Via the always excellent Arab Literature (in English):
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.
Watch an interview with Fayadh’s father on France 24
Mona Kareem’s Global Voices report on Fayadh’s detention
Catalogue of exhibition Ashraf Fayyadh co-curated at the 55th Venice biennale in 2013
Petition for Fayadh’s release, on Jadaliyya
The poem “Frida Kahlo’s Moustache” (Arabic)
In Vice: “The Saudi Arabian Artist in Jail For Having Long Hair“
Comment on “One Year Without Charges: Poet Ashraf Fayadh”
Maybe PEN should worry more about the illegitimate imprisonment of artists as opposed to the alleged surveillance of same. If the U.S., Canada, England, Australia or the fifth ‘Eye’, New Zealand is covertly reading my work or anything else I might be up to, I yawn. If Putin is reading it, I yawn too as I live in Canada not Russia or Saudi Arabia.
If Ashraf Fayadh’s only offence was to insult “the Godly self” and sport “long hair,” at worst they should have deported him back to Palestine, if that is a legitimate penalty for a legitimate crime in Saudi Arabia. Who knows what passes for crimes in a country where Wahhabism rules. Neither Palestine nor Saudi Arabia is democratic or free in the sense that I enjoy it though. I can only assume Fayadh chose Saudi Arabia over Palestine for a reason. Artistic freedom could not have been high on his list of reasons.
I am not even sure what the “Godly self” actually is but am confident that I insult it with some regularity. I also sport long hair. There is no penalty here for that. There is no penalty for the “Godly self” either though not knowing what it is makes it hard to be sure. I’m pretty sure. If all Ashraf Fayadh is guilty of is his work or his opinion, he is innocent. If there is something else, they should say.
Isn’t Palestine doing anything to get him back? Surely they would be the first to act or am I missing something.