Qatari poet Muhammad al-Ajami — who was the target of an international solidarity movement because of his 15-year prison sentence — has been pardoned, according to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
Al Ajami’s release reportedly came through “intercession of Khalid Bin Rakan Al Ajami, the chief of the tribe of which the poet is a member” and “through civil society groups working with his family,” according to Gulf News and The Associated Press.
Ultimately, al-Ajami received a royal pardon from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari emir.
The Associated Press reported that the “poet’s lawyer, Najeeb Al Nuaimi, said he has not had any contact with Mr Al Ajami since his release.”
According to Doha News, reaction inside Qatar was mixed.
An Amnesty International statement added that the terms of al-Ajami’s release were unclear. From a release:
It is essential that the authorities do not impose conditions on (the) peaceful exercise of his rights, including his right to freedom of expression. Prisoners of conscience should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the YouTube publication of his “Tunisian Jasmine,” a poem that praised Arab uprisings and criticised governments across the region. The poet was initially sentenced to life in prison on November 29, 2012 for “inciting overthrow of the regime.” The sentence was appealed and the court reduced it to 15 years the following February.
His arrest led a group of translators and novelists to call on colleagues to withdraw from a conference in Qatar earlier this year.
Jasmine Revolution Poem
By Mohammad al-Ajami Ibn al-Dheeb
In free translation by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, initially read at an event in support of the poet in San Francisco.
Prime Minister, Mohamed al-Ghannouchi:
If we measured your might
it wouldn’t hold a candle
to a constitution.
We shed no tears for Ben Ali,
nor any for his reign.
It was nothing more than a moment
in time for us,
a system of oppression,
an era of autocracy.
Tunisia declared the people’s revolt:
When we lay blame
only the base and vile suffer from it;
and when we praise
we do so with all our hearts.
A revolution was kindled with the blood of the people:
their glory had worn away,
the glory of every living soul.
So, rebel, tell them,
tell them in a shrouded voice, a voice from the grave:
tell them that tragedies precede all victories.
A warning to the country whose ruler is ignorant,
whose ruler deems that power
comes from the American army.
A warning to the country
whose people starve
while the regime boasts of its prosperity.
A warning to the country whose citizens sleep:
one moment you have your rights,
the next they’re taken from you.
A warning to the system—inherited—of oppression.
How long have all of you been slaves
to one man’s selfish predilections?
How long will the people remain
ignorant of their own strength,
while a despot makes decrees and appointments,
the will of the people all but forgotten?
Why is it that a ruler’s decisions are carried out?
They’ll come back to haunt him
in a country willing
to rid itself of coercion.
Let him know, he
who pleases only himself, and does nothing
but vex his own people; let him know
someone else will be seated on that throne,
someone who knows the nation’s not his own,
nor the property of his children.
It belongs to the people, and its glories
are the glories of the people.
They gave their reply, and their voice was one,
and their fate, too, was one.
All of us are Tunisia
in the face of these oppressors.
The Arab regimes and those who rule them
are all, without exception,
without a single exception,
This question that keeps you up at night—
its answer won’t be found
on any of the official channels…
Why, why do these regimes
import everything from the West—
everything but the rule of law, that is,
and everything but freedom?