Fourteen Poems from Loneliness Spoils its Victims


Dara Abdallah

Translated by: Mona Kareem

Illustration by Shuxian Lee


This might sound crazy, but isn't war nostalgic for singularity, loneliness, purity, and solitude? Isn't killing others considered "cleansing"? War is a mechanical rubbing between groups that are fighting to translate the collectivities' desire to be composed of individuals. War is the aggressive application of an instinctual longing for a purified heavenly world where the inhabitants are pseudo-elements, and quietness is an echo of loneliness. Who among us remembers the faces of those killed in massacres: in Halabja, Karm Al-Zaytoun, and Sabra and Shatila—where the hands of hundreds and thousands got together to jump from one shore to another. Their beating hearts and united breath might redeem the tragedy of a solitary individual. During a massacre, the killer misses out on the pleasure of killing one individual at a time. In massacres, hundreds of names decay, while one victim becomes a star: loneliness spoils its victims.

Imprisoned Poet Ashraf Fayadh’s ‘Frida Kahlo’s Mustache’


Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh has now gone more than a year without trial in Saudi prisons on the ostensible charge that he’s been “insulting the Godly self” through his poetry, as well as “having long hair”:

Poet and activist Mona Kareem has translated one of Fayadh’s poems, posted online on Laghoo.
Frida Kahlo’s Mustache
ashrafBy Ashraf Fayadh, trans. Mona Kareem
I will ignore the smell of mud, and the need to reprimand the rain, and the burn that has long since settled in my chest.
I am looking for fitting consolation for my situation, which doesn’t allow me to interpret your lips however I wish
Or to brush away the drops of mist from your reddish petals
Or to ratchet down the level of obsession that overtakes me when I realize you are not beside me at the moment

‘The Complex': A Chapter from Mohammed Rabie’s Acclaimed ‘Year of the Dragon’


“The Complex” is a chapter from Mohammed Rabie’s Year of the Dragon, a novel that explores the infuriating, bizarre, and sometimes hilarious underbelly of Egyptian bureaucracy. Rabie was born in 1978, and his first novel Kawkab Anbar (2010, Amber Planet) won first prize in the Sawiris Award’s emerging writers’ category. Year of the Dragon was released in 2012.
Translated by Mona Kareem
Na’em arrives at Aisha al-Taymouriya St. in Garden City, walking as he looks at the buildings, searching for their numbers. Within meters, he sees Qasr al-Nil police station on his right. He then looks across and finds building number six. He notices the huge sign atop the building with the name “The Committee of Dilemmas, Obstacles, Troubles, and Glue.”
Na’em hesitates before he enters; he wants to get the task done and return home. But now he needs to focus on the pink death certificate and forget about going home. He needs to arrange his thoughts to get this certificate. His thoughts are interrupted by a ringing voice that asks him what he needs. Na’em looks for the source of this voice.

* Continue reading here

الموت كتمثال


في الثالثة والعشرين من عمرك،
تصلين مع عائلتك الحزينة
وتعتقدين أنك فتاة تذهب للمطارات ولا تسافر.
تجلسين في الطائرة محاطة بجنود سود
ينامون ويحلمون بعراقيين اضطروا لقتلهم.
خلال 16 ساعة، خسرت بلدك للمرة الثانية،
بلد لا يمكن لأحد أن يحبها.

الجامعة تدفع لك راتباً أقل من الحد الأدنى
لتعلمي أبناءهم عن نساء يتزوجن بشكل تقليدي،
وعن رجال لم يكتشفوا مثليتهم.
تذهبين للفصل كأنك في مقابلة للحصول على فيزا.

هناك حياة تركتها وتعلمين أنها ستموت مثل تمثال،
وهنالك حياة في المنتصف لا تخرج من مربع skype
هذه بيوت تصلح للفئران، للصناديق، ولنا.

أن قلبك ينبض وحيداً،
أنك لا تغضبين طويلاً لأنك مشغولة بعمل الكثير،
أن كل الأشياء تتغير إذا انتظرنا بلا نهاية،
أن لا وعود يمكن إنقاذها بعد عبور المحيط.

Who decides how to rank Arab women?


It took Western media a few weeks after the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to bring up the question of women’s rights in relation to the Arab revolutions. The question is certainly not innocent considering the deployment of women’s issues in war propaganda and the presumed image of Arabs as incapable of intellectual revolutions that can bring about values of equality and freedom, presuming these values exist elsewhere.
The recent poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation does not diverge from this discourse. On social media, women and men have been debating the methodology and outcomes of the poll. Although the status of Arab women did not witness any significant developments, a critique to this report is necessary to highlight how problematic these polls are, particularly when measured on “human rights.”

في فوائد الحداثة


قد أكون سلحفاة، 
تقودني بحقيبتك 
بينما يغزو دخانك نصف المدينة..

السلحفاة وحدها قادرة علي رؤية كل شيء: 
الفتاة التي ارتدت حجاباً 
لأنها تعبت من تسريح شعرها، 
الشاب الذي يجمع الفقه بالهب هوب، 
والدولة العميقة التي نستمني في حفرها..

أمي تعّرف غربتي بفقدان رائحتي التي تتوهمها، 
أنا أعّرف غربتي في علاقتي مع غسالة الملابس..

وحدها المغاسل العامة في أمريكا 
تحترم التعددية الثقافية،
فقد تغسل ملابسك بعد عدوك
واهماً بأن العرق لم يختلط!
أنا أحب المدينة،
وأحب الحداثة فعلاً، 
فقط لأنني لا أطيق الحشرات! 

* نشرت في أخبار الأدب



* نشرت في النهار

The Question of State-Feminism in the Gulf


The question of how the Arab uprisings have and will affect the lives and rights of women in the region is particularly significant in the Arab Gulf states.
Women in this part of the region find themselves faced with two challenges: the efficiency of state-driven feminism on one side, and their struggle to push for their rights in the public arena on the other. Both the state and social forces often fail to prioritise women's rights with the result that women are compelled to negotiate their rights within these two spheres.
In Kuwait, educated women of the upper and middle classes have fought for decades for their rights to vote and to run in parliamentary elections. In 2005, they were granted those political rights despite opposition from Islamists. Throughout their struggle, those activists recognised the state as their supporter.

The Gulf-West Alliance and Dehumanizing Bahrainis: A Conversation With Ali Abdulemam


Ali Abdulemam is a Bahraini blogger whoseBahrain Online Forum was blocked in his country. For his activism, Abdulemam was imprisoned in 2010 and tortured. In an attempt to calm the protesters of the February 14 movements, the Bahraini regime released Abdulemam. He immediately resumed his activism, calling for the end of the regime during the 2011 Pearl Roundabout protests. When the Saudi-led forces of the “Peninsula Shield” invaded Bahrain, he went into hiding to avoid living the nightmare of imprisonment and torture once again. When tried in absentia, he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for “attempting to overthrow the regime.” Last May, Abdulemam arrived in London after being smuggled across the Bahraini-Saudi border. What follows is an interview with the activist on how he sees political developments and online activism in Bahrain.
Since you escaped from Bahrain, we have been reading heroic scenarios about you “gaining freedom.” Do you feel free?
To me, freedom does not mean exiting through that brown door that I was trapped behind during my time in hiding. Freedom has a more complex definition: to be able to object; to oppose; to think and move freely; and to be myself and not someone else. I could have been free in Bahrain, with a comfortable job, but I would not have been myself. I would be the person that the regime wants me to be and the person that the economic, political, and media elites want me to be. I, however, do not feel free because Al Saud occupies my country, and the regime—with regional and global support—has conspired against its people. My real freedom would come when Bahrainis have the freedom and ability to make their own decisions.

O Stones, Listen to the Music


Riyadh Alsalih Alhussain
Translated by Mona Kareem

[Riyadh Alsalih Alhussain (1954-1982) was born in the Syrian city of Dara’a on March 1954 to a poor family. Growing up as a deaf-mute, he struggled with his education and decided to quit school. He worked as a journalist from 1976 until his death in Damascus in 1982. He published three poetry collections and this poem is from his third collection “Simple as Water, Clear as a Bullet.” (Basitun kal-Ma’, Wadihun Katalqat al-Musaddas)]

The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow is neither a tie nor a pair of fancy shoes,
The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow is neither a crossword puzzle nor the Havana Conference.
The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow, under the guillotine or in chains,
I will call for the new life;
For the life they talk about in books,
The life we see in TV ads,
The life that sleeps on the sidewalks
Is not the life we want.

The Untold Stories of Kuwait's Palestinian Refugees


Samah Hijawi and Diala Khasawnih – A Journey
As Kuwait was being ‘liberated’ in 1991, angry nationalist ghosts were hunting Palestinians and Iraqis. The United Nations went searching in police stations, though they forgot to search the basements of schools. Alongside the scores of individuals tortured and murdered during the Kuwaiti invasion and the Second Gulf War was the displacement of thousands of Palestinians. In the smallest houses rented by Palestinians in every Kuwaiti neighbourhood, cars were seen loaded with bags and possessions. Mass deportations happened not only after Kuwait’s liberation, but also during the first months of the Iraqi occupation. As a result, many decided to flee in fear of the coming war. They were never welcomed back, nor were their stories seen as deserving to be told.

Raids on Gulf Migrants: Pictures and Thoughts


In the western Yemeni town of Haradh, on the border with Saudi Arabia, Ethiopian migrants sleep out in the open near a transit center where they wait to be repatriated. Source: Reuters.
In the past few weeks, 200,000 undocumented immigrants were deported from Saudi. Arrested in raids, left to sleep in the open air, piled in front of migration offices, and shown every kind of discrimination and abuse, those immigrants continue to be deported by the country that is home to King Abdullah’s Interfaith Dialogue Center.
Simultaneously, Kuwait follows its “big sister,” deporting hundreds in the past few weeks. Pictures of those migrants are taken without their permission, while policemen pose proudly as they fulfill their national duties. Racism is a living legacy in the Gulf, softened by Western powers and overlooked by media that would prefer to cover the story of a handsome man being deported from Saudi rather than those of the tens of thousands deported.
* Continue reading this article in AlAkhbar

Egyptian Men: The New Savages?


Since the first days of the Egyptian revolution, sexual harassment was a focus for Western media. Although the issue is important, it was dismissed and denied for a long time in Egypt. Yet a lot has happened since last year, with more activism and work being done in that regard. Egypt finally acknowledges the existence of this phenomenon and the denial of the state is no longer effective as women go on TV and narrate their stories as victims of harassment or rape.
When it comes to Egyptian women, the state often blames them for the sexual violence. They are asked to fit the mold of an “ideal” woman, one removed from public and political spaces. When football Ultras were protesting against the military junta, they segregated women from men and commanded women not to smoke cigarettes. Those football Ultras, who are foolishly called “the revolutionary army,” represent just one of the macho faces of society.
With foreign women living in and visiting Egypt, the equation differs to some extent. Egypt is now not only promoted as a country that provides zero security for tourists, but also as a misogynist space. The 99 percent figure keeps coming up in the conversation on sexual harassment in Egyptian streets. This is a street-phenomenon that keeps growing as the state ignores it and blames it on women. It is also a complicated performance of masculinity. 

Arab is Not the New Black


Having lived in upstate New York for the past two years, racial discrimination has become the center of my life. Back in Kuwait, the discrimination I faced as a stateless individual was harsh, but different. In the US, I’m either discriminated against for looking like a Latina, meaning “an immigrant who is taking THEIR jobs,” or as an Arab and Muslim, meaning a potential terrorist or a victimized brown woman who escaped hell.
In Kuwait, legal procedures were my nightmare, but I faced stereotypes, rejections, and police harassment. I’ve written before about the legal and everyday discrimination that a stateless person faces in Kuwait, so my aim here is to focus on my recent experiences in New York.
For the first part of my residency as a student here, I tried to escape the labels imposed upon me. However, after several incidents of discrimination in public places, sometimes by police, I felt I was forced into those labels. Here, I am not stateless or Kuwaiti or just an Arab Muslim. Most importantly, I am an immigrant woman of color. This is the reality for me, and I can only negotiate within this frame. Accepting this reality has helped me see through tensions around me.