27 February 2007

Poetry as a threat to national security

Just as the heart beats in the darkness of the body,
so I, despite this cage, continue to beat with life.
Those who have no courage or honour consider themselves free, but they are slaves.
I am flying on the wings of thought, and so, even in this cage, I know a greater freedom.
- Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost
The above are but a few of the 25,000 lines of poetry written by Dost during the three years he was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. Dost has since been freed after the Americans finally realized he was an innocent man. Prior to his arrest by Pakistani intelligence officers, he was a respected religious scholar, poet, journalist and author of 19 books.

Dost was not alone in writing poetry while incarcerated.
A collection of poems by Guantanamo detainees is scheduled for publication later this year. The collection, consisting of 21 poems written in Arabic, Pashto and English, has been gathered, despite strong opposition from the American military, by Northern Illinois University law professor Marc Falkoff, who represents 17 of the prisoners.

Many poems written by the inmates will never be published. The Pentagon has refused to declassify much of their work, arguing that poetry presents a special risk to national security. Dost has only been able to retrieve ten per cent of his work and Falkoff has not been allowed to see poems sent to other lawyers. Dangerous things, poems.

For all those poetry fans out there, the book will be entitled "Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak." Watch for it.

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