Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been in jail in Saudi for nearly two years for spreading atheism, insulting the Godly self, and having ideas that threaten Saudi society, has now been sentenced to death:
Fayadh was jailed in January 2014, charged based on a complaint from a reader about Fayadh’s 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within. Fayadh told The Guardian the complaint arose from a personal dispute with another artist during a discussion about contemporary art in a cafe in Abha.
It was Tuesday when a Saudi court on Tuesday ordered Fayadh’s execution. The poet has also curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. According to The Guardian, Fayadh does not have legal representation, and has just 30 days to appeal against the ruling.
Fayadh is a leading member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia. The Guardian writes that he was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, Saudi, in May 2014. “But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried last month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.”
As journalist-activist Mona Kareem, who has led a campaign to free Fayadh, writes:
Kareem told The Guardian: “He was unable to assign a lawyer because his ID was confiscated when he was arrested [in January 2014]. Then they said you must have a retrial and we’ll change the prosecutor and the judges. The new judge didn’t even talk to him, he just made the verdict.”
This was not the first time Fayadh had found himself in trouble with Saudi authorities. The Palestinian 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.” Some suggest he is being punished for posting a video online showing the religious police lashing a man in public.
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.” A number of Saudi writers and citizens also condemned Fayadh’s arrest.
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.