Prison is preferred [Archives:2006/988/Opinion]

October 9 2006

Mohammed Sadiq Al-Udaini
“There is no pillow so soft as a pure


-A French proverb

One day during my second imprisonment in Ibb Central Prison, I had read a witticism in an Arab publication; it makes one laugh and cry at the same time especially for someone whose situation looks similar to the joke. It relates a dialogue between a judge in court and a prisoner, inspired by the present general reality with regard to social, political, economic and press conditions.

The judge, addressing the prisoner standing inside a box behind bars, said we have decided to release you from prison. We want you to go out and face government corruption, public loss, disasters of GPC's doses, presidential panic speeches, groups of self-seekers; down to the end of the list of bitter vexations overwhelming the heart of my country, smearing with blood half of its present and its future entirely.

In such a way the painful joke diagnosed the miserable reality in various walks of life to an extent where prison has become one of the amenities bestowed by the Creator, one of the ways of deliverance from claws of freedom associated with all tragedies and annoyances of life. I wondered if imprisonment and living behind bars have become at this bad time a safe haven or commuted punishment, whereas life outside the walls of prison represents fiercer and harsher punishment especially throughout the period of my imprisonment when I was publicly writing criticism of corruption and its symbols.

Presently, and with every passing day I am in this deformed homeland, I recall this painful witticism accompanied by that painful wonder, though metaphorically I am free and away from walls of the prison where I stayed behind bars nearly two years. It is as if the judge who decided to release me wanted – after they discovered the idea of imprisonment had proved its failure and could not change me into a mute Satan or extoller of the sultan- to punish me with the severest punishment by granting me my freedom in a homeland where the human no longer entertains any value and live conscience, honor, decency and truthfulness have become accusations causing one to be pursued and fought against even the breaths of air he breathes and also threatened. What kind of a homeland is this that does not give its sons anything except humiliation and loss? What homeland is this where gangs act freely and as they wish and tamper with its destinies and life of its sons, a handful of thieves and highwaymen hiding behind the state institutions and security organizations? The citizen eats but fear and throws up bits of glass and nails.

The people in my country, with a downtrodden majority, are simple, miserable partners in concern and poverty whose proportion is witnessing horrible escalation that may exceed 13 million poor persons out of the country's population of 20 millions. This population possesses more than 60 million pieces of various caliber weapons, heavily armed with illiteracy- over 70 percent among men and more than 80 percent among women, added to that the political illiteracy, spread of psychological diseases, cases of hysterical madness, disability and catastrophes of spread corruption, continued borrowing and its sad effects on them and misfortunes of the approaching danger of depletion of water and oil wells.

The real problem may lie in that ruling “Horse,” which kicks bodies of its victims here and there, continues its exhaustion of the state treasury, employs all the state property to satisfy its unlimited whims in achieving false victories in imaginary battles and wars, sweeping majorities in drama-filled elections and comic referendums whose results are attached with tragedies. It does not realize poverty is the match of ignorance and illness and the grouping of the three of them pushes the people to disbelieve the state and kills in the souls all national feelings. When we are not assured our living and future of our sons, relinquishing formalities will be an easy thing for the homeland is the place where we feel dignity and homelands that do not offer respect to their citizens are not homelands.

We are therefore in need of a big crematory, the size of this homeland, in which we burn desperate past and a present burdened with humiliation, highly admired idols, dervish politicians and reproduced deformed political parties. I visited he field and there I found a coward who attacks and the brave who flees the field and victims chanting with remaining of their blood and spirit for the one who sucked their blood and spoiled their living and stole hopes of their future and comfort of their present.

As long as purity has its high price the free person pats it with a satisfied conscience. That is why the soul yearns for sacrifice for the sake of a nobler goal. What enhances this spirit is the worry dwelling the souls of those who panic the word fact and therefore they change their sins to judiciary sentences and corrupt decisions and accusations signed by shaking fingers in targeting the honorable, thinking they can score victory by imprisoning anyone who disagrees with them in opinion. What consolidates the spirit of courage is to make the soul get used to facing hardships. Thus the warden becomes more worried then the prisoner and the executioner becomes more pained than the executed. For all that let me cry loudly the prison is preferable for me.

Finally, I quote the poet Mahmoud Darwish and repeat with him: “Be the hymn of the one deprived of a song, when you go to bed this evening I tell you wake up on a homeland on the back of a galloping horse and my friends I whisper you will not be like us: a mysterious hangman's rope.”

Mohammed Sadiq Al-Udaini is the chairman of Center of Training and Protection of Journalists' Freedoms.