Poetry, ‘A More Serious Crime Than Murder’

Once again from the Arabic Literature (in English) website:

Poetry, ‘A More Serious Crime Than Murder’

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It hasn’t been a good few weeks for Arabic-writing poets. In Qatar, Muhammad al-Ajami remains in prison. In Iran, poet Hashem Shaabani, who published both in Persian and in Arabic, was  executed for being an enemy of God and the state, according to rights groups. In Egypt, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) declared that “writing poetry became a more serious crimt than murder” afer two police officers were suspended for their poems:

egy_policeAlthough Sameh Abdel-Zaher and Sameh Al-Saeedi were suspended for critical poems, ANHRI noted that “the Ministry of Interior refused to suspend those officers who are accused of killing scores of citizens, such as the officers in Alexandria, including Wael Al-Komi, and allowed them to resume their work or to transfer them to another places.”

ANHRI wrote in a prepared release:

Apparently, murder charge has become a violation that doesn’t necessitate suspension or preventive detention. Meanwhile, writing poetry has become a crime that necessitates breaking the pens of whoever write and suspending them.

In Iran, Arab-Iranian poet Shaabani and another man, Hadi Rashedi, were reportedly hanged in unidentified prison on January 27. According to Amir Taheri, writing in al-Sharq al-Awsat, Shaabani mostly wrote non-political poetry. “One of his odes is Homage to Karoun, Iran’s largest and only navigable river; in another poem he speaks of ‘the blonde sun of Khuzestan.’” Taheri also writes that, although Shaabani was not allowed to publish during President Mohammad Khatami’s eight-year tenure, the poet “was not prevented from organizing public poetry recitals in Ahvaz and several other Khuzestani cities.”

Taheri also writes that Shaabani is the author of the poem “Seven Reasons Why I Should Die”:

Seven Reasons Why I Should Die
By Hashem Shaabani

For seven days they shouted at me:
You are waging war on God!
On Saturday, they said it’s because you’re Arab
On Sunday, Well, you’re from Ahvaz
On Monday: Remember that you are Iranian
Tuesday: You mock the Holy Revolution
Wednesday: Didn’t you raise your voice to help others?
Thursday: You are a poet and a bard
Friday: You are a man. Isn’t this reason enough to die?
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