Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008. He was known as the poet of love, the poet of resistance and the poet of Palestine.
Darwish was born in 1941 in the Palestinian village of Birwa which was located on the outskirts of Acre, Palestine. During the 1948 Nakba, when the state of Israel was declared in Palestine and 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, his family found themselves in Lebanon.
They stayed there for a year and then went back to their village, only to find that it had been razed to the ground by the nascent Israeli occupation forces; a new Jewish settlement was built on its ruins. The family relocated to another Arab village, where Darwish grew up as what we know today as an internally displaced person.
In 1961, the young Darwish was arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities for the first time for his anti-occupation remarks, poems and political activities. He was placed under house arrest several times before leaving Palestine in the early 1970s to study in the Soviet Union. After a year he moved to Cairo and then Lebanon, joining the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1973.
Occupying several positions, he was also the chairman of the Palestinian Writers and Journalists’ Union. As the founder of Al Karmel magazine in 1981, he remained its chief editor until his death. The poet also worked for Palestinian Affairs magazine, which was published in Beirut, and later became director of the PLO’s Research Centre.
After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Darwish moved between France, Syria, Tunisia, Cyprus and Cairo before returning to Palestine. One of his most famous works was the 1988 Palestinian independence document which was announced in Algeria.
On 6 August 2008, Darwish had open heart surgery in Houston, Texas and slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. He died three days later.
His body was returned to Palestine and he was buried in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians took part in his funeral.
The works of Mahmoud Darwish have been translated into at least 39 languages, and many are still being published today, either on their own or as collections.