The Writer's Rights

by Caasha Lul Mohamud Yusuf

Journalists were discarded;
rights thrown in unmarked graves.
Men massacred; erased.
The press stripped of freedom.
Where is it officially written?
Where's the act or legislation?
 
Journalists were jailed,
crammed in cells with criminals,
or brought down in bullets,
their humanity denied.
There was no respect.
Where is it officially written?
Where's the act or legislation?
 
Injustice is infectious,
your children are not safe,
your elders are not safe,
they will wipe out your women.
Mogadishu is worst.
If journalists wrote of wrongs
why they were slaughtered?
My kinsmen, why the arrests?
 
The warlord's rope's a trap to trip
the public - to obstruct,
opposing peace, and hey you, thief!
Raiding our riches,
opening fire on our people.
You'll be called to account!
 
Let me pause - I pant.
I get hoarse, reciting this poem.
There's no honour in Somalia -
where's modesty or manners?
They just brag of bodies, burials,
dismiss and devalue unity,
make victims of their citizens
until smartness and strength drain out...
 
Listen: it's an international law -
there are three types of people
it's forbidden to harm or hurt -
 
Firstly, when hell breaks
and people fall to fighting,  
bullets crisscrossing from cartridges,
whistling like a type of rain
that comes from every corner,
too many corpses to count
and numbers stumbling wounded
and life is disgusting,
you could flee, be free,
escape what you can't endure,
but journalists go towards it
through gunshot, barbed-wire,
they report the true news.
They have no borders.
You're forbidden to harm them.
Journalists must be free.
 
The wannabe dictator, ravenous
for absolutes, gorging on power,
on higher positions,
dedicates himself to leadership -
three stars, a general's rank.
Dreaming of this command
when the dawn breaks
he wakes galloping, feral,
slapping dust from his flesh.
 
But gossip becomes allegation,
and when journalists look closer
this man shows no perception,
no moral resolution,
and lacking a solution,
begins to get a temper -
spleen swelling veins.
He shuts the newspapers down.
 
Secondly, don't hurt the artist
who writes musical notation,
who knows how to play
any instrument in reach -
always singing songs of love
In the genre's great tradition
to slake your hunger.
 
Thirdly, when life's muddied
and nothing can drag it out
and things fall to chaos,
it's the poet who's needed,
unpeeling, peering,
taking matters on their shoulders.
You mustn't crush them either.
 
At times, they bear responsibility -
their talent comes from God.
Allah gives craft and creativity -
unusual, natural ability,
deep-rooted knowledge that's grown
from far down in the soil
and fights colonisation.
Other times, they're honeycomb,
or rain splashing from clouds,
drops that fall in Spring,
or Autumn's breaking waters
as farm animals give birth
during peace and harvest,
and people, thank Allah, prosper.
 
Those who use words well
must take history's point
to ink a beautiful literature.
Honestly, I swear:
you can't harm the journalist or singer,
you must never harm the poet.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Maxamed Xasan 'Alto'

The final translated version of the poem is by Clare Pollard

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