Release Qatari Poet Mohammed Ibn Al Ajami

We, the undersigned, including poets, men and women writing, performing and reciting poetry in all corners of the world, urge the Secretary of State or Foreign Minister of our respective countries to appeal to the Qatari Court for the immediate release of our colleague, Qatari poet Mohammed Ibn Al Ajami, who after spending a year in solitary confinement, on November 29, 2012 was sentenced to life in prison by the Qatari courts.

Mohammed Ibn Al Ajami’s crime consisted of reciting on November 16, 2011 a poem extolling the courage and values of the popular uprisings in Tunisia, /Oh revolutionary, sing the praises of the struggle with the blood of the people/ in the soul of the free carve the values of revolt/ and to those holding the shroud of the dead tell/ that every victory also bears its ordeals/.

According to the poet's lawyer, Najib al-Nuaimi, the judge made the whole trial secret [..]"Muhammad was not allowed to defend himself, and I was not allowed to plead or defend in court. I told the judge that I need to defend my client in front of an open court, and he stopped me."

Rather than making itself an instrument for cracking down on dissent, we believe that the Court should uphold Mohammed Ibn Al Ajami’s right to free speech.  In the tradition of speaking truth to power, following the footsteps of such great poets as Pablo Neruda, Majakovski, Nazim Hikmet, Mahmoud Darwish, Faraj Bayraqdar and innumerable others throughout the world today, such as Colombia’s poet Angye Gaona, Mohamed Ibn Al Ajami placed his poetic talent to the service of a movement for change. The poem he recited called for an end to intolerable conditions, a demand that for the past two years has been aired by millions throughout North Africa and the Arab world.

In this spirit, we poets and non-poets who perceive the need for worldwide change at the social, political and ecological level, call on the Court to review the appeal, stop siding with repression and lend its ear to the movements that have sprung up all over the world for dignity, social justice and freedom, virtues that poets all over the world are endeavoring to voice and deliver using the beauty and power of poetry.

Update: The sentence has been reduced to 15 years, and that ruling has been upheld on appeal. We continue to demand immediate release.

Embassy of the State of Qatar

2555 M. Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037-1305
US

Embassy of Qatar in Italy

14 Via Antonio Bosio Nomentana
Rome, 00161
IT

Embassy of Qatar in Spain

Paseo de la Castellana 15, Plantas 5a y 6a
Madrid, 28046
ES

Embassy of Qatar in India

EP-31A, Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi, 110021
IN

Embassy of Qatar in Egypt

Al-Thimar Street 10
Al Mohandisseen
Cairo,
EG

First signatories:
Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, co-founders 100 Thousand Poets for Change
Michael McClure, Poet/ Playwright, USA
Sam Hamill, Poets Against War, USA
Sarah Browning, Split This Rock, USA
PEN American Center
Code Pink
Abraham Entin-Move To Amend Sonoma County, founder
Susan Lamont-Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, coordinator
Philip Levine, United States Poet Laureate (2011-2012)
Ron Silliman, Poet/Silliman's Blog
Alice Walker, USA
Pina Piccolo, 100 Thousand Poets for Change-Bologna
Roberto Malini, Genoa, Italy
Naomi Shihab Nye, USA
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, USA
Sergio Rotino, Italy
Adam Vaccaro, Milanocosa, Italy
Steed Gamero, Peru/Italy
Rebeca Covaciu, Italy
Alessandro Brusa, Italy
Shailja Patel, USA/Kenya
El Habib Louai, Morocco
Natalia Molebatsi, Azania
raphael d’abdon, Azania/Italy
Jack Hirschman, San Francisco, USA
Agneta Falk-Hirschman, San Francisco, USA
Gabor Gyukics, Budapest, Hungary
Karam Youssef, Cairo, Egypt
Kristaq Shabani, President of the I.A.P.W.A "Pegasi" Albania
Robert Priest, Toronto, Canada
Eliot Katz, Hoboken, N.J., USA
Lance Henson, Cheyenne/USA
Ipat Ciuraro, Italy
Fabio Petronelli, Italy
Alexéi Tellerías Díaz, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Betty Esperanza, Montreal, Canada
Alfredo Gonzalez-Baranquilla, Colombia
Nana Nestoros,Volos, Greece
Mariposa de la Rocio, Montevideo, Uruguay
Chapal Saha-Bogra, Bangladesh
Bart Plantenga, The Netherlands
Elliis Ebakor, Nigeria
Pilar Rodríguez Aranda, Mexico City, Mexico
Dean Johnson, Birkenhead, United Kingdom Songwriter/Playwright
Karim Metref, Italy
Antar Mohamed Marincola, 100 Thousand Poets for Change-Bologna, Italy
Mohamed Malih, Italy
Gassid Babilonia, 100 Thousand Poets for Change-Bologna, Italy
Paul Polansky, Serbia
Ed Warner-Poesia, Italy
Marina Mazzolani, 100 Thousand Poets for Change-Bologna, Italy
Patricia Quezada, 100 Thousand Poets for Change- Bologna, Italy
Andrea Garbin, poesiadalsottosuolo, Italy
Chris Abani, USA
Martín Espada, USA
Teresa Mei Chuc, USA
Marcia Lynx Qualey, Cairo, Egypt
Khaled Mattawa, poet USA/Libya
Fady Joudah, USA
Glenys Robinson, UK/Italy
Mitko Gogov, Strumica, Macedonia
RootsAction
Dennis Formento, New Orleans, LA, USA
Carolyn Forché, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA
Patricia Smith, USA
Menka Shivdasani, Mumbai, India
Jerome Rothenberg, USA
Rabii El Gamrani, Italy
Francisco X. Alarcon, USA

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