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Female Saudi poet excluded from participating in a cultural function

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information on Thursday denounced the decision by Khalid Al-Faysal, the Emir of Mecca, on 21 December 2015 to bar poet Hind Al-Mutairi from taking part in a function organised in the province because of a poem she recited at the International Book Fair in Jeddah a few days ago.

According to a statement released by the Arab Network, a copy of which reached Arabi 21, the Network said that Al-Faysal banned poet Hind Al-Mutairi from participating in any function that is held in the Mecca Province after receiving a complaint that claimed that she breached an agreement with the management of the International Book Fair that was opened in Jeddah on 11 December 2015 by reciting a poem that was not appropriate for the fair, in the words of the official spokesperson of the Ministry of Culture and Information. Al-Mutairi refuted claims by the head of the cultural committee of the Jeddah International Book Fair and the Ministry of Culture and Information that she had breached the terms of her contract in which she agreed to recite patriotic poems only.

The statement pointed out that Hind Al-Mutairi recited a poem at the Book Fair entitled “The Revolution of the Heart Spring”, known in the media by the title of “woe unto the tribe”, which she wrote two years ago when “tribal” Salma was being divorced against her own will from her “non-tribal” husband Ahmad after thirteen years of marriage and after having had five children under the pretext of incompatibility. Al-Mutairi simply meant to express sympathy with Salma on pure humanitarian grounds. What she did in her poem was to criticise the power and hegemony of the tribe, branding its chieftains and men as “silly”.

Previously, Al-Mutairi recited this same poem in various other official functions, including in the Ukaz Fair organised by the Emirate of Mecca Province as well as in the Arab Poetry Fair of Ta’if, the Gulf Poetry Fair of Bahah, a national function organised by Tabuk Club, another function organised on the occasion of King Salman’s succession to the Throne at Ha’il Club, then at Riyadh Club and in functions organised by the Clubs Management within the Ministry of Culture and Information. At none of these occasions did the poem stir such uproar.

The network explained in its statement that Saudi Arabia is dominated by the tribal system. Saudi Arabia has been the last country to recognise the right of women to take part in elections as nominees and voters. Only recently were women able to participate in Saudi municipal elections for the year 2015 and to be appointed to the Saudi Shura Council. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive cars. To justify such ban, the authorities inside the Kingdom replace legal systems by jurisprudential opinions that are several hundreds of years old. Saudi Arabia also applies the system of male “custodianship” over women. According to this system, Saudi women of all ages would need the written consent of a male relative prior to being able to receive health services and for permission to travel, work, marry or travel abroad. Nor are women allowed to sell or buy properties without the presence of someone to confirm her identity (a man who happens to be an immediate blood relative).

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information also said: “The decision against poet Hind Al-Mutairi is a violation of the freedom of artistic innovation and is a means of protection for backward and oppressive customs and traditions. It is an attempt to silence critical voices that call for progress and an attempt to obstruct the winds of change that are blowing over the Kingdom threatening to uproot whoever stands in the face of the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of innovation and human communication.”

The Network added: “During the month of December alone, the Saudi Authorities blocked Al-Arabi Al-Jadid website and sentenced to five years in prison writer and thinker Zuhair Kutbi together with another citizen who were accused of calling via Twitter for a protest. At the same time, the management of the Jeddah International Book Fair shut down the stand of the Arab Centre for Political Research and Studies.”

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information called on the Emir of Mecca Province, Prince Khalid Al-Faysal, to withdraw his decision banning poet Hind Al-Mutairi from participating in any function organised within the Mecca Province and urged him not to listen to those who call for backwardness and for crushing pens and blocking the freedom to express opinions.

Source: Arabi21, 24 December, 2015

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Middle EastNewsSaudi Arabia
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