OUTRAGING for Mohammed al-Ajami

THE REVOLUTIONARY POETS BRIGADE responds to the life sentence given to Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami and other forms of censorship, by presenting: OUTRAGING FOR MOHAMMED AL-AJAMI

Poetry — Music — A Gathering — Drinks and refreshments available — Come one come all!

Among the readers: Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Dee Allen, Mahnaz Badihian, Judith Ayn Bernhard, Kristina Brown, James Byron, Neeli Cherkovski, Bobby Coleman, John Curl, Carol Denney, Steven Gray, Richard Gross, Martin Hickel, Marc Kockinos, Jessica Loos, Rosemary Manno, Sarah Page, Maketa Smith-Groves, David Volpendesta.

Mohammed al-Ajami is a Qatari poet arrested in 2011 on state security charges. Prior to his arrest, he was a literature student at Cairo University. On 29 November 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Al-Ajami was summoned to meet with state security officials on 16 November 2011 in Doha, and was arrested when he arrived for the meeting. He was charged with insulting Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and “inciting to overthrow the ruling system”. Under Qatari law, the latter charge is punishable by death. As of 29 October 2012, al-Ajami’s trial had been postponed five times; he also spent five months in solitary confinement.

On 29 November 2012, al-Ajami’s lawyer, Najeeb al-Nauimi, reported that al-Ajami had been sentenced to life imprisonment in a secret trial. The court heard testimony from three poetry experts employed by the government ministries of education and culture, who stated that al-Ajami’s poem had insulted the emir and his son. While confessing authorship of the poem, al-Ajami stated that he had not intended for it to be insulting, calling the emir “a good man”. The Associated Press described al-Ajami’s sentence as “the latest blow from a widening clampdown on perceived dissent across the Gulf Arab states.” Al-Nauimi also accused authorities of procedural irregularities including evidence tampering, allegations which Attorney General Ali bin Fetais al-Marri denied.

The precise basis for the charges was not publicly known. Amnesty International reported in October 2012 that the charges appeared to be related to a 2010 poem in which al-Ajami criticized the emir. Other activists believed the charges to stem from his poem “Tunisian Jasmine”, which stated “we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive”, referring to the Tunisian revolution which began the region-wide Arab Spring. BBC News reported that al-Ajami had read a poem criticizing Arab rulers before a private audience in his home, which an audience member then posted online.

More info: Democracy Now, Wikipedia

In conjunction with this event, the public is invited to join ENCOURAGED — a conversation with Bobby Coleman and Mishana Hosseinioun about encouraging social change from a place of calm courage rather than outrage. This part of the evening will begin at around 8:30 pm.

Bobby Coleman, a graduate of Columbia and Stanford, is a dedicated poet, activist, public interest attorney, and pioneer progressive MBA working with the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, and the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.

Bay Area-native Mishana Hosseinioun is a graduate of UC Berkeley and a scholar of International Relations and the Middle East at Oxford University. She and a team of expert international lawyers are leading efforts to help secure the rights of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi who has been held in arbitrary incommunicado detention in Libya for the last 15 months following the 2011 NATO-backed rebellion which overturned the Gaddafi regime.

Friday January 25, 2013. Doors 7 pm. Event begins around 7:30 pm.
Free and open to the public

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