A poet wrote a poem, set words to paper. His recital was posted on public media and now Mohammed al-Ajami has been sentenced to life in prison. All of this because he wrote a poem that caused the emir of Qatar to get his robes in a bunch. So they had a trial in Qatar for the poet, who wasn’t permitted to attend and had three government poetry experts from the ministries of culture and education testify that the poem was offensive to the emir and the government of Qatar. (Government experts and poetry don’t seem to be likely companions).
This is the Qatar that is going to hold free and open parliamentary elections in 2013, that runs the cable network Al-Jazeera that reports on human rights violations. Al-Ajami wrote a poem, Tunisian Jasmine that was found to insult Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and inciting to overthrow the ruling system in Qatar. The poem written in support of the Arab Spring and lauded for it’s broad criticism of repressive governments in the gulf region contained the line, “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elite”, enough in Qatar to land a poet in jail for life.
Al-Ajami hasn’t seen his wife and children in over a year. He actually described Al Thani as not having a dark heart like Saddam and Gaddafi and put the blame on those around Al Thani who want to please him. I have an idea. All those aides who want to please the emir should pull out his robes, straighten them out and set the poet Mohammed al-Ajami free. Words are powerful and if Qatar is going to peacefully move to a free society they had better get use to the freedom of expression.
-g emil reutter