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memri
September 22, 2017 No.
7102

Protest Poem By Palestinian Poet Decries Oppression Of Women

Palestinian poet Jadal Al-Qasem, born 1983 in Bulgaria to a Palestinian father and Syrian mother and now residing in Ramallah, frequently writes about women in the Arab and Muslim society.  In 2015 her anthology Wheat in Cotton was one of two first-prize winners in the Young Writers annual competition held by the Palestinian A. M. Al-Qattan Foundation.[1] The prize committee described her as a "thought-provoking feminine voice" that offers "a new and sometimes startling perspective," adding that her poetry describes men with sensitivity and courage, based on her personal experience, and also reflects the character of the woman in the Arab Muslim society.[2] Al-Qasem launched the anthology in an April 17, 2017 event at the Mahmoud Darwish Museum in Ramallah, at which she also read several of her poems.[3]   

In a March 3, 2017 televised interview with the Palestinian Maan news agency, Al-Qasem said that she believes every individual has a right to "personal self-definition" and that women must fight to realize this right in their everyday lives, in the domains of finance, thought, poetry, etc., because "we [women] are complete human beings and must enjoy all [our] rights." She stressed that "courage is an integral part of a woman" and that a true woman must be brave in everything she does.[4]

On April 25, 2017, the Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published a poem by Al-Qasem titled "I Am the Scar upon Your Arm," about an oppressed woman who lives to serve others and conforms to their expectations but is not recognized or appreciated. The woman in the poem expresses her hatred for all those around her – her husband, his family and her own – who enabled her suffering and contributed to it. She describes herself as a "puppet" and a "dead woman," and even as a wife doomed to be murdered by her husband.

The following is a translation of the poem.


Jadal Al-Qasem (image: arab48.com)

 

"I hate my husband

"And I also hate his mother

"And if not for the fire that burns in the world to come

"I would say that I also hate my mother

"I have seven children

"I love them and hate being their mother

"I never got any prize

"Even though I deserve the prize of a satisfactory woman

"I married to please my mother (my shame was uncovered and she covered for me)

"I worked at contemptible labor to please my husband

"I bore children to please my husband's mother

"I covered my daughter with the hijab to please my brother (I didn't tell you that I hate him at the beginning out of fear)

"Today I received a wonderful prize

"A prize for the best dead woman, when I found my soul hovering above my body

"With policemen milling around it

"Comforting my murderer husband!

 

"2

"The mole! Yes, that mole

"On the bottom of my foot

"The one that every time you kissed it

"Rose a little higher

"Has already reached my lower back.

 

"3

"I married a man I did not love

"And bore a girl who looks like a man I love

"But I could not enter my own surname after her name

"On the birth certificate

"My husband did that

"And thus my daughter has a fatherless name

"And my beloved has a nameless daughter

"And my husband has a daughterless lie

"I obtained the text and lost the meaning

 

"4

"I am the scar upon your arm

"The scar that never was

"For I do not know where I am when I am not

"The scar that never was!

 

"5

"When I returned in the evening

"I was bereft of an arm

"But I remembered that I am only a puppet!

"I was not sorry."

 

[1] The A.M. Qattan Foundation is a not-for-profit developmental organization working in the fields of culture and education, with a particular focus on children, teachers and young artists. It was founded in 1993 in the UK and has had a registered branch in Palestine since 1998. The Foundation’s operations are mainly in Palestine, with interventions in Lebanon and in the UK (qattanfoundation.org/en/about-en).

[2] Wafa.ps, April 25 2017.

[3] Wafa.ps, April 17, 2017.

[4] MaanNews.net, March 3, 2017.