Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Goethe Prize

Poet Adonis urges Assad to cede power to people Syrian poet and intellectual Adonis (real name Ali Ahmed Said) urged President Bashar al-Assad to end his crackdown on popular protests and cede power to his people, in an open letter published on Tuesday.  This is an abridged translation from Arabic of the open letter published in the Lebanese daily Al-Safir.

“Neither reality nor mind believes that democracy is about to be instituted in Syria, right after the fall of the Assad regime.  However, it is not admissible to accepting this violent security regime in Syria.

Without democracy, Syria is going to surely heading to hell.  We have to steadily inch toward democratic institutions.  Democracy was unknown to modern Arab States, as it was historically unknown in Arabic culture.

The pre-requisites for stable democratic systems are:

First, taking society out of the political cultural realm of “heavenly dictates” to the “earthly individual human rights”.  Basically, we have to separate State responsibilities from religious dogma.  The various religious political forms of government have killed citizens, physically and mentally, according to “religious laws”.

Second, democracy needs a climate of freedom of speech, opinions, and expressions:  Small minds can reduce rich texts into nothingness.

Third, leniency in difference of opinion is good, but what is required is equality under the laws of the land in matter of human rights.  The regime Baath Party failed to tailor-make a new modern suit and was comfortable resuming the old-fashioned, archaic traditional religious custom mentalities. The regime Baath Party failed in its mission of integrating society on the basis of a secular State.  The experiences in the various political ideologies failed in the Arab World to forming a modern citizen; to not identifying the citizen as related to his religious affiliation or tribal membership.

Fourth, the Syrian officials have to admit that their practices and application of the better principles of the Baath ideology came very short to target in forming a secular citizen.

“The Socialist Baath Party has not remained in power this long because of the strength of its ideology, but because of the power of its iron fist. Experience shows that this fist… can impose hegemony for a limited time only. It seems your destiny Mr. President (Bashar el Assad) is to sacrifice yourself for your mistakes and to give back voice to the people and let them decide.

What a stable government needs are:

First, identifying a citizen out of his affiliation to his religious sect, tribe,…

Second, imposing equal rights under the laws of a secular land, regardless of genders or religious affiliation…

Third, reverting the sole power of extending legitimacy to the people…” (End of quotes)

Rights groups estimate that more than 1,200 people have been killed and 10,000 detained since mid-March as Assad’s forces crack down on an unprecedented revolt against his autocratic regime.  The regime’s brutal repression has driven thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring Turkey and Lebanon.

Apparently, the Syrian regime is being harassed by citizens in both the urban centers and from the remote countryside.  The father Hafez el Assad came from the countryside and did his best to disseminate progress and economic plans toward the countryside. 

The son Bashar has forgotten the countryside and that his family is from the countryside, while the middle class and old feudal families in the urban centers don’t like this newcomer among them. 

The Assad clan and extended family have enjoyed the poisonous fruits of international financial capitalist system and relegated the common people to fend for themselves.  The Assad clan might,most likely, go the distance to preserving their hold on power, even if Syria goes to hell.

What will change the regime in Syria is its current financial difficulties:  The Syrian currency is no longer stable (the oligarchy transferred its hard currency outside the State), and the wealth of the nation cannot be transacted with foreign financial institutions.

The latest speech of Bashar didn’t bring anything new to resolving the volatile situation:  He is reading from the same speech that Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Moubarak read before him.

Note 1: The poet Adonis, whose real name is Ali Ahmed Said, has for decades advocated secularism and free speech in the Arab world, often employing intense imagery.  Born in the Syrian mountain town of Qassabin, Adonis — like the Assad family– is a Alawite Muslim, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that controls the Baath Party which has ruled Syria for nearly five decades.

 Syrian’s poet Adonis sends an Open Letter to Syrian President

My namesake Adonis, Syrian poet Ali Hamid Saeed Esber, born in 1930 in the mountain village of Qassibin, was awarded Germany’s prestigious Goethe Prize Wednesday.  He is an Alaouit (an Islamic sect that Sunnis considered as heretic for centuries, and still do in many ways, as is the family of Al Assad in power). Actually, my dad named me after the poet, who was already famous in the 50’s.  He is thus an older version of me.

This is an abridged translation from Arabic of the open letter published in the Lebanese daily Al-Safi (sentences in parenthesis are mine):

“Neither reality nor mind believes that democracy is about to be instituted in Syria, right after the eventual fall of the Assad regime.  However, it is not admissible to accept this violent security regime in Syria.

Without democracy, Syria is going to surely head to hell.  We have to steadily inch toward democratic institutions.  Western Democracy was unknown to modern Arab States, as it was historically unknown in Arabic culture.(The closest imitation was an assembly of leaders to come to a consensus: Shawra)

The pre-requisites for stable democratic systems are:

First, taking society out of the political cultural realm of “heavenly dictates” to the “earthly individual human rights”.  Basically, we have to separate State civil responsibilities from religious dogma.  The various religious political forms of government have killed citizens, physically and mentally, according to “religious laws”.

Second, democracy needs a climate of freedom of speech, opinions, and expressions:  Small minds can reduce rich texts into nothingness.

Third, leniency in difference of opinion is good, but what is required is equality under the laws of the land in matter of human rights.  The regime Baath Party failed to tailor-make a new modern suit and was comfortable resuming the old-fashioned, archaic traditional religious custom mentalities. The regime Baath Party failed in its mission of integrating society on the basis of a secular State.

The experiences in the various political ideologies failed in the Arab World to forming a modern citizen: they identified the citizen as related to his religious affiliation or tribal membership.

Fourth, the Syrian officials have to admit that their practices and application of the better principles of the Baath ideology came very short to target in forming a secular citizen.

“The Socialist Baath Party has not remained in power this long because of the strength of its ideology, but because of the power of its iron fist. Experience shows that this fist… can impose hegemony for a limited time only. It seems your destiny Mr. President (Bashar el Assad) is to sacrifice yourself for your mistakes and to give back voice to the people and let them decide”.

What a stable government requires?

First, identifying a citizen as a separate entity of his affiliation to his religious sect, tribe,…

Second, imposing equal rights under the laws of a secular land, regardless of genders or religious affiliation…

Third, reverting the sole power of extending legitimacy to the people…” (End of quotes)

The poet Adonis has refrained from openly criticizing Syrian authorities during the uprising. But he launched a scathing attack three weeks ago on all Arab rulers as “leaving behind nothing except breakdown, backwardness, retreat, bitterness and torture. They gathered power. They did not build a society. They turned their countries into a space of slogans without any cultural or human content.”

He said the uprising in Syria would test whether the Arab revolution would succeed in building “human civic life” that rises above religion.  Adonis fears that Arab uprisings might usher in Islamist rulers: He expressed skepticism that even “moderate Islam” would offer rights to non-Muslims.

Note 1: “The selection committee Goethe Prize considered Adonis the most important Arab poet of his generation and granted him the prize for his cosmopolitan (work) and contribution to international literature,” the German government said in a statement. “The pagan poet” will receive the 50,000 euro ($70,320) prize, which is awarded every three years, at a ceremony in Frankfurt, Goethe’s home city, on August 28.  The Syrian poet Adonis had championed democracy and secular thought in the Middle East, and is still very engaged to changing political and social structures.

Note 2: The Second link is in Arabic رسالة مفتوحة إلى الرئيس بشار الأسد) الإنسان، حقوقه وحرياته، أو الهاويه ,which was published yesterday in Lebanon’s daily al-Safir.

Note 3:  The poet Adonis was educated in a French high school before graduating from Damascus University in the 1950s and moving to Beirut, the cultural heart of the Arab Middle East.  He left Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and moved to France, but he still visits Damascus.

The poet Adonis has little sympathy for theories that seek to mold the Middle East into a single Arab Islamic culture, marginalizing ethnic minorities and diversity of thought. Adonis is a self-styled literary “revolutionary”:  He broke away from traditional Arab poetry, which from pre-Islamic times, espoused simple forms and language to convey profound themes about politics, love, culture and philosophy.

Adonis wrote in “Hand of Poetry, Open the book of the Horizon“: “I think that I’m a wave, traveling, since the days of Gilgamesh (a Sumerian king who ruled more than 4,000 years ago), toward Beirut and the Arabs”

Adonis hails from a long tradition of Arab poets who have acted as a force for modernity against strict interpretations of religious texts.  Adonis insists on putting religious topics into their proper context, historically, economically, and culturally.  Even supporters find it hard to follow the intense imagery and complex verse that has been his hallmark.

Note 4: When people asks me how I happened to be named after the “Greek God of Beauty” Adonis, I tell them that Adon is a Phoenician God of the first City-State of Byblos, the husband of Ashtarout (Astarte), another beauty.  I am not that beautiful:  I was saved the aches of the other spectrum of emotions…Khaled Yacoub Oweis wrote the announcement of the award in Amman (Reuters) on Wed May 25, 2011 9:04pm EDT

Note 5:  I read this piece of news that the open letter was published in Al Safir from the link https://nabeelblog.wordpress.com/…/adonis-open-letter-to-president

Note 6: The radical Islamists, particularly the Syrian kinds, have been lashing at Adonis in every occasion since the uprising.


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adonis49

adonis49

May 2020
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