Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh was arrested by Saudi authorities on January 1, 2014 — charged with “insulting the Godly self and having long hair” — and has yet to face trial:
For the last year, Fayadh has been detained in the Saudi city of Abha without clear legal charges beyond having “ideas that do not suit the Saudi society,” based on a reader’s complaint about Fayadh’s 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within.
The poet was also detained in the summer of 2013 after a Saudi citizen filed a complaint with the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, accusing Fayadh of having “misguided and misguiding thoughts.” At that time, Fayadh was released. But then, on New Year’s Day, he was re-arrested.
Last February, a hundred Arab writers and thinkers signed a petition condemning “these acts of intimidation targeting Ashraf Fayadh as part of a wider campaign inciting hate against writers and using Islam to justify oppression and to crush free speech.”
Many Saudis and others expressed solidarity on Twitter.
But after an initial hubbub around Fayadh’s arrest, there has largely been silence. In an effort to raise the volume again, activist-scholar Mona Kareem has started a translation movement. Emirati commentator Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi has translated the first section, “Asylum” from Fayadh’s Instructions Within:
Asylum: To stand at the end of a queue..
To be given a morsel of bread.
To stand!: Something your grandfather used to do.. Without knowing the reason why.
The Morsel?: You.
The homeland: A card to put in your wallet.
Money: Papers that carry images of Leaders.
The Photo: Your substitution pending your return.
And the Return: A mythological creature … from your grandmother’s tales.
End of the first lesson.
اللجوء: أن تقف في آخر الصف..
كي تحصل على كسرة وطن.
الوقوف: شيء كان يفعله جدك.. دون معرفة السبب!
الوطن: بطاقة توضع في محفظة النقود.
النقود: أوراق ترسم عليها صور الزعماء.
الصورة: تنوب عنك ريثما تعود.
والعودة: كائن أسطوري.. ورد في حكايات الجدة.
انتهى الدرس الأول.
If you’re interested in participating in any way, join the Facebook group Freedom for Ashraf Fayadh.
The poem “Frida Kahlo’s Moustache” (Arabic)