LALIT is one of the organizations that is collaborating with Ledikasyon pu Travayer for the Port Louis edition of the “World-wide Reading” in solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh, the young Palestine refugee poet condemned to death by the criminal regime, in Saudi Arabia. Just at a time when the regime has perpetrated a mass execution, 47 men -- by either beheaded or killed by firing squad, it has not been announced – the Mauritian Government is setting up an Embassy in Riyadh.
Meanwhile, a 35-year old poet and art curator, Ashraf Fayadh, has been sentenced to death for apostasy, or blasphemy, on completely ephemeral charges. His poems are mostly reflections on what it is to be a refugee. But in dictatorships like the House of Saud, death sentences come after bizarre accusations, in undemocratic courts, and carried out often by beheading, in some cases, in public.
This means that many issues come together for the reading that LPT is organizing with the support of the Idriss Goomany Centre , MLF (Muvman Liberasyon Fam), LALIT, and the CTSP, at Grand River North West, Port Louis, at 5:30 pm on Thursday 14 January.
When an art curator like Ashraf succeeds in bringing contemporary Saudi art to the world stage, together with the Tate Modern, he, too, falls foul of the regime that so blatantly stifles both free expression and freedom of conscience. And in Saudi Arabia, this can bring down the death penalty. So, the issues are multiple:
1. Save the life of Ashraf Fayadh, and all those threatened with this barbaric punishment, in Saudi Arabia, the US and China, for a start.
2. Free Ashraf Fayadh, and all those incarcerated for free expression and freedom of conscience in Saudi Arabia.
3. The UN must at once suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council, until it shows a modicum of respect for civil liberties. The abomination of Saudi Arabia’s election is linked, as the Wikileaks cables showed, to a secret vote-trading with the UK.
4. The US and Europe, for a start, must stop the weapons deals that keep their oil flows.
5. Ashraf Fayadh also reminds us of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians, often hounded off their land by the Israeli State and its henchmen in para-military settler groups.
6. In all the outrage against the ISIS (Islamic State) expressed by US and European leaders recently, there is a much-covered-up element: the role of Saudi Arabia in the engendering of the IS. In fact, Saudi Arabia beheaded more people than the IS in 2015.
7. We call on the Mauritian Government to halt its bid to set up an Embassy until Saudi Arabia changes its repressive rule, and we call on the US and UK, in particular, to put an end to their on-going military and socio-political support.
So, in LALIT we are proud to be part of the world-wide reading to save Ashraf Fayadh, and bring his unconditional freedom. We appreciate the Berlin Literature Festival’s initiative in co-ordinating this. LALIT knows about the festival through our member, Lindsey Collen, who was a guest writer there are few years ago. Other organizations doing fine work to free Ashraf include Amnesty International, PEN (which also supported Lindsey Collen when she was under threat) and the Avaaz team.
We believe that everyone has freedom of conscience, and is free to join or leave any religion or all religions. We believe that the authorities in accusing him of apostasy for his poetry anthology published in 2008, “Instructions Within”, is just an excuse to clamp down on a bold and free young poet, and a creative curator. The Saudi Authorities, just to show their nature, also accuse him of having photographs of women (his friends, it turns out) on his mobile phone.
So here are the details for Mauritius. You will notice that the readings are in three languages!
Thursday 14 Jan 2016.
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Gran Rivyer Nord Wes, Port Louis, at LPT’s building in THE BOOK LOVER.
Here is the program.
The value of this kind of world wide support is that it has many effects. The very first one is that Ashraf has been given permission to make an Appeal.