This video is called Qatari court upholds jail sentence for poet Mohammed al Ajami.
So, life in dictatorial Qatar cannot only be teriblle if you are an immigrant Nepali construction worker … or an immigrant Moroccan international football player … also if you are a native Qatari poet.
From The Art Newspaper:
No mercy for Qatari poet
Mohammed Al-Ajami has spent two years in solitary confinement for reciting a poem in support of the Arab uprisings on Youtube
By Cristina Ruiz. Web only
Published online: 07 November 2013
Qatar’s Supreme Court last month upheld a 15-year prison sentence handed to poet Mohammed Al-Ajami for reciting a poem in support of the Arab uprisings on Youtube.
This video is a poem in Arabic by Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, supporting the overthrow of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.
Al-Ajami, 37, a married father of four children, was a third-year literature student at Cairo University when he was arrested in Qatar in November 2011. A year later, after a trial marred by irregularities, the Criminal Court in Doha found him guilty of incitement to overthrow the Emir and condemned him to life in prison—a sentence reduced to 15 years on appeal.
Al-Ajami has spent the last two years in solitary confinement with severe restrictions on visits. Representatives of PEN International, the literary and human rights organisation, were last month denied access to Al-Ajami. “We came to Qatar out of respect for the country’s commitment to the arts and expanded global dialogue and a deep concern that the imprisonment of a writer for his poetry is inconsistent with this stated goal,” said the organisation’s Joanne Leedom-Ackerman.
“We are concerned about the conditions of Al-Ajami’s detention, in particular the restrictions of solitary confinement… [we] continue to call on authorities at the very least to remove him from solitary confinement and allow him to associate with other prisoners, and to lift restrictions on visits from family, friends, and independent observers as mandated by UN principles.”
Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, Phillip Luther said: “[We] consider Mohammed Al-Ajami a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
“He should be released immediately and unconditionally and his verdict quashed,” Luther said, adding “it is particularly alarming to see a sentence like this from Qatar— which is branding itself as a country that embraces the arts and purports to respect international human rights standards.”
The Doha Centre for Media Freedom declared itself “disappointed” that Al-Ajami’s sentence was not overturned, and “concerned about the worrying precedent this sets for issues related to freedom of expression in Qatar”.
“The case has also brought to attention the worrying lack of coverage in local newspapers of a story which has garnered international recognition. This harsh sentence will contribute towards the exacerbation of a culture of self censorship and fear, which will surely deter artists and journalists alike from exercising their right to free expression.”
Al Ajami’s last hope is a direct appeal to the Emir for a pardon, says his lawyer Najeeb Al-Nauimi, adding that this must be decided by Al-Ajami’s family rather than his lawyer.
More censorship in Qatar, also from The Art Newspaper, this time about visual arts:
Strict guidelines imposed on Qatari exhibition prize
Award launched by museums authority and Prada Foundation restrict projects applications from involving sex, drugs, alcohol or politics
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 07 November 2013
A high-profile new award launched by the Qatar Museums Authority in partnership with the Prada Foundation invites budding art professionals to create their own exhibitions. But the organisers have imposed strict guidelines on the subjects acceptable for the proposed exhibitions.
The initiative, called “Curate”, is open to anyone “with a great concept” for an exhibition—not just curators. Although proposals can encompass art in all media, the terms and conditions for the prize state that applicants must avoid projects that are “sexually explicit or suggestive”; “profane or pornographic”; that “promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms [and] weapons”, or that advocate “any particular political agenda or message”. Applicants are also advised to avoid proposals that are “derogatory of any ethnic, racial, gender, religious, professional or age group or the disabled”.
The jury for the prize, which includes the fashion designer Miuccia Prada, the architect Rem Koolhaas, the Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Sheikha Al-Mayassa, the chair of the Qatar Museums Authority and sister of the Emir of the oil-rich state, will select the winning proposal to be realised in an exhibition likely to be held in either Qatar or Italy. Entries for the award must be submitted by 31 December; 20 finalists will be selected next February, and the winner will be announced in April.
“The Curate competition is open as stated for all entrants,” says a spokeswoman for the Qatar Museums Authority. “The terms and conditions… cover legal points that are there to protect the organisers and the entrants from infringing any potential governing law in the world. The members of the jury will make up their minds on the basis of their own views.”
“As far as I’m aware the competition is completely open,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist. “It is an important prize to support a new generation of curators and also for finding new unexpected voices in curating outside the art world in architecture, literature and science.” The Prada Foundation declined to comment.
Other international art competitions with an online application process restrict the material that may be submitted to the public portions of its website. For example, the Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s Future Generation Art Prize asks applicants to agree to not post online material that is “defamatory, obscene, indecent, threatening, abusive, harassing or unlawful” or that “incites discrimination, hate or violence towards any person or group”.
However, unlike the Curate award, the Future Generation Art Prize does not impose restrictions on the themes of the art being submitted for consideration. Meanwhile, the organisers of the BP Portrait award, which recently celebrated its 34th year at the National Portrait Gallery in London, state online that “contributions must not contain any offensive content, including offensive language or images, sexual content or imagery or text”.
“Controversial art can unlock communication between diverse nations, peoples and histories,” Sheikha Al-Mayassa recently told the Evening Standard newspaper in London. The Sheikha, who topped this year’s Power 100 list published last month by ArtReview, added that artists can work freely and without limitations in Doha.
- Qatar Upholds 15-year Sentence for Poet Muhammad al-Ajami (arablit.wordpress.com)
- Qatari Poet’s Sentence Not Overturned, Cut to 15 Years (arablit.wordpress.com)
- Poetry and Power in Qatar ~ and beyond. (47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com)
- Advocate Close To Jailed Qatari Poet Speaks Out (LIVE VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Qatar court upholds poet’s sentence (bbc.co.uk)
- UN Calls For Release Of Qatari Poet Given 15-Year Sentence (eurasiareview.com)
Thank you for covering this story and for the link.
I find this very disturbing as a sign of intolerance for free speech. Yet, it also highlights the threat potential of ART in all forms for those who fear independent thougth and ideas that are not aligned with their own thinking.
You are right. This horrible penalty is absurd. The poem was interpreted as attacking the emir of Qatar, though it did not mention Qatar and the emir. Only Tunisia and deposed dictator Ben Ali.
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