As We Wait on al-Ajami’s Final Appeal, a New Translation of ‘Jasmine Revolution Poem’
A week and a half ago, a Qatari appeals court refused to overturn the sentence against poet Mohammad al-Ajami, instead reducing it from life to 15 years.
The country’s Supreme Court is set to make a final ruling within the month. You can still sign a petition urging the poet’s release, or contact a Qatari embassy or consulate.
Also, translator Kareem James Abu-Zaid tells me that, in January, he translated “VERY freely, I will admit!” a poem of al-Ajami’s for an event held in the Qatari poet’s honor in San Francisco, organized by the city’s former poet laureate Jack Hirschman. Other readers included Dee Allen, Mahnaz Badihian, Judith Ayn Bernhard, Kristina Brown, James Byron, Neeli Cherkovski, Bobby Coleman, John Curl, Carol Denney, Steven Gray, Richard Gross, Martin Hickel, Marc Kockinos, Jessica Loos, Rosemary Manno, Sarah Page, Maketa Smith-Groves, and David Volpendesta.
Jasmine Revolution Poem
By Mohammad al-Ajami Ibn al-Dhib
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?
Jack Hirschman also recited a poem about al-Ajami at the event, “Life Suicided, Life Sentenced.”