*IMPORTANT UPDATE 17 JAN 2013*
I’ve received an email from Cat Lucas at English PEN.
Sadly, she says that her Middle Eastern Researcher believes 100% that Tal al-Mallouhi is still in prison and that the report of her freedom (below) to be a FAKE used TO UNDERMINE CAMPAIGNS on her behalf. Obviously, then, we’ll continue to follow and support Tal’s case.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP SUPPORTING HER CASE AS A RESULT OF THIS REPORT.
Original post: 25 December 2010
We have heard unconfirmed reports today that Tal al-Mallouhi, named by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information as “the youngest prisoner of conscience in the Arab world,” has been freed by the FSA. Previously this month, the FSA has been seeking a prisoner exchange for her and Lt. Col. Hussein Harmoush.
Exciting if it’s true – more as we hear it.
Updated: 2 hours later (2:14, 16.12.12)
This interview with Haithem al-Maleh seems to confirm this news.
According to a member of YorkPEN, this image of Tal al-Mallouhi has been circulating for a few days and apparently shows her in some sort of regime facility outside the prison. If the reports are true, al-Mallouhi will have narrowly avoided the anniversary of her third year in prison after her arrest on the 27th December 2009 – when she was 17 years old – over her political poetry regarding the Middle East.
*The ‘freed’ Tal al-Mallouhi, NOW THOUGHT TO BE FALSE*
‘Am I Just A Sound’ witnessed YorkPEN’s first event as a ratified society on December 10th last term. After the success of English Society’s ‘Poetry and Pints’ evening, this event adhered to a similar format in its presentation of poems and speeches, albeit in the more intimate setting of a cosy corner of Courtyard. Introduced by Seb, Chair of the Society, it soon became apparent that although we were there to appreciate the poetry, we were, more importantly, there to remember and reflect upon the various human rights’ campaigns and struggles being challenged and suppressed across the globe.
Marking the opening evening of ‘York Human Rights City Project’, the event attracted a diverse group of people from both within the student community and further afield, and the poems read were similarly delivered by a variety of people, which immediately established a dynamic and versatile environment. The evening was separated into three phases, each one introducing us to poetry and information concerning different international campaigns. Firstly, poems produced in response to ‘Pussy Riot’ were read, which immediately displayed how political suppression can be explored and exposed by literature in contrasting ways – one poem was subtly satirical in tone while the other teemed with expletives and conveyed the immense anger experienced in the face of injustice.
Injecting a flare of passion into the room was promptly delivered by Henry Raby, a spoken word poet whose dynamism was immediately electric. Bearing a resemblance to politically engaged Scroobius Pip, his lyrics were powerful in their simplicity, and delivered with such conviction so as to remain imprinted on your mind for the rest of the night – ‘we’re not pathetic, and we are not thugs – we’re fuelled by the power of protest hugs’. We were also privileged to welcome speakers from the University’s ‘Centre for Applied Human Rights’, including William Gomes, who was able to provide a fascinating insight into what he does for RNN (refugeenewsnetwork) and remind us of the fantastic work that people are doing right here in York for international campaigns.
One of the highlights of the evening arrived in the form of Angye Gaona’s poetry. Gaona is a Colombian surrealist poet who has recently been wrongly imprisoned, and on whose behalf YorkPEN was campaigning last term. Thanks to the brilliant linguistic skills of YorkPEN member Maitê Gothe, we were able to listen to original translations of Gaona’s striking poetry. Although the husky roll of the Spanish washed over the majority of the audience, the beauty of the language was universal and the subsequent English readings provided the content which could explain the sound to which we’d been clinging. We were also treated to translations of Iranian poet El – a poet who expresses her firm beliefs in the freedom of expression and the importance of breaking from tradition.
During the intervals and at the end of the evening beautifully illustrated bookmarks – created by members of YorkPEN – were sold and postcards written to the poets whose work we had shared and enjoyed. The money raised will be used to help the society to grow and to fund speakers to come over the course of the year. Now hosting a film series throughout this term (only £1 entry to watch a variety of films dealing with various human rights’ issues and campaigns), ‘Am I Just A Sound’ successfully laid the foundations in which this new and exciting society can develop.
– Alice Brooksbank
On Monday 10th December, YorkPEN hosted Am I Just A Sound? An Evening of Contemporary Human Rights Poetry with readings of work from around the world and by a wide array of speakers translating from and reciting in several languages.
In particular, we welcomed William Gomes, Henry Raby, Ahmed Khaleel, eL and Ruki Fernando reading and/or talking about their own work, alongside readings of new translations of the work of Angye Gaona and Tal Al-Mallouhi, Poems for Pussy Riot and Write Against Impunity, and poetry from Belarus, to raise awareness of the current Free Belarus Now campaign, delivered by members of Amnesty International York.
We’ll be running another evening next term and are always looking for poets to submit and recite their work. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
What: Am I Just A Sound? An Evening of Contemporary Human Rights Poetry
Where: University of York. Courtyard Bar, Derwent College (formerly Langwith) Heslington West.
When: 10th December 2012, 8pm till 11pm.
Free Entry//Everyone welcome//Cheap drinks//Thought-provoking poetry
* * *
A huge number of voices come out of a country through literature, and many contain evocative responses to violations of human rights and moving stories of struggle. Poetry has a social function in protest, noticibly today in the Arab Spring (see, for example, Al Jazeera’s series ‘Poets of Protest’ on work in the Middle East), as well as on a local scale in Britain. Yet writing in translation occupies only a tiny percentage of literature published in Britain.
‘Am I Just A Sound’ is an evening of contemporary human rights poetry presented by YorkPEN to celebrate work in translation, and to bring together charity and literature societies at the The University of York. As well as reading works from their campaigns, Angye Gaona (Colombia) and Tal Al-Mallouhi (Syria), readings will be taken from English PEN’s new publication, ‘Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot’, and will welcome York residents who are currently under the Protective Fellowship of the Human Rights Education Department.
There will also be opportunities to hear more about PEN and its work, to write to prisoners and their families in support, and to network and exchange ideas with the various societies of The University of York that contribute to its rich commitment to international politics and foreign literature.