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Iowa City Unites for Reading in Support of Ashraf Fayadh

On Thursday January 14th, 2016, IWP joined dozens of literary organizations and hundreds of writers in a Worldwide Reading event, coordinated by the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin to draw attention to the dire situation of the Palestinian-born poet and curator Ashraf Fayadh.  A long-time resident of Saudi-Arabia, Fayadh was arrested in 2014 for “spreading blasphemous ideas among young people”; then, in November of 2015, together with dozens of other prisoners, he was placed on death row for “apostasy,” accused of spreading atheism through his writing, in particular in his poetry collection Instructions Within (which had been published in Beirut in 2008).

Associate Director Hugh Ferrer reads from Fayadh's work. Two dozen students, faculty, staffers and the Program’s friends gathered at the Shambaugh House, taking turns to read—in English, Arabic, and German—from several of Fayadh’s sharp, witty and poignant prose-poems, in the hope that adding our voice to so many others all over the world will contribute to the effort of saving his life, returning him to freedom, and ultimately challenging the premises under which he was jailed. Listen to the reading through the Virtual Writing University Archive.

From "The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants"


Being a refugee means standing at the end of the queue
to get a fraction of a country.
Standing is something your grandfather did, without knowing the reason.
And the fraction is you.
The country: a card you put in your wallet with your money.
Money: pieces of paper with pictures of leaders.
Pictures: they stand in for you until you go back.
Going back: a mythical creature that appears in your grandfather’s stories.
Here endeth the first lesson.
The lesson is conveyed to you so that you can learn the second lesson, which is “what do you signify?”



From Instructions Within (2008), translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.



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