Every year many writers are killed, taken prisoner or gagged by dictatorial regimes. The Palestinian-Saudi poet Ashraf Fayadh is one of them. In 2015 he was sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia for writing ‘blasphemous poetry’. Following international protest his death sentence was converted into 8 years’ imprisonment and 16 x 50 lashes.  

In the course of an evening in the Centre for Fine Arts both Belgian and non-Belgian writers pay homage to an imprisoned writer with a debate and the presentation of a collection with poems dedicated to Fayadh : (more than) 16 times 50 words for Ashraf (PEN Belgium: Dutch and French-speaking, 2016).
With Fatena Al-Ghorra, Sven Cooremans, Charles Ducal, Annemarie Estor, Corinne Hoex, Peter Holvoet-Hanssen, Jean Jauniaux, Karel Logist, Caroline Lamarche, Peter Theunynck, Joke Van Leeuwen, Laurence Vielle, Bart Vonck and musician Sam Joris

Alongside the presentation of this book there will be a discussion about writing in times of war and dictatorship. The famous Iraqi writer Ali Bader was asked by BOZAR and PEN to write a statement about writing in times of war and dictatorship, during which he argues in favour of a cultural revolution in the Arab world. After the reading there will be a discussion with colleague-writers and activists who respond to Bader’s opinions. Participants are the Eritrean author Sulaiman Addonia, the Flemish writer Annelies Verbeke and the peace activist Mario Franssen. The talk will be moderated by Ine Roox, journalist at De Standaard.

Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian poet, artist, and curator who was sentenced to death by beheading for the charge of apostasy. The charges against him stem from complaints relating to supposed atheistic and blasphemous themes in his poetry collection Instructions Within. In 2016, Ashraf’s death sentence was overturned and the court imposed an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes. Fayadh’s poems are ruminations about his life as a Palestinian refugee, as well as cultural and philosophical issues.

Ali Bader was born in Baghdad and currently lives in Brussels. Chronicler of Iraqi history, he has published eleven novels since 2000, establishing himself as one of the most original voices of his generation. Papa Sartre (Éd. Seuil, 2014), winner of several literary awards in the Arab world, was the first of his works to be translated into French. His latest novel is Le musicien des nuages (2016).

Sulaiman S.M.Y. Addonia is British, born in Eritrea to an Eritrean mother and an Ethiopian father. He spent his early life in a refugee camp in Sudan following the Om Hajar massacre in 1976, and in his early teens he lived and studied in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His first novel, The Consequences of Love, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has been translated into more than 20 languages. He currently lives in Brussels and is writing a new novel.

Annelies Verbeke is a Belgian novelist who also writes short stories, essays, plays, and screenplays. Her first novel Slaap! (Sleep!) sold over 75,000 copies and was published in twenty-two countries. Her novel-in-stories Assumptions was published in English in 2015. Thirty Days was nominated for prestigious literary prizes and sold over 25,000 copies.