Over 500 Poets and Writers Sign Letter of Support for Ashraf Fayadh

Over 500 poets and writers from around the world have signed a letter calling for the immediate release of Palestinian poet, artist, and curator Ashraf Fayadh, given a death sentence in Saudi Arabia for his supposedly anti-religious poems:

Photo from English PEN.
Photo from English PEN.

Among those signing the letter are many of the world’s leading writers, including Adonis, Paul Muldoon, Charles Simić, John Ashbery, Ghassan Zaqtan, Golan Haji, Manal Al-Sheikh, Najwan Darwish, Ahmed Al-Mulla Mohamed Bennis, Amir Or, Ghayath Almadhoun, Carol Ann Duffy, George Szirtes, and Simon Schama.

Fayadh has just 30 days to appeal his sentence.

English PEN “has also been joined by more than 60 cultural and human rights organisations from across the globe in a letter to the Saudi authorities calling for the release of Fayadh and others detained in Saudi Arabia in violation of their right to freedom of expression.”

Fayadh was first detained in August 2013 in relation to his collection of poems Instructions Within, after a Saudi citizen submitted a complaint to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. He was released on bail but rearrested in January 2014. He was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, Saudi, in May 2014, but he was retried last month and a death sentence was handed down.

The letter from poets, in part:

We, poets and writers from around the world, are appalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy.

It is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Every individual has the freedom to believe or not believe. Freedom of conscience is an essential human right.

The death sentence against Fayadh is the latest example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s lack of tolerance for freedom of expression and ongoing persecution of free thinkers.

We, Fayadh’s fellow poets and writers, urge the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

You can also sign the letter. 

Activist Mona Kareem has translated some of Fayadh’s work.