A Life Sentence for a Qatari Poet


The life sentence handed out to a poet in Qatar is an unsettling reminder to me of the last time I tried to speak up for a writer in prison. That was in 1995, when Ken Saro-Wiwa was being held by the government of Nigeria for his advocacy on behalf of his people in the oil-rich eastern region. A newspaper finally and belatedly published my small appeal, but by that time Saro-Wiwa was already dead, executed.

Now, today – not tomorrow or next week or next month – is the time for poets, writers of all kinds, anyone who believes that people cannot be free if words are not free to fax or write government officials in Qatar, asking for the release of Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami. You can find officials’ names and addresses here: http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/qatar-poet-sentenced-to-life-imprisonment-fears-for-safety/.

Reports vary on which poem landed this poet in prison, but no one seems to doubt that he was imprisoned for what he said as a poet.

So far, I see no evidence that governments, either the U.S. or any other, are condemning the imposition of this sentence, which so transparently violates international accords on human rights, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights.

When I asked the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee if any governments had lodged protests of this sentence, I received an email December 12 from Ghias Aljundi, the committee’s Middle East Research and Development Officer: “According to my knowledge, no ambassadors launched any protests. Unfortunately, Qatar is the little baby of the western and the US governments. Only human rights organisations have been protesting.”

Please join them.

Carol Polsgrove is author of Ending British Rule in Africa: Writers in a Common Cause.

November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate