Poetry News

Qatari Poet Gets Life in Prison for Satire

By Harriet Staff

From the BBC:

A Qatari poet has been sentenced to life in prison for inciting the overthrow of the government of Qatar and insulting the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his son, the crown prince, reports say.

The verdict is likely to prove an embarrassment for Qatar which has worked hard to cultivate a progressive, modern image, and is currently playing host to a major international climate change conference.

The charges relate to a poem that 37-year-old Mohammed al-Ajami, a father of four, recited in 2010 before a small, private audience in his flat in Egypt. One audience member subsequently posted the poem online.

In the Arab world it is customary for poets to praise those in power. Mohammed al-Ajami's poetry is generally liberal and satirical, supporting the Arab Spring, while poking fun at religion and Arab rulers generally.

But he was arrested in Doha on 16 November last year and, some two weeks later, he was transferred to the central prison.

He has remained there since, spending five months in solitary confinement with no access to books, television or writing material.

It was only in September that his friends and family say they found out what had happened to him and where he was.

al-Ajami had this to say:

"I am a poet. I have done nothing wrong. Now I haven't seen my wife and children for one year," he said.

"We have a good country and a good man. The emir is not Saddam or Gaddafi. He doesn't have a black heart but he is surrounded by those who want to please him."

Asked if he had a message for the emir, al-Ajami said: "This is not supposed to happen to me or any other person in Qatar. I deserve your help more than the people outside my country."

Full article here.

Originally Published: November 30th, 2012