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Today at the United Nations, the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s (IHEU) director of advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, read out a poem that is banned in Saudi Arabia on the grounds of ‘apostasy.’ The poem was delivered iin front of the delegation from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Human Rights Council.

Ashraf Fayadh, poet imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for apostasy

Ashraf Fayadh, a poet imprisoned in Saudi Arabia

IHEU was highlighting the case of Palestinian poet, Ashraf Fayadh, who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia (for eight years, with 800 lashes) for ‘apostasy’. The charges include “spreading atheism” and insulting “the divine self”. O’Casey said she was using her statement during a debate on ‘human rights situations of concern’, to speak the words of Fayadh himself, since he is banned from speaking them in Saudi Arabia, where he lives.

When discussing the reasoning behind the statement, O’Casey said, “Not only did we want to raise his case and give him a voice, but we were also keen to see whether Saudi Arabia would tolerate ‘blasphemous’ words they have punished so severely at home, being spoken uninterrupted at the UN.”

Her statement, including one of Ashraf Fayadh’s poems, follows below in full.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 32nd Session (13th June – 1st July 2016)
General Debate on Item 4 – Human Rights Situations of Concern
Elizabeth O’Casey

Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinain poet who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia – a country where atheists are legally defined as terrorists. He was accused of “spreading atheism”, of insulting “the divine self”, and objecting to concepts of fate as acts of God. He was also linked to exposing brutality by the Saudi religious police.

For this, he was sentenced to death for “apostasy”, to be carried out via beheading by sword. Earlier this year, Fayadh’s death sentence was overturned, and he was re-sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

We have of course, raised Fayadh’s case with this Council before, as we have been raising, like many, the cases of Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair, Ali al-Nimr and others

And many times argued that, as a member of this Council, the pre-eminent body tasked with protecting and promoting human rights, Saudi Arabia has a clear and uncompromising responsibility to uphold and respect the highest standards of human rights.

But our arguments and words have fallen on deaf ears.

There has been no change.

So, instead we end this statement today with Fayadh’s own words; the words for which he is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, and for some time threatened with state murder.

Since Ashraf Fayadh cannot speak them at home, I trust I can read them here, in the very forum created to promote all rights – including freedom of expression and belief – universally and unashamedly with the freedom Fayadh himself deserves as a human being just seeking to add a little reason and beauty to the world.

Prophets have retired
so do not wait, for a prophet to be resurrected for you.
And for you,
for you the observers bring their daily reports
and earn their high wages.
How much money is necessary
for a life of dignity.

”الأنبياء تقاعدوا..
فلا تنتظروا نبيا يبعث لكم.. ومن أجلكم
من أجلكم يقدم المراقبون تقاريرَ يومية
ويتفاضون أجوراً عاليةً
كم هو المال ضروريٌ
من أجل حياة كريمة”


أشرف فياض شاعر فلسطيني يقبع حاليا في سجون المملكة السعودية، الدولة التي بنص القانون تجرم الملحدين، والأدهى من ذلكتعتبرهم إرهابيين. فياض إتهم ب ”نشر الإلحاد”، المس بالذات الإلهية، والإعتراض على القضاء والقدر والمشيئة الإلهية، كما نُسب له أيضا ”فضح وحشية الشرطة الدينية بالسعودية”

لأجل هذه التهم، تم الحكم عليه بالأعدام عن طريق قطع الرأس بالسيف. خلال الشهور الأخيرة من هذا العام، تم تغيير الحكم إلى 8 سنوات سجنا و 800 جلدة.

بطبيعة الحال، سبق ورفعنا قضية فياض أمام هذا المجلس، وأيضا قضايا عديدة أخرى كرائف بدوي، وليد أبو الخير، علي النمر، وأخرين.

كما سبق وأكدنا، أن هنالك دور يفرض حماية وتعزيز حقوق الإنسان على جميع أعضاء هذا المجلس، وبالتالي فإنه من مسؤولية السعودية أن تدعم وتحترم أعلى معايير حقوق الإنسان.

للأسف كل حججنا وكلماتنا لم تلقى سوى أذان صماء

ليس هنالك أي تغيير على الإطلاق.

لذلك سأختتم، هذا البيان اليوم بكلمات للشاعر فياض، الكلمات التي من أجلها يقبع الان بسجون المملكة السعودية، وبسببها أيضا هٌدد قبل شهور بالقتل.

وبما أن أشرف فيضا لا يستطيع نطق هذه الكلمات بوطنه، أثق أنني أستطيع أن أقرأها هنا، في المجلس الذي كان الهدف من وراءه دعم حقوق الإنسان وحرية التعبير والمعتقد كما هو متعارف عليها دوليا. وحرية أمثال أشرف فياض الذي كل ما كان يطمح له هو إضافة القليل من العقلانية والجمال لهذا العالم.

”الأنبياء تقاعدوا..

 فلا تنتظروا نبيا يبعث لكم.. ومن أجلكم

من أجلكم يقدم المراقبون تقاريرَ يومية

ويتفاضون أجوراً عاليةً

كم هو المال ضروريٌ 

من أجل حياة كريمة”

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3 Responses to IHEU reads poem banned in Saudi for ‘apostasy’ to delegates at UN

  1. Brian Smith says:

    Hello Elizabeth

    As an expat living and working in Saudi Arabia, we all have to be on our guard because the regime here will not tolerate criticism of any sort, preferring to lock up those who dare to exercise free speach. I guess their response at the UN was muted due to the people they were surrounded by.

    I have not provided my real name as I am not taking any chances

  2. Ashfaq says:

    I am a muslim. I want to know why Saudi Arabia is so afraid. Of what. If you know your Deen and have confidence in you self and believe your Deen is true and the right one, then need not put restrictions on anybody. Let anyone say what they want to and you show them by your behaviour and wisdom that they are not right.

  3. George Formby says:

    A call to the HRC to awake to its responsibilities is probably never wrong. But there is something facile, emotionally and strategically,in a belief in good works on its part. Saudi Arabia, one of its most prominent and influential members, is a political theocracy based on one of the most conservative and intolerant forms of Islam, Wahhabism. This makes it a totalitarian state and its politics can be met only by another politics which would be fatally dangerous to its supporters. Indeed, one wonders why Saudi Arabia is a member of the HRC? It’s presence gravely undermines the work of the HRC.

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