“I thought poetry could change everything, could change history and could humanize, and I think that the illusion is very necessary to push poets to be involved and to believe, but now I think that poetry changes only the poet.”

“We should not justify suicide bombers. We are against the suicide bombers, but we must understand what drives these young people to such actions. They want to liberate themselves from such a dark life. It is not ideological, it is despair.”

Mahmoud Darwish

“Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging…”

Noami Shihab Nye

9 August 2008 , a text message is delivered on my mobile, “Darwish” is dead! In my ears ring the poems of his friend Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ae erz e Watan— Ae erz e watan— kyon Noch Noch keh pehk diye , in aankon ne apne Neelum, chan chan–chan chan chan chan

Palestine is dying, the Palestine for which the progressives had waged a battle with history, from people without history, from people without name , from people without identity, from people without land , Arafat, George Habash, Darwish created everything . History, Name , Identity , land till the thugs came to loot and kill, to plunder and destroy what we had achieved .

Just like Arafat and Habash , Darwish died a lonely man, a man whose ideas died on streets of Gaza with rise of fascist Hamas! The struggle melting into web of imperialism and suicide bombings.

It was no other than Abu Mazen , president of Palestine who announced the death of the greatest of living poets of our times , who was Palestine’s national poet, and one of greatest living Arab and progressive poets of resistance.

Darwish started with “Rakah”, communist party of Israel, his struggle was against capitalism,imperialism and Zionism. He studied in USSR and was stripped of his Israeli citizenship. He continued , listening to call of motherland Darwish joined PLO and became voice of Palestine all over the world

It was the time when world was in grip of the myth that Palestine was “empty” desert when Jews came! Darwish rose to the challenge . He gave Palestine , history and Identity

He was a celebrity in progressive circles all around the world from Cuba to Pakistan. His poetry influenced the thought in Pakistan through Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Ahmad Faraz

When he wrote his famous poem “Identity Card” it created ripples in the world, the whole anguish of Palestine issue came forward

Identity Card

Write down !

I am an Arab

And my identity card number is fifty thousand

I have eight children

And the ninth will come after a summer

Will you be angry?


Write down!

I am an Arab

Employed with fellow workers at a quarry

I have eight children

I get them bread

Garments and books

from the rocks..

I do not supplicate charity at your doors

Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber

So will you be angry?


Write down!

I am an Arab

I have a name without a title

Patient in a country

Where people are enraged

My roots

Were entrenched before the birth of time

And before the opening of the eras

Before the pines, and the olive trees

And before the grass grew


My father.. descends from the family of the plow

Not from a privileged class

And my grandfather..was a farmer

Neither well-bred, nor well-born!

Teaches me the pride of the sun

Before teaching me how to read

And my house is like a watchman’s hut

Made of branches and cane

Are you satisfied with my status?

I have a name without a title!


Write down!

I am an Arab

You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors

And the land which I cultivated

Along with my children

And you left nothing for us

Except for these rocks..

So will the State take them

As it has been said?!



Write down on the top of the first page:

I do not hate people

Nor do I encroach

But if I become hungry

The usurper’s flesh will be my food



Of my hunger

And my anger!

Darwish stood as firm believer of ideology. When he wrote his poem “I am Yousaf” one of his best, it was set to music by great Arab composer Marcel Khalife; The Islamic fascists created a storm of hate against Khalife. He was accused of blasphemy because a verse of Koran was used in the poem! Darwish came forward to defend. In a passionate article he gave the progressive position on freedom of arts and expression. The article was named “In defense of freedom of creativity “Darwish wrote what most of us need to understand today

“Globalization besieges our path to future and Islamic fundamentalism besieges present pushing us to past from which bright pages only the margins of intellectual censorship are selectively read. Such fundamentalism does not bother asking what qualifies it to appoint itself a guardian of sacred and a monopoly of faith. we refuse religious oppression as much we refuse the political oppression. our defense of Khalife today is defense of freedom of creativity , unbound and unshackled—”

Such a beacon of creativity, clarity and freedom is no more. When he is needed the most. Palestine is dying ,to quote his own words “suiciding on the streets”

Alwida Dawish, Alwida Habash, Alwida Arafat: Alwida Palestine?

Long Live Palestine: Long Live Freedom

Shaheryar Ali