ASHRAF FAYADH Never Forgotten!

ASHRAF FAYADH Never Forgotten!


What do we really know about a country like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with its royalty (the House of Al Saud) and its sand dunes and its enormous wealth (and poverty) seen often from the cold wet streets of a working class Europe still wanting to bury its own poverty (and wealth) behind ghetto walls, tax breaks for the rich and government press releases…?


…And while we ourselves here, likewise, even though we are sitting at the precarious  edge of the beautiful Atlantic ocean, continue to be confronted by this shameful and hypocritical impoverishment hidden now mostly in the shadows cast by our delusions of grandeur (or of neoliberal ‘normality’), truth be told we also have had our hearts and minds (our bodies long ago) sold to International Finance, this ruthless whore, though now by “marriage” as opposed to walking the streets in despair, as George Bernard Shaw righteously pointed out.


All this by way of a reflection on hearts and wounds and offenses, reading the latest poem to have flown free of the prison cell holding Ashraf Fayadh, in Abha, Saudia Arabia:


And all the other stories… that have never ceased happening

since I offended you with obscene words…the last time…”


What will be of a failed lover like me?

And how will I look at myself in the mirror… twenty years from now

let’s say?

How will I see myself?”


“It’s about my heart

Which still is and shall continue to remain a scared child looking for answers

satisfactory ones… to put a stop to his naive questions about a world

that could countenance ugliness!!”


And are not the best of us, at heart, scared children looking for answers…about a world “that could countenance” such “ugliness”?


Though we now are hearing that under crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, reports of change, of reform are coming to the Saudi Kingdom, notwithstanding the situation of Ashraf, and others like him, condemned to linger behind walls and bars and prison guards…


But the other stories, the ugly ones, like Fayadh’s itself, are usually grim: prisons, whips, hanging, beheading, Saudi Arabia is executing people at breakneck speed….Saudi Arabia has executed 48 people in the past four months, half on non-violent drug charges and now quite frequently, in addition, bombing innocent civilians in the Yemen…


…it seems then you can’t buy a heart with the black gold you pump out of the sand to feed the restlessness of westerners crazy enough to be driven to flee endlessly from no obvious enemy at a hundred miles an hour on long highways and freeways that eventually go nowhere.


….You can’t tell them that heart is all that matters…in the end…


So now, in 2018, under the direction of the 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, sure there is talk of reform, largely distrusted, as the Kingdom has a track record of institutionalising privilege with all the human rights violations that that comes with. Still there is talk of reform, including regulations restricting the powers of the religious police (“The religious police may only work during office hours, cannot detain or make arrests, and may only submit reports to civil authorities. In addition, the Mutaween can no longer restrict women from driving, nor can they prohibit women from attending sporting events…”). In the cultural area there was the first Saudi public concerts by a female singer, and the first Saudi sports stadium to admit women. There is also talk of cinemas promised to open soon


Human Rights Watch doesn’t think much of this though: “For behind the image of a daring reformer, carefully cultivated by the Saudi Crown Prince, hides a dark reality. In fact, he is a leader with an iron hand who despite facade reforms has plunged his country into increased repression and leads a now-three-year war in Yemen rife with war crimes.”


Still imprisoned, despite countless calls for his release, Ashraf Fayadh might agree (if the price of free speech in some places was not your head):


I saw my father for the last time through thick glass

then he departed, for good.

Because of me, let’s say.

Let us say because he could not bear the thought

I’d die before him.

My father died and left death to besiege me

without it frightening me sufficiently.

Why does death scare us to death?

My father departed after a long time

spent on the surface of this planet.

I didn’t say farewell as I should have

nor grieve for him as I should have

and was incapable of tears,

as is my habit, which grows uglier with time.”


Nonetheless as both Human Rights Watch and Wikipedia point out, the Crown Prince continues to arrest and imprison human rights activists, ruthlessly as well as mercilessly bomb the Yemen, (so far an estimated 6,100 civilians dead and 9,683 wounded); most of the deaths have been from air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition that caused death and destruction in markets, hospitals, mosques, and schools.. Attacks have struck buildings hosting weddings and funerals:

“Despite promised reforms, the arrests and persecutions rate of human rights activists have risen under Mohammad bin Salman. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to criticize the Saudi government for its violations of human rights.”


So what do we really know?


Not that it bothers those who benefit from the lucrative sales of weapons to the Kingdom, yet one piece of the outrageous that that has made its way through the mirage and carelessness of distance and all our cultural differences and that may well not be of any importance to the Crown Prince but which we hold close to our own hearts continues to be the fate of this Palestinian-in-exile poet Ashraf Fayadh….


…if for no other reason than the enormous if broken heart he has shared with us in the small collection of poems we have got our hands on…


…fuck it, a beating heart has to be worth more than a tribal dowry in oil-wells, hands on heart…(heart again) even if to state this is a little before its time, in a world littered with small and large cruelties..?


And so as he faces yet another year of imprisonment  (as if  being Palestinian and stateless these days was not bad enough)…


The soldiers besiege me on all fronts

in uniforms of poor color.

Laws and regimes and statutes besiege me.

Sovereignty besieges me,

a highly concentrated instinct that living creatures cannot shake.

My loneliness besieges me.

My loneliness chokes me.

I am choked by depression, nervousness, worry.

Remorse, that I’m a member of the human race, kills me.”


…for this sensitive soul who has managed to write and make pictures of his experience but whose fate and destiny – despite escaping beheading, this-human-voice-in-the-wilderness, (and despite also the international calls calling out for his release) – takes its own twisted and meandering course now…


Global Rights has covered a number of instances of the lonely fate of this poet, like many others imprisoned unjustly like him, if only to let him know he is not alone:


Ashraf Fayadh’s Death Sentence Repealed; New Ruling Sentences Poet to 8 Years, 800 Lashes 


On World Poetry Day, Support Imprisoned Poets


Ashraf Fayadh: Hell on Earth


New Theatre: ‘The Several Beheadings of Ashraf Fayadh’


For Ashraf Fayadh Imprisoned




…All pieces in the jigsaw of hearts being broken in a world where so far the (hi)story of life on our planet is written mostly by the real “losers” (with their enormous contempt for life, for freedom, for creativity) – written, that is, in blood and cruelty rather than in words and poems and announcements of the world-to-come:

But life is not yet irreversible. Everywhere but in the World-to-Come, life is still dependent upon death, even though it is only through this contingency that death has been granted a body. As I have said, death does not want its body, and as it struggles to heal its wound and sink back into oblivion, it feels more intense pain, and its discomfort increases. Take care! There is great danger: the wound can still be healed…” (Isaac Golden, Auschwitz, January 1944, in Charles Haldeman’s The Sun’s Attendant, page 120)…


Make Noise & Beauty on July 28, a Day of Creativity for Ashraf Fayadh



‘It Was Another Year’s September’


Ashraf Fayadh, poet… NOT FORGOTTEN




…as if by throwing stones at the dark we could wake the world rudely and abruptly to this wound and confront its cruelty…?


The prophets have gone into retirement

so don’t expect any prophet to be sent your way for your sake.

For your sake the observers submit daily reports

and are paid high salaries.

How important money is

for the sake of a decent life!”

(The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants)


…Fayadh again


Ashraf Fayadh was 36 year old when he was arrested in August  2013   for  promoting   atheism and blasphemous ideas among young people. Released but rearrested in January 2014 he was charged again with spreading atheist thought via his poetry.    An initial sentence of four years  in  prison  and  800  lashes  was appealed as too lenient and  the appeal court decided to sentence him to death by beheading.


After an international campaign, his death sentence was overturned and he was given a prison sentence of 8 years plus 800 lashes on 2 February 2016.  More than 2 years later, despite ongoing calls for his release, Fayadh is still in prison.


In December, 2017 Ashraf’s family put out a call to revamp the campaign to free Ashraf and there was hope that he would be successful in securing an appeal against his sentence.


The righteous people at (and La Macchina Sognante) are working to support the family in this.


If we look around we have to wonder why there is so little scarcity when it comes to ignorance and darkness, cruelty and war, exploitation and oppression – and that, despite all wars and revolutions and Arab Springs and all our economic and technological development.  So we are left still wondering when the World-to-Come will arrive, a world fit for all beings and one where we might manage to explore what it could mean to take the next step in our evolution (revolution?) towards “humanity”…


And so, in amidst the countless masks that poets assume (to get their backs scratched in return, of course) there is this one irreplaceable, unmovable, and sanctified task and that is (despite the many dangers involved) – to be this one voice that stands up for Life, even if the Emperor (or the Crown Prince or some resentful lout in a noisy cafe) does not have any clothes, what-the-fuck, the task of speaking out the truth of the word that cannot be lied to indefinitely, tortured beyond recognition, hidden in darkness, or brutalised into the forgetfulness of death as has happened to so many, like Ashraf Fayadh-behind bars….so many…


We can all hope that the Saudi ruling regime will begin to treat all it’s citizens as worthy of equality and respect and all the other things that will make the future fit for our children, the ones we keep on bringing into this fucked-up world – but I wouldn’t hold my breath…nor wait…


And so we are left hanging on, as long as there is at least one human being of integrity whose voice cries out…then we have a responsibility to hang on…


And while we wait (with all the comrades lost in darkness and dungeons the world over) here now is an “experimental” and a provisional call to the barricades of the human heart…


Addressed to all, including, of course, with enormous respect, his Excellency Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as well as all those with a faith in keys and dungeons, despair and darkness…


…once more…just to tell the world that Ashraf Fayadh is NOT forgotten, along with the many other prisoners of conscience whose only crime was to offend the easily offended, here is, finally, the new poem, translated by  Pina Piccolo, the Italian American poet-of-the-forgotten…


We are happy to have been allowed to republish it here, if for no other reason  than to tell the world






…Ashraf Fayadh


A blue ball pen

A black marker

Colors that are a clear declaration… in strong tones

I finished this picture long ago

but I no longer care to hang it anywhere

as far as my spirit goes, my walls have disappeared,

after the wear and tear of being locked up

though the wall effect is cleaner than bars

and iron (which is good for your health).

You know well my position on painting

as expression…

And then the absence that followed it

And all the other stories… that have never ceased happening

since I offended you with obscene words… the last time.

I never stopped loving you

Even though I didn’t hang the picture

But the color red has become more complicated… than simple love.

Furthermore, things didn’t just end there,

it became a question of demonstrating the existence

of a principle… and the consequences of that principle… which

cost me dearly…

And I still wonder…. What will I have in exchange for the high price

I am continuing to pay?!

Losing you… for example,

and tearing Tom Waits’ picture

exactly when he was singing

(I miss your broken-china voice)

I still haven’t mastered describing your voice

or comparing it to something beautiful enough

to resemble the beauty of your voice.


is of no use

The painting is lost in the garbage of bad times

that are still afflicting me- powerlessness

and double oppression.

What will be of a failed lover like me?

And how will I look at myself in the mirror… twenty years from now

let’s say?

How will I see myself?


And how will I see you? Should cowardly coincidence

reunite us later?

I have not been well one day

and neither shall I be in the future.

It’s not about gray hairs

and not about wrinkles or the cruel signs of time

nor about the ailments of old age.

It’s about my heart

Which still is and shall continue to remain a scared child looking for answers

satisfactory ones… to put a stop to his naive questions about a world

that could countenance ugliness!!

I’ll leave the question to the dust… to erase the traces

of my books

which have increased my fear of the world

I’ll leave the question to oblivion behaving like an old smoker who has lung cancer.

I’ll end up being a planet

that has just rid itself of all life forms

that followed one another on its surface over millions of years

A planet whose sun has become completely extinguished

only to become a giant block…. of pure carbon


Its. Not. Over. Yet…by any means.


séamas carraher



Worldwide Reading for Ashraf – Denmark Copenhagen – Danish PEN and Amnesty International


Thanks to:

Pina Piccolo for her translation, published in The Dreaming Machine


I canti dell’Interregno” – Pina Piccolo’s poetry book, was published in Italian some months back…


Ashraf Fayadh’s artwork shown on The Dreaming Machine in the photo gallery is, apparently, also available for purchase.

For additional information, please contact:


Campaign to Free Ashraf

Pen International

English Pen

Amnesty International



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