Thursday, July 21, 2011

SYRIA: Poet and song writer killed for a protest song

PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) is appalled by the murder on 5 July 2011 of poet and song writer Ibrahim Qashoush, known as ‘the singer of the revolution'. Qashoush's body was found in a river the day after he had been abducted by Syrian security forces. His throat had been slit. PEN urges the Syrian authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into Qashoush's death and to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

According to PEN's information, Qashoush was kidnapped on 5 July 2011 from his home in Hama city, north of the capital city of Damascus, by the security forces after he had performed anti-government songs at a Friday demonstration in the city. His body was found in the Al-Assi river on 6 July 2011 with his throat cut. Qashoush was known for his political songs that were critical of the Syrian authorities, and which he had performed regularly to protestors throughout the uprising. One of Qashoush's songs, "Leave us, Bashar", directly addresses the President and ridicules his talk of reform. Another song is entitled "Syria is longing for freedom" (see below).


Anti-government protests were sparked in mid- March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded.

With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.

PEN is alarmed about the reported mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including journalists, bloggers, writers and activists in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests, and continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.

An excerpt of Ibrahim Qashoush's poem follows, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi:

Syria is longing for freedom
Syria is demanding freedom
We will oust Bashar
With our strong will alone

We are Muslims and Christians
Demanding freedom
Greetings to Daraa city
Who started this peaceful uprising

When we demanded freedom
They called us terrorists
When we demanded our rights back
They called us fundamentalists

It is written on our national flag that
Bashar has betrayed the nation
It is written on our flag that
Our aim is bring the regime down
It is written on our flag
That Syrian state-owned media is damned
Death rather than humiliation
Syria is looking for freedom

Useful links:

International PEN


  1. It is not the first time that a poet has been eliminated for his poetry, nor will be the last. Terrorism and fundamentalism is not only with individuals but also with governments!

    Lalji Verma
    New Delhi
    Interested in literature, poetry, and environmental issues.

  2. जहरीला

    अच्छा ही हुआ
    मेरे गॉंव ने आत्महत्या कर ली
    जलसमाधि ले
    नदी की बदलती धारा में
    शनैः शनैः
    गत कुछ वषोँ में।

    अच्छा ही हुआ
    वैसे भी तो उसे मरना ही था
    अंधा होना था
    शहर के चकाचौंध से
    प्रदूषण से, और मटमैले कुहासे से।

    ठेका ‘देसी शराब’ भी अब
    जहरीला बिकता है !

    लालजी वर्मा

  3. स्वतंत्रता दिवस

    दीवारों से चित्र उतार
    झाड़ा-पोंछा है मैंने, आज
    संस्मरणों को ताजा किया है
    स्वाधीनता गीत गाये हैं, मिल कर
    आज स्वतंत्रता दिवस जो है !

    चित्रों को फिर लटका दिया है
    दीवारों पर, धूल बटोरने
    रख दिया संस्मरणों को ‘एटिक’ में,
    यादों के कोहरे में लुप्त होने,

    स्वतंत्रता दिवस कल था !

    ललजी वर्मा


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