Yesterday at the United Nations, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, read a poem by Ashraf Fayadh — the Palestinian poet serving eight years and 800 lashes in Saudi Arabia — before the delegation from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Human Rights Council:
According to a statement published online by IHEU:
O’Casey said she was using her statement during a debate on ‘human rights situations of concern’, to speak the words of Fayadh himself, since he is banned from speaking them in Saudi Arabia, where he lives.
“Not only did we want to raise his case and give him a voice,” O’Casey said, “but we were also keen to see whether Saudi Arabia would tolerate ‘blasphemous’ words they have punished so severely at home, being spoken uninterrupted at the UN.”
UN Human Rights Council, 32nd Session (13th June – 1st July 2016)
General Debate on Item 4 – Human Rights Situations of Concern
Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinain poet who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia – a country where atheists are legally defined as terrorists. He was accused of “spreading atheism”, of insulting “the divine self”, and objecting to concepts of fate as acts of God. He was also linked to exposing brutality by the Saudi religious police.
For this, he was sentenced to death for “apostasy”, to be carried out via beheading by sword. Earlier this year, Fayadh’s death sentence was overturned, and he was re-sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.
We have of course, raised Fayadh’s case with this Council before, as we have been raising, like many, the cases of Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair, Ali al-Nimr and others
And many times argued that, as a member of this Council, the pre-eminent body tasked with protecting and promoting human rights, Saudi Arabia has a clear and uncompromising responsibility to uphold and respect the highest standards of human rights.
But our arguments and words have fallen on deaf ears.
There has been no change.
So, instead we end this statement today with Fayadh’s own words; the words for which he is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, and for some time threatened with state murder.
Since Ashraf Fayadh cannot speak them at home, I trust I can read them here, in the very forum created to promote all rights – including freedom of expression and belief – universally and unashamedly with the freedom Fayadh himself deserves as a human being just seeking to add a little reason and beauty to the world.
| Prophets have retired
so do not wait, for a prophet to be resurrected for you.
And for you,
for you the observers bring their daily reports
and earn their high wages.
How much money is necessary
for a life of dignity.
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in English:
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: ‘The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants’, translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: ‘A Melancholy Made of Dough,’ translated by Tariq Alhaydar
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: Four Short Poems, translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “A Space in the Void,” translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “On the Virtues of Oil over Blood” translated by Mona Zaki
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “The Name of a Masculine Dream” translated by Mona Zaki
Inspired by Ashraf Fayadh
Youssef Rakha, uncollected: ‘Listen Ashraf,’ translated by Robin Moger
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in French
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Spanish
Ashraf Fayadh, from Las instrucciones están adentro, “Los últimos descendientes de los Refugiados,” Del árabe al español: Shadi Rohana y Lawrence Schimel
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Finnish
Ašraf Fayyad, from Instructions Within, “Pakolaisten Viimeinen Jälkeläinen,” suomennos: Sampsa Peltonen
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Turkish
In Turkish Translation, Eşref Feyyâd’s ‘Hikmet’ and Other Poems
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Nepali
Click HERE to read more