Mohammed al-Ajami

Activist Type
Human Rights

Mohammed al-Ajami is a Qatari poet who was summoned and arrested for his poetry in 2011 and charged with insulting the ruling elites and “insinuating to overthrow the ruling system.” After spending five months in solitary confinement, al-Ajami was sentenced to life in prison during a secret trial where several government-employed poetry experts determined that al-Ajami had, in fact, insulted the Emir and the prince. However, the official source of those insults was never disclosed. It is believed that the charges stem from Mohammed’s poem Tunisian Jasmine, in which he writes, “We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive” in reference to the Tunisian Revolution, which ignited the larger Arab Spring movement. Al-Ajami’s imprisonment sparked outrage, with groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch calling for his immediate release, claiming that Qatar holds a double standard when it comes to freedom of expression. In 2013, his sentence was reduced on appeal to 15 years. In the face of continued calls for his freedom, al-Ajami received a royal pardon and was released from prison in early 2016.

Artwork by
Johnny Selman

Mohammed al-Ajami’s portrait is constructed from the English translation of his poem Tunisian Jasmine, for which it is believed he was imprisoned. Al-Ajami’s spirit is reflected in the power of his own words.

 

Qatar

Qatar Flag
Capital
Doha
Founded
December 18, 1878
Demonym
Qatari
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