‘Christ in Yarmouk’

Translator Fawaz Azem brings us another poem from young Syrian-Palestinian poet Dima Yousf. 

Dima Yousf
Dima Yousf

Azem notes that the Yarmouk Camp is a Palestinian community established outside Damascus in 1957. It has been largely cut off from the outside world since last July, blockaded by the Syrian regime, and The Guardian noted on April 19 that the food was “about to run out.” According to the paper, relief agencies have said this crisis is “unprecedented in living memory.” The UN has renewed their warnings of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

Yousf, born in 1986, graduated from Damascus University with a degree in Arabic literature and a teaching diploma. She teaches Arabic in Damascus schools, and is pursuing a graduate degree “but with a stay of execution.”  A recent post on her Facebook page reads “I have so many stories to tell, if I survive.”

Christ in Yarmouk

By Dima Yousf, trans. Fawaz Azem

Embrace your cross lovingly and go!
Ignore the sting of the whips on your back,
and don’t grimace on account of your lacerated wounds.
The wreath of thorns on your head
declares that you have been chosen
to endure this experience.
Just feel the faith in your chest,
and, if you find it,
say: “I, too, am a Christ,
follow me!”

Fawaz Azem served for 26 yrs in the UN Arabic Language Services, first in the Arabic Translation Service, 1976-1982, and the remaining years in the Arabic Interpretation Section, 1982-2002. Since then, he’s been working as a free-lance Arabic interpreter and translator with the UN and private entities. He is based in New York.

Also from Dima Yousf:

‘Thank You, Bullet That Claimed Father’s Life…’

‘Voices from the Syrian Tragedy’: Three New Poems


Refugee poet remembers Yarmouk, the “capital of the Palestinian diaspora”:

“Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian born and raised in Syria, has posted footage of his moving one-man performance The Eternal Refugee, recorded at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow,Scotland in October 2013.

“The show reflects on life in Yarmouk refugee camp, where, according to Hayatleh, “the scent of Galilean thyme mingled with Damascus jasmine” and Palestinians and Syrians lived side-by-side.”

Also worth reading on Syria:

Paper Bird: What to do about Syria

“I hate to see moral solemnity go to waste, though. There are practical things that an earnest leftist could do about Syria, if she wants to, rather than sitting around expressing solidarity to the void.”

If you’re in Chicago, at Loyola University:



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