client in front of an open court, and he stopped me.”
Ajami was jailed in November 2011, months after an internet video was posted of him reciting Tunisian Jasmine, a poem lauding that country’s popular uprising, which touched off the Arab spring rebellions across the Middle East. In the poem, he said: “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive” authorities, and criticized Arab governments that restrict freedoms.
Qatari officials charged Ajami with “insulting” the Gulf nation’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and “inciting to overthrow the ruling system”. The latter charge could have brought a death sentence.
Nuaimi said Ajami, a third-year student of literature at Cairo University, had been held in solitary confinement since his arrest.
Gulf regimes have stepped up crackdowns on a range of perceived threats to their rule, including Islamist groups and social media activists. Earlier this month, Kuwaiti authorities arrested four people on charges of insulting the emir with Twitter posts, and the United Arab Emirates imposed sweeping new internet regulations that allow arrests for a wide list of offensives, including insulting leaders or calling for demonstrations.
Last year, Bahrain issued a royal pardon for some protest-linked suspects, including a 20-year-old woman sentenced to a year in prison for reciting poetry critical of the government’s effort to crush a Shia-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.”
I don’t know about you, but this packs a resounding wallop in my book of verses.