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Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabbi The will to live


The Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi (1909-1934) is well known and appreciated throughout the Arab world. His words are committed to memory and reproduced in textbooks. With the recent Arab uprisings, his poems, and more particularly “The Will to Life” and “To the Tyrants of the World,” have witnessed a revival, yet with a whole new tone. It seems that the Arab spring has infused “The Will to Life” with a newly found hope, a new urgency, and new life. Its opening lines have been chanted, recited, and written on signs and walls in Arab cities.

Al-Shabbi was born in Al-Shabbiyya, Tunisia. He received a traditional Islamic education, and then became a student at al-Zaytuna in Tunis. He read Western Romantic poets in translation as well as Arab Romantic poets of al-Mahjar, particularly Amin al-Rihani and Jubran Khalil Jubran, who greatly influenced his work. Al-Shabbi wrote nature, love, nationalistic, and revolutionary poetry. His poetry was first published in the thirties by the Egyptian magazine Appollo. The most complete edition of al-Shabbi’s poetry collection was published in Cairo under the title Aghani al-Hayat (Songs of Life) in 1955. Al-Shabbi’s other published work, al-Khayal al-Shiʻri ʻinda al-ʻArab (The Poetic Imagination Among the Arabs), critiques traditionalism in Arabic literature and calls for a modernization of literature, thus contributing to the initiation of the cultural renaissance in Tunisia. At the death of his father in 1929, al-Shabbi had to abandon his studies and return to al-Shabbiyya. Suffering since birth from heart problems, he died in the hospital in 1934. Al-Shabbi’s distinctive contribution to Arabic poetry resides mainly in the way he deploys natural imagery to instill his poetry with an innovative and revolutionary vision.
The Will to Life

Then fate must obey
Darkness must dissipate
And must the chain give way
And he who is not embraced by life’s longing
Evaporates into its air and fades away
Woe to one whom life does not rip
from the slap of victorious nothingness
Thus told me the beings
And thus spoke their hidden spirit.
The wind murmured between the cracks
Over the mountains and under trees:
—If  to a goal I aspire,
I pursue the object of desire and prudence obliviate
Neither the rugged canyons will I shun
Nor the gushing of the blazing fire
He who doesn’t like to climb mountains
Will forever live among the hollows
The blood of youth in my heart roars
And more wind in my chest soars
So I hearkened, and listened to the thunders’ shelling
The winds’ blowing and the rain’s falling

And Earth said to me—when I asked her,
“O mother, do you hate humans?”
“Among all the people I bless the ambitious
And those who taking risk enjoy
Those who don’t keep up with time I curse
And I curse those who lead the life of a stone.
The universe is alive; it loves life
And despises the dead, no matter how great they are
The horizon doesn’t embrace dead birds
And bees don’t kiss dead flowers.
Were it not for the motherliness of my tender heart
These holes would not have held the dead
Woe to those whom life has not ripped
From the curse of victorious nothingness!”

On one of those autumn nights,
With sorrow and boredom burdened,
I got drunk on the stars’ light
And sang to sadness, until it too was drunk
And I asked darkness: “Does life bring back
Youth to what it had withered?”
Darkness’ lips did not speak
And the dawn’s virgins did not sing
The woods told me with tenderness
Lovely, like the fluttering strings,
“Come winter, foggy winter,
Snowy winter, rainy winter,
Dies the magic, the branches’ magic,
The flowers’ magic, and the fruits’ magic
The magic of the soft and gentle evening
The magic of the luscious and fragrant meadow
Branches fall along with their leaves
And flowers of a dear and blooming time
The wind plays with them in every valley,
The flood buries them wherever it goes
And all die like a marvelous dream
That in a soul shone and disappeared
The seeds that were carried remain
A reservoir of a bygone beautiful era
A memory of seasons, a vision of life,
And ghosts of a world steadily vanishing;
Embracing, while it is under the fog,
Under the snow, and under the mud,
Life’s untedious spirit
And spring’s scented green heart;
Dreaming of bird songs,
Fragrant flowers and the flavors of fruit.

As time goes by, vicissitudes arise,
Some wilt, and others live on.
Their dreams become wakefulness
Wrapped in dawn’s mystery
Wondering, “Where’s the morning fog?
Where’s the evening magic? and the moonlight?
And the mazes of that elegant bed?
The singing bees and the passing clouds?
Where are the rays and beings?
Where is the life I am waiting for?
I’m thirsty for light over the boughs!
I’m thirsty for the shade under the trees!
I’m thirsty for the spring in the meadows
Singing and dancing over the flowers!
I’m thirsty for the birds’ tune
For the breeze’s whisper, and the rain’s melody!
I’m thirsty for the universe! Where is existence?
When will I see the anticipated world?
It is the universe, behind the slumber of stillness
In the tunnels of the great awakenings”

It took only a wing flap
Till her longing grew up and triumphed
The Earth shattered those above her
And saw the world’s sweet images
Came spring with its melodies
With its dreams, its fragrant juvenescence
And spring kissed her on the lips kisses
That return the departed youth
And said to her: you have been given life
And through your treasured progeny immortalized
Be blessed by the light, and welcome
Young age and life’s affluence.
He whose dreams worship the light
Is blessed by the light wherever he appears
Here you have the sky, here you have the light
And here you have the blooming dreamy soil
Here you have the undying beauty
And here you have the wide and glowing world,
So swing as you like over the fields
With sweet fruits and luscious flowers
Whisper to the breeze, whisper to the clouds
Whisper to the stars and whisper to the moon
Whisper to life and its longings,
To the charm of this attractive existence

Darkness revealed a deep beauty
That kindles imagination and thought inspires
And over the world extends a marvelous magic
Dispatched by an able magician
The candles of the bright stars illumined
The incense, the flowers’ incense perished
A soul of singular beauty flickered
With wings from the moon’s luminosity
Life’s holy hymn resounded
In a temple dreamy and enchanted
And in the universe it declared: Aspiration
Is the flame of life and the essence of victory
If to life souls aspire
Then fate must obey.


عفوا هل انا انسان:اتحداك ان تسمع هذا الشعر ولا يعجبك (in Arabic)


One year ago : Bouazizi: The Man Who Set Himself and Tunisia (and the Arab world) on Fire

It happened on December 17 2010

RANIA ABOUZEID Jan. 21, 2011

Burned wreckage in the main square of the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, where Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked a revolution

He is now famous throughout Tunisia and the Arab world — a legend, in fact. But Mohammed Bouazizi never set out to be a byword. His aunt Radia Bouazizi says his dream was to save enough money to be able to rent or buy a pickup truck. “Not to cruise around in,” she says, “but for his work.” Her nephew was a vegetable seller. “He would come home tired after pushing the cart around all day. All he wanted was a pickup.” Instead, he started a revolution.

Bouazizi was like the hundreds of desperate, downtrodden young men in hardscrabble Sidi Bouzid. Many of them have university degrees but spend their days loitering in the cafés lining the dusty streets of this impoverished town, 190 miles (300 km) south of the capital Tunis. Bouazizi, 26, didn’t have a college degree, having only reached what his mother says was the baccalaureate level, which is roughly equivalent to high school. He was, however, luckier than most in that he at least earned an income from selling vegetables, work that he’d had for seven years. (See pictures of the ransacked mansions of Tunisia.)

But on Dec. 17 his livelihood was threatened when a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart and its goods. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, but it would be the last. Not satisfied with accepting the 10-dinar fine that Bouazizi tried to pay ($7, the equivalent of a good day’s earnings), the policewoman allegedly slapped the scrawny young man, spat in his face and insulted his dead father.

Humiliated and dejected, Bouazizi, the breadwinner for his family of eight, went to the provincial headquarters, hoping to complain to local municipality officials, but they refused to see him. At 11:30 a.m., less than an hour after the confrontation with the policewoman and without telling his family, Bouazizi returned to the elegant double-storey white building with arched azure shutters, poured fuel over himself and set himself on fire. He did not die right away but lingered in the hospital till Jan. 4. There was so much outrage over his ordeal that even President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator, visited Bouazizi on Dec. 28 to try to blunt the anger. But the outcry could not be suppressed and, on Jan. 14, just 10 days after Bouazizi died, Ben Ali’s 23-year rule of Tunisia was over. (See a brief history of self-immolation.)

Though proud of the consequences of Bouazizi’s self-immolation, his family is still indescribably sad. “Mohammed did what he did for the sake of his dignity,” says his mother, Mannoubia, standing in the room he shared with his brother Karim, 14. It’s one of four in her small but well-kept home. She points to the two thin olive-green foam mattresses on the floor where her two sons slept. The only other piece of furniture in the room is a large cabinet. Weeping, his mother pulls out a black-and-grey jacket, lovingly clutching it before burying her face in it. “It smells of him,” she says.

Her teenage daughter Basma rushes to comfort her. A few moments later, Mannoubia stops crying, dabbing her blue eyes with the edge of her multicolored hijab, a rare sight in secular Tunis but common in conservative, rural parts of the country. “I am proud of my son, although I am in mourning, and I am sad, but thanks to God, Mohammed lives, he didn’t die,” she says resolutely. “He lives on, his name lives on. I am proud of what happened in Tunis, I am proud that he is known throughout the Arab world.”

The residents of Sidi Bouzid are all immensely proud of how Bouazizi’s actions spurred what many refer to as the “people’s revolution” and how it has shaken despotic Arab governments elsewhere. “The son of Hay al-Noor [Bouazizi’s neighborhood] in Sidi Bouzid, this is the location of the revolution,” reads Arabic graffiti a street away from the martyr’s modest home.

Just as the young woman Neda Agha-Soltan became a symbol of Iran’s green movement after she was shot while watching a demonstration two years ago, Bouazizi has become a popular symbol among Arabs. He is being emulated as well. There have been almost a dozen copycat self-immolations in several Arab capitals including Cairo and Algiers. However, they have not provoked the same popular reaction as Bouazizi’s martyrdom did in Tunisia, despite the seething frustrations of Egyptians and Algerians over high unemployment, corruption and autocratic rule. (Tunisia pushes out its strongman: Could other Arab nations follow?)

Those frustrations remain in Sidi Bouzid — though the upheaval in Tunis has given the unemployed a dose of hope. On Thursday, Jaber Hajlawi, an unemployed 22-year-old lawyer and one of Bouazizi’s neighbors, leaned against the graffitied wall as he lit a cigarette. “We were silent before but Mohammed showed us that we must react,” he says. Clad in a short black leather jacket and blue jeans with gelled black hair, he looks the part of a rebel, with a cause. “My brother has a Ph.D.; he works in a supermarket. The problem is that qualifications mean nothing. It’s all about who you know,” he says. “Now, we expect things to change. I want my freedom and my rights. I want to work. I want a job.”

The demand echoes across town. About 300 feet away from the spot where Bouazizi set himself alight, young men in the hundreds gather every day, eager to express their views to anyone who pulls out a notebook. They have erected handwritten banners near portraits of Bouazizi. “We are all prepared to sacrifice our blood for the people,” reads one.

They are already impatient with the new regime. “Not one official has talked to us,” says Mohammad Boukhari, 40, an unemployed teacher. “Where are they? Why won’t they listen to what we need?” He is interrupted by Issawi Mohammad Naja, 32, an unemployed agriculturalist. “We are here because we want our dignity. We don’t want to have to rely on political favors or bribes to get jobs; we need to clean out the system.” Another young man pushes through the burgeoning crowd. “I’m an IT graduate and I have been unemployed for four years because I don’t know anyone in the municipality. What is my future? We are all Bouazizis if our hopes are dashed.” The anger that set Bouazizi aflame still flickers in Sidi Bouzid — and may grow to set the country on fire again.

Tunis : the return of Ben Ali

The Tunisian revolution

Key figures in new Tunisia government

18 January 2011
The Tunisian government has named an interim government of national unity following the sudden departure of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali amid widespread unrest.

The government includes figures from both the ruling establishment and the opposition. Here are brief biographies of some of the key figures.

Prime minister: Mohammed ben Hassouna Ghannouchi

Mohammed ben Hassouna Ghannouchi Mohammed ben Hassouna Ghannouchi

A long-time ally of ousted President Ben Ali, Mohammed Ghannouchi has been prime minister since 1999.

He has been in every government since Mr Ben Ali came to power in 1987, and is a member of the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party that has, in various guises, controlled Tunisia since independence in 1956.

The prime minister announced that he was assuming power on 14 January, soon after Mr Ben Ali fled the country for Saudi Arabia in response to the growing unrest. However, only a day later, it was announced that in line with the constitution, the speaker of parliament, Foued Mebazaa, should be sworn in as president instead.

Mr Ghannouchi is a trained economist who has held a variety of economic and financial portfolios. He has a reputation as a competent technocrat who was seen as the driving force behind the economic reform programme started under President Ben Ali.

Born in 1941 in the coastal town of Sousse, Mr Ghannouchi holds a degree in economics from the Tunis University of Law, Political Sciences and Economics.

Interior minister: Ahmed Friaa

Ahmed Friaa Ahmed Friaa

Ahmed Friaa became interior minister on 12 January 2011 after his predecessor, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, was sacked in response to the growing anti-government riots. He was reappointed to the post in the new national unity government.

First appointed to the Tunisian government in 1989, Mr Friaa was minister of communications from 1997, previously serving as housing minister, education minister and ambassador to Italy. Born in 1949, Mr Friaa holds a degree in numerical analysis and a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris.

Defence minister: Ridha Grira

Ridha Grira Ridha Grira

Another hold-over from the previous government, Ridha Grira has been defence minister since January 2010. Before that, he was minister of state properties and property affairs for 11 years. He is a member of the central committee of the ruling RCD.

Like Prime Minister Ghannouchi, Mr Grira is a native of Sousse. He studied law, economics and management at the Sorbonne in Paris, before going on to France’s top graduate college for aspiring civil servants, the Ecole Nationale d’Administration.

Foreign minister: Kamal Morjane

Kamel Morjane Kamel Morjane

Kamel Morjane was first appointed foreign minister in January 2010, and keeps the post in the new government. A career diplomat, Mr Morjane was Tunisia’s permanent representative to the UN in 1996-99, going on to serve as defence minister from 2005-10.

Hours before President Ben Ali’s rule collapsed, Mr Morjane made a widely-reported statement saying that a national unity government involving Tunisia’s hitherto marginalised opposition parties might be possible.

Mr Morjane was born in 1948 – also in Sousse – and studied at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, the University of Wisconsin and the Hague Academy of International Law.

Minister of regional and local development: Najib Chebbi

Najib Chebbi Najib Chebbi

One of the opposition figures appointed to the new government, Najib Chebbi is a founding member of the Progressive Democratic Party, and was its leader until 2006, when he stepped aside. The party is currently not represented in parliament.

Mr Chebbi has been one of the most outspoken critics of the government and is one of few opposition leaders not to have gone into exile. Relatively unknown outside a small circle of opposition activists as a result of government media controls, he has frequently been harassed by the security forces.

He announced his intention to stand in the 2009 presidential elections, but was thwarted by a recently introduced law barring non-party leaders from standing.

Minister of health: Mustafa Ben Jaafar

Mustafa Ben Jaafar Mustafa Ben Jaafar

Mr Ben Jaafar is leader of the opposition Union of Freedom and Labour, which he helped to found in 1994 and which became a legally recognised political party in 2002.

Born in Tunis in 1940, he studied medicine in France and became active in student politics. On his return to Tunisia from France, he taught medicine at the University of Tunis and at the same time became involved in opposition and human rights activities.

Mr Ben Jaafar submitted his candidacy for the 2009 Tunisian presidential election, but his candidacy was rejected by the Tunisian Constitutional Council “for failing to meet legal and constitutional requirements”.

He is one of the most respected long-standing opposition figures and is regarded as a moderate.

Minister of higher education: Ahmed IbrahimAhmed Ibrahim is secretary general of the former communist Ettajdid (Renewal) party and was the main challenger in the October 2009 presidential polls, in which President Ben Ali gained a fifth term in office.

Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim

Before the polls Mr Ibrahim said supporters were prevented from holding rallies, handing out leaflets or displaying posters because his message was deemed to be hostile to the state and the ruling party.

His party holds three seats in parliament.

He has been a critic of the previous government’s human rights record and has called for political reform.

He was born in 1946.

The Ettajdid party is a member of the Alliance for Citizenship and Equality, a grouping of left-wing and independent parties which has been calling for reform. It also includes the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties.

Secretary of state for sport and youth: Slim AmamouPro-democracy blogger Slim Amamou announced his appointment in a tweet on 17 January.

A freedom of speech activist and member of the Tunisian Pirate Party, he had been arrested only a few days previously – just before former President Ben Ali fled the country – on charges of hacking government websites. He was one of the most prominent figures in the “online” revolt against the government.

Mr Amamou runs a team of software developers and has described himself on Twitter as “against censorship, against the intellectual property rights, for net neutrality”.


Tunisian ‘convoy of thanks’ marches to cradle of revolution

10/02/2011 / TUNISIA

On Sunday, February 6, a “convoy of thanks” left Tunisia’s major towns and cities and headed for Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the popular uprising that toppled the authoritarian regime of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. It was a show of gratitude, but one also designed to put an end to the widespread inequalities between different parts of the country.
In Tunisia, wealth is concentrated within a handful of large coastal towns, to the detriment of the country’s inner regions. The main political and administrative establishments are based in the capital, Tunis. Sidi Bouzid, in the centre-west of the country, is one of the regions left behind by regional development policies: although it counts over 400,000 citizens, it does not boast a single university, and is one of the country’s poorest regions.
These disparities instilled a regionalist mindset in many Tunisians. Today, however, a growing number of voices are calling for these inequalities to end.


“We were all, up to a point, complicit in these inequalities – the convoy is an opportunity to make amends”

Béchir Bouraoui, 30, lives in Tunis. He took part in the “convoy of thanks”.

The initiative was launched via an ‘event’ page on Facebook. We didn’t care very much about who was behind it, we were more interested in the gesture. The idea was simple, to head to Sidi Bouzid by hired buses or by car to thank the people of that region for having started our revolution.
Our convoy left from Tunis. We stopped three times on the way to Sidi Bouzid and were joined by people coming from other towns (Hammamet, Nabeul, Sousse, Kairouan…). The instructions were simple: everyone had to carry a Tunisian flag with them. But many also came with placards and banners carrying a messages of thanks.

We were greeted like kings, even though they are the heroes
We arrived at about 1pm. The welcome we received was incredible! At one point in the regional capital, the crowd was so huge that the convoy couldn’t move any further. Local residents, who knew that we were coming, had put up a banner saying ‘The men of the revolution welcome the free men of Tunisia’.  We were greeted like kings, even though they are the heroes
First we rallied outside the governor’s offices, where everything started on December 17. We then organised a three kilometre-long march which took us to the open-air theatre in Sidi Bouzid city. Many people delivered speeches of thanks to the residents, but some speakers also brought up the question of regional inequalities.
Everyone knows that there was a huge gap between the coastal towns and the regions of the interior. With the end of Ben Ali’s regime, the full extent of these inequalities was divulged. We have discovered how funds destined for the regions were diverted. The inhabitants never saw a single cent of public funds – they were diverted into politician’s pockets.
I think we were all, up to a point, complicit in these inequalities. The convoy was a chance to recognize our past errors and turn the page. Medical and food supplies were also distributed discretely the night before. But what we wanted the most was to highlight existing injustices.
An association will be created in the next few weeks with the aim of encouraging these sorts of exchanges with the regions to put an end to this segregation once and for all. Tunisia is a small country, let us not divide it further.”

Photos of the ‘convoy of thanks’

Arrival of the convoy of cars at Sidi Bouzid.
A participant waving the Tunisian flag and a photo of Mohamed Bouazizi.
At the open-air theatre in Sidi Bouzid.
All of the photos were posted on Facebook by Sabrine and Ramy Herrira.

Freedom install

Tunisia and reshaping the Arab world

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Here in Palestine, we face a relentless assault not only on us and our lands
but on truth, on decency, on nature, on dignity, and, dare I say, on God.
Israeli authorities are working overtime to transform the Holy City of
Jerusalem from a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city to a distorted vision
of what Zionists think Judaism is about (supremacy, ethnic purity, tribalism

They will be debating in the next few days a project for an additional
1400 “housing units” near Gilo colony.  The land targeted belongs to the
village of Al-Walaja and the Town of Beit Jala. The Negev village of
Al-Araqib was also just demolished for the 9th time*. More home and business
demolitions were carried out in Jerusalem and the Jordan valley.

lands from Christians and Muslims, destroying over 2 million trees and
countless homes and businesses are not just war crimes but crimes against
humanity. We must continue to challenge these destructive policies and
demand the international community bring those responsible to justice.
Please write to media, politicians, and all others (the internet allows you
to get hundred of emails very quickly for decision makers).**

I think the empire’s hold on the Arab World has begun to unravel and I think
we see in Tunisia the first spark of a revolution that will reshape the Arab
world for the better and spell the end of repression. In 1948, the insertion
of Israel in the Middle of the Arab world was designed to dominate the area,
keep the people disjointed, disunited and ruled by (Western-appointed)
dictators.  In 1953, the US and Britain engineered the coup that removed the
democratically elected government of Mousaddeq and placed the brutal Shah in
power in Iran.

These moves worked for many years because people in the Arab
world let them happen and offered limited resistance.  Things have been
changing.  In retrospect, the year 1973 was pivotal as for the first time
two Arab countries decided to fight to take back their stolen lands.
Unfortunately, the US chose to save its monstrous creation from having to
return all the stolen lands (and Sadat was willing to walk a separate line).
Then came the nonviolent people’s revolution in Iran which got rid of the
Shah in 1979.

Since then Israel and its benefactor has attempted in vain to
crush any Arab resistance by might.  Fom their invasion and occupation of
Lebanon to invasion and occupation of Iraq, these evil forces attempted to
keep the lid on Arab democracy and keep their hegemony.  Arab dictators were
useful tools in implementing these destructive policies.  But many of us
have long argued that these shenanigans will and must come to an end.

As people around the world evolved beyond dictatorship and racism, we in the
Arab world will too.  After all, why should people in Latin America (some
that used to be called banana republics) be able to say NO to the
neo-liberal and neo-colonial systems while we in the Arab world could not?
Why should Iran and Turkey be able to say NO to violations of International
law and NO to hegemony while we in the rich Arab world stay silent?  The
directions may be coming from Tunisia.  I have visited Tunisia twice and
have many colleagues and friends that hail from Tunisia’s beautiful towns
and villages. My single largest scientific collaborator is a Tunisian
scientist living in Paris.

I have commented on the similarity that
Palestine and Tunisia has in geography, topography, climate, and village
life.  Tunisians used popular resistance methods I discussed in my recent
book on Palestine to get rid of a corrupt leader who had hung on to power
for over 23 years.

But there are other Arab leaders who have been in power
even longer.  It is time for real change, a change not to replace one face
with another but to begin to form truly democratic institutions throughout
the Arab world.  Our demands include democracy, transparency (including
totally free and critical press), plurality, and justice.

We have enough natural and human resources to build new vibrant societies.

All we have to
do is muster the will to free our minds.  Those of us who have done so and
shed their inhibitions should also begin to discuss and ORGANIZE for the day
after (after Zionism and after imperialism).  We have to begin to examine
how we may repair the damage caused by the corrupt systems and build a
better future.


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