When it becomes a protest, poetry has a price. Ayat al-Qormezi, a twenty-year-old Bahraini woman, galvanised the crowd at Manama’s Pearl Round-about by reciting an imagined dialogue between King Hamad Aal Khalifa and Satan. Shortly afterwards security forces stormed the protest camp and, with the aid of Saudi troops, began a campaign of repression. Ayat was arrested, allegedly tortured, and sentenced to a year in prison. The charges were ‘insulting the king, taking part in banned gatherings, and spreading false information’.
We don’t want to live in a palace, nor do we desire the presidency
We are a people who slays humiliation and assassinates misery
We are a people who demolishes injustice at its base
We are a people who doesn’t want to continue this catastrophe.
On a table laid with people’s pains Satan and Hamad sit and talk:
Satan: ‘Oh, Hamad, fear God. My heart is breaking over them.
Although I am Satan I’m tempted to put my hand in theirs,
To rebel against you, to bow down right now to their prophet,
To repent to my God, for I am astounded by their struggle’.
Hamad: ‘You, my ally, are the one who taught me how to deny them
How to humiliate them and hurt them and inflict woes upon them
Yet now you come asking for mercy towards them?
It seems you have been shaken by their new state of awareness’.
Satan: ‘Yes, Hamad, your people have shaken me.
Haven’t you heard them?
Haven’t you seen the crowds and heard their shouts?
Haven’t you heard their complaints and their sober reasoning?
Hamad, these people cannot be bought’.
Hamad: ‘O, Satan, my belly hasn’t yet brimmed with their blood
I haven’t yet tortured every man with a turban
I haven’t yet tortured each child and each youth
I haven’t yet crushed each man in his prime
I haven’t yet opened a million doors to humiliation
I haven’t yet forced each one to cry mercy’.
Satan: ‘Listen, my student whose cunning has exceeded his master’s,
Your people have defeated me. Those proud revolutionaries have bewil-dered me.
Sunna or Shia’a, there’s no difference between them!
God protect all of them; they’ve sacrificed seven martyrs for the land,
Yet your heart remains stony. Do you want my advice?
Pack your rubbish and leave; you cannot meet the high standards of your people’.
Translation by Rana Zaitoon