In Jordan, Poem Leads to Arrest

Hatim al-Shuli, a university student and sometimes-poet, has been arrested for a poem criticizing King Abdullah with al-Shuli’s name on it, according to Human Rights Watch.

Al-Shuli denies having written the poem.

According to HRW:

Al-Shuli was arrested on July 25, 2010, and charged on July 28 with insulting King Abdullah (lese majeste) and “causing national strife,” over a poem he denies writing that criticized the king. The military prosecutor has since renewed orders for al-Shuli’s detention and denied his petitions for bail.

HRW said they obtained two earlier poems of al-Shuli’s in which he seems to be praising the king. However, the organization also noted that—whether or not al-Shuli wrote a poem criticizing King Abdullah—such a thing shouldn’t have lead to his arrest.

HRW says this isn’t an unusual occurrence:  Poet Islam Samhan was recently sentenced to a year in prison because of a collection of his love poetry, Shadow’s Gracefulness. According to The National, in 2008 Jordan’s grand mufti called Samhan an enemy of religion for the collection, which included lines comparing the poet’s loneliness to that of the prophet Yusuf in the Quran.

This anti-poetic fervor has even affected renowned Palestinian-Jordanian poet Ibrahim Nasrallah. In June 2006, Nasrallah’s fourth collection of poetry, Nu’man Yastariddu Lawnahu (Anemone Regains Its Color), first published in 1984, was suddenly banned in Jordan. Nasrallah faced charges of insulting the state, inciting dissension and reporting inaccurate information to future generations. If convicted, he could have faced three years in prison.