POETRY-COLOMBIA: “I Am Iraq”
MEDELLÍN, Colombia, Jul 7 (IPS) – The shout “I am Iraq!” was heard echoing through the streets and plazas of this northwestern Colombian city during the 16th International Poetry Festival of Medellín — founded here as a fight against fear.
The Colombian armed conflict, which has dragged on for decades, was added in late 2001 to the U.S.-led “war on terror”, which Iraq has also been living since March 2003.
The Colombian government is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid, backed by attack helicopters, spy planes and advisers for its counterinsurgency fight.
The most acclaimed poet of the festival, among the 70 invited from 40 countries, and whose works were heard — according to the local press — by around 150,000 people, was Iraqi Muhsin Al-Ramli, 39.
His poem “No to Liberating Iraq from Me”, which he penned in Madrid on Mar. 30, 2003, just 10 days before the fall of Baghdad, caused a sensation at the festival, held Jun. 24-Jul. 2.
Al-Ramli told IPS that in his homeland, the cradle of Arab literature, even today letters are written in verse, and that until recently people would go to the Basra market to purchase poems.
The poet lives in exile in Madrid since his brother Hasan Mutlak was hanged at age 29, in 1990, after a failed attempt to overthrow Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein (1979-2003).
Al-Ramli, also a novelist, playwright, narrator and journalist, translates his own poems into English and Spanish.
“This one who is sobbing in the darkness of his exile / is me; / Orphan after you have killed my parents: Tigris and Euphrates; / Widow after you have crucified my soul mate: Iraq,” was heard once and again in the voice of Al-Ramli on the various stages of the poetry festival.
“I tell parents to teach their children ‘No’ as their first word,” Al-Ramli told IPS, to underscore his indignation about what is occurring not only in his country, but also around the world.
“Ay… you, gentlemen of the war / Listen to me: / No to the party of military men on the roof of my house. / No to the executioner that you have proposed / or are going to propose. / No to the bombs of your liberty falling over the heads of my people / No to liberating Iraq from me or me from him. / I am Iraq.”
And later in the poem: “Go back to your movies across the ocean. / Leave me what is left / of the minarets, the mausoleums of my ancestors, / of the tombs of my family… / And drink from the cups of petroleum [see also here]until you are quenched.”
In Medellín, passersby recognised the poet in the streets and greeted him with, “Yo soy Iraq!” (I am Iraq!), and he would answer, “Yo soy Colombia!”
“Take what you like and leave, / leave me alone / with the shot-down dreams of my sister, / with palms engulfed in flames on the banks of Mesopotamia, / with the bones of my father / and my afternoon tea,” Al-Ramli reproaches the invading forces.
The Medellín festival is known worldwide for attracting huge audiences — a cross-section of the population, including office workers, housewives, students, the unemployed, teachers and just about anyone who is curious — to fill city plazas and auditoriums in order to take in some poetry.
People who attend the festival often say that when the poets read aloud their verses, they express things that the individuals in the audience may feel but for which they themselves lack the words.
US military families against Iraq war: here.
From the Google cache of Dear Kitty ModBlog, 10/11/05:
Today in the South American country of Colombia, as Indymedia Colombia reports, police killed American Indian peasant Marco Antonio Soto.
Marco Antonio Soto participated in a big demonstration against plans for “free trade” between Colombia and the United States.
The demonstrators say that this “free trade” will ruin the largely Indian peasantry of Colombia, unable to compete with subsidized United States agrobusiness.
The president of Colombia, the rich landlord Uribe, is presented as a paragon of democracy in United States government propaganda.
Even though Uribe wants a new term as president (unconstitutional in Colombia).
And even though Uribe appeared on a Pentagon list of biggest drugs dealers.
And even though Colombia is notorious for human rights violations.
See for instance here on the murder of a university student and more.