In Times Like These, Poetry Is a Road to a Bahraini Jail

Bahraini poet Ayat al-Qarmezi. © Private

In this season of uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa, governments consider even poetry subversive.  Now a young Bahraini student is looking at a year in jail for reading a poem criticizing the Bahraini king.

Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was convicted by a military court after an unfair trial. She was charged with taking part in illegal protests, disrupting public security and publicly inciting hatred toward the regime. She was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama.

The poem’s lyrics include the lines:

“We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery/ Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?”

She was forced to turn herself in to the authorities on March 30 after masked police raided her parents’ house repeatedly and reportedly threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.

One colleague of the young poet has also told Amnesty International that she has been beaten and tortured.  In addition, the use of military courts to try civilians fails to meet international standards for fair trials.  Download our Urgent Action with information on how you can help free Ayat al-Qarmezi.

According to Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa Malcolm Smart:

“By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis.”

Amnesty International believes the charges against Ayat al-Qarmezi should be dropped and she should be released immediately, and all allegations of torture should be investigated in an independent and public manner.  It also goes without saying that the use of military courts to try civilians needs to end now.

But the case is just one among many disturbing instances of human rights abuses as protests in are met by violence by security forces and legal action by the Bahrain government, one of the U.S.’ closest strategic allies in the region.  A trial of dozens of doctors and nurses, charged because they treated protesters injured by security forces, is scheduled to resume in a few weeks.  A large trial of opposition leaders is also ongoing.

In his recent speech on the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the abuses he saw in Bahrain.  But beyond these words, our government has failed to take effective action to pressure Bahrain to rein in their security and judicial forces.

The US government’s silence only means we have to be louder.  Ayat al-Qarmezi’s case has attracted the attention of writers everywhere including PEN International.

Amnesty International launched a Twitter action on Bahrain yesterday (June 15).  Click here to take part.

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20 thoughts on “In Times Like These, Poetry Is a Road to a Bahraini Jail

  1. thx 4 ayat alqarmezi…..she is a mzing and she is really poor ….we must help her

  2. Why don't you publish the whole of this so-called poem? Publishing 2 lines is hardly good journalism.

  3. thx 4 ayat alqarmezi…..she is a mzing and she is really poor ….we must help her

  4. Why don’t you publish the whole of this so-called poem? Publishing 2 lines is hardly good journalism.

  5. really we need help from the USA and UK because the goverment still they need killed people and many persons lose job

  6. really we need help from the USA and UK because the goverment still they need killed people and many persons lose job

  7. Well she said an embarrassing and humiliating poet she deserves to go to jail but she ran away knw
    And naser bin hamad al khalifa went to her personally and told her to read the poem again but with no use she collapsed
    Any way this isn't the full version of the poem so it would be better for you people to post the full version of the poem soo all the americans and british people can see who are write and who are wrong coz posting 2 lines won't help people to believe… And if you people were that brave you wouldn't hv let her run away u wouldve told ayat to come and show who she is to the people and to the government but its no use

  8. Well she said an embarrassing and humiliating poet she deserves to go to jail but she ran away knw
    And naser bin hamad al khalifa went to her personally and told her to read the poem again but with no use she collapsed
    Any way this isn’t the full version of the poem so it would be better for you people to post the full version of the poem soo all the americans and british people can see who are write and who are wrong coz posting 2 lines won’t help people to believe… And if you people were that brave you wouldn’t hv let her run away u wouldve told ayat to come and show who she is to the people and to the government but its no use

  9. Freedom of speech does not mean Freedom to Insult and break the law. Wot is the punishment in democratic America & Britain for insulting the Queen, British PM or the President of USA ???!!

  10. Freedom of speech does not mean Freedom to Insult and break the law. Wot is the punishment in democratic America & Britain for insulting the Queen, British PM or the President of USA ???!!

  11. She deserves more than this soft sentence. coz she abused the freedom law that was provided in bahrain. No one in this world is allowed legally to to tell bad things about any other human, specially if it is the our beloved king and royal family. She must have taken other parties citizens also in to consideration that they love their king and their country. God save bahrain, save our beloved king and bahraini citizens.

  12. She deserves more than this soft sentence. coz she abused the freedom law that was provided in bahrain. No one in this world is allowed legally to to tell bad things about any other human, specially if it is the our beloved king and royal family. She must have taken other parties citizens also in to consideration that they love their king and their country. God save bahrain, save our beloved king and bahraini citizens.