Ugar is the sixth author hosted by PEN Català in the frame of the ICORN Guest Writer Programme, and the fourth in Barcelona. A published poet, writer and journalist, he has written and published many poetry collections, books and dozens of features that analyse political events in Syria. His articles focus on themes of culture, human rights and political violence taking place in the country. Ugar had to leave his country because of his activism against the regime.
See the press conference by the City Council of Barcelona for the official presentation of Ugar and his powerful speech on the current situation in Syria (speech in Arabic, for English see text below).
Ugar has published three poetry collections including A Love Revolution, Love with the Taste of Freedom (2013), Sperto: Coloured Defeats (2004), Syriac Ceremony (2003), and a book entitled Criticism of Close Minds (2005), which is a book that discusses the aspects of being fanatic and bigoted. He has four scripts and two poetry collections ready for publication.
The political activist
As a political activist, we must mention his involvement in the Damascus Declaration (2005) that brought together all the opponents to the government to demand political reforms. He paid a high price for his political commitment and for publishing articles criticizing the regime. He was arrested in November 2006 for his political engagement and various articles, and was not released until more than four years later, in 2010.
During the years of captivity, he wrote several poems and his case was followed by PEN International and by other organizations that monitor human rights. Ugar is a member of the opposition movement Democratic Tribune (2012-), and he is among the founders of the Party of the Republic (2013).
The author is currently working on a digital project that wants to become a forum where essayists and journalists will be asked to post articles on political, philosophical and cultural matters. He is also preparing a collection of articles and essays by different writers who wrote on the Syrian Revolution, the opposition movement and the regime, and a book on his experience in prison.
Ugar collaborates with various magazines and newspapers of the Arab world.
Three voices of the Mediterranean
This evening, PEN Català invites to the event Three voices of the Mediterranean with poetry reading of three writers hosted by Barcelona under the ICORN Guest Writer Programme, and live in Catalonia Speakers: Basem Al-Nabriss (Palestine), Ugar (Syria) and Salem Zenia (Kabyle, Algeria). They will be presented by: Raffaella Salierno, Secretary General of PEN Català and Director of the ICORN Guest Writer Programme. Reading of poems in Catalan will be David Figueres, with musical accompaniment by Carlota Sas and Clara Vallès
Date: September 8, 2015
Place: Square of the Writing (located at Av. Cathedral), Barcelona
Speech by Ugar at the press conference
Good afternoon my friends,
In Syria, the place of my birth, people live in fear and they do not know the meaning of freedom where the regime is present or ISIS (the worst newborn creature of the regime).
Decades ago Hafiz Assad declared the emergency law, imposed the Baath party ideology on society and the state, prohibited politics, political parties, and press, the cultural and social centers and clubs. The appalling dictatorship and the intelligence governed Syrians to the extent that marriage, work, living or having business could not be done without getting an acceptance of the regime intelligence. Everything was under the control of Mukhabarat (Secret Service) for example universities, schools, press, sport and even speaking. Press was banned except for the governmental one or the ones that were owned by governmental officers. Half of the Syrian wealth is run by Rami Makhlouf (the cousin of Bashar Assad) and the second half is owned by Bashar.
In spite of the truth that the beginning of the revolution was calling for a word and the word is freedom, and despite our being born free, we felt that all types of authorities (political, religious, economic) were snatching away our freedom gradually.
We lived in Syria like humans not from this world. We were appalled and paralyzed.
The Syrian tragedy has been all the time the fear of the regime of people's spoken or written words. A courageous word equals a life of its owner who tries to articulate or write it. A life of a human could be disappeared totally from this earth by imprisoning it for years or losing it.
This is why the Revolution of March in 2011was declared by Syrians over the brutal regime. Hundreds of villages and tens of cities revolted against the regime and regime answer was the bullet in the chests of millions of demonstrators. Every demonstration witnessed martyrs so hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced. The question that comes to mind now is "does freedom deserve the souls of those people? The answer is definitely yes.
Even though Syria is destroyed now, freedom has become the most vital necessity for Syrians. Syrians are free now and after tasting freedom, they will not give up seeking for it even if they are all massacred.
Since four years, Syrians have been living under the frightening premonition of being killed by explosive barrels, rockets, bombardments, explosive cars in the crowded places which are prepared and executed by the regime. Syrians are now experiencing all types killing for example, Chemical weapons (Sarin and Mustard gas), torture, detention, kidnapping, raping, famine and being killed by ISIS. The Syrian regime has killed a half million since four years and has arrested another half million. It has been recorded a hundred and fifty thousands of handicapped Syrians and hundreds of appalling massacres.
Fleeing from the mentioned typed of death, hundreds of thousands have decided to escape from Syria by illegal ways despite that running from Syria costs Syrians 1500 dead a year in the sea. By this way Syrians run away from the within death of Syria to face another one in the Mediterranean Sea.
My dear friends,
I want to talk about my experience as a man who fought for freedom especially the freedom of the word and opinion. From an early age I have began to criticize the religious and social traditions. At the age of 16 I became a regime opponent and I tried to join some secret political parties which exposed me to a social isolation and being monitored all the time by the secret regime. I was not allowed to work to earn my living. When I started publishing my writings, I was investigated several times by the secret police. Finally I have been arrested for several dread years.
I am not here to talk about the conditions I experienced there underground in my detention center because I am really trying to forget it. One day I may publish what I have experienced there.
I would like to tell you two main points about myself as a poet. The first point is related to my literary beginnings. The first poem I wrote was about my English teacher and at that time I was 14. My second poem was about Spain. It is not strange to write about this country in Syria because we have been learnt that Arabs built its beautiful palaces. We have been leant also a lot of Arabs and Jews had come back to Syria.
The second point is about writing in the jail. Me and others wrote a lot of poems there and we hid them in a secret place. We used to say to ourselves that when the regime falls, we get back to the prison to liberate our friends and bring our hidden poems there. I hope those poems are still in their secret places there.
At the last four days of my sentence in jail, I wrote four love poems. I wrote them on cigarette leaves. Every poem contains four or five words. I did this only to be able to smuggle them with me when I was set free. While checking me in the detention center, the officer found it. He got it from me. I tried to justify that it is a love poem. His answer was a frown from his face.
I am telling you this story just to confirm on that dictatorship is not only the enemy of freedom but also beauty, love and poetry.
My dear friends,
I feel like you know definitely what I am narrating to you here; especially you had a very bad experience with Franco the dictator. You also have suffered for years from the civil war. Yesterday I watched two photos: the first one was for a Spanish father looking at his son while crying and the second one was the same but for a Syrian father. The photo wants to say that both peoples have similar experience. Spain has got rid from the civil war and Franco in the past and got Democracy and Syria has the right to do the same after its long miserable tragedy. Syrians nowadays are used to live death and pain but Syria never dies. It arises again like the legendary Phoenician bird.
Thank you for listening.
Fragment of a poetic prose poetry by Ugar:
A lust from the heights of yearning
Trembles me till I lose of conscious,
Plows the swamp of moans,
And interrogates the answers of the questions.
A seed has been a letter, invited by itself and lost.
Except for one name "Nahida".
when calling back its water, a willow was wondering:
There is no whisper but the rock of letters?
The answer came from its roots from the slumbered fire:
Every answer comes from a mouth becomes an inquiry and a concern.
The apple Sparrow wailed in the wilderness.
An aroma of a flute a flower wedding ceremony sings.
Solomon's hoopoe strayed in letters.
A guide dirt to a flower
The cooing of its letters amazed the sublime wind.
A light of a flower, panic from water
Amazed by her crystal heart beat.
Charmingly the swallows rush to her
Unexpectedly the ardent fell into her one unbeaten heart,
Till she falls in her whoop from the lofty height.
Is a timeworn fire extinguished by a passion flame.
Enlightened the commencement of humming then
Breezed by a kiss or a clove.
Is a heart dream era till it she is found
Is the voice of a river when the eagerness awakes
Above the vision banks.
Is a sleeping tent in the shade of a fragmented little girl.
Is a dizziness accompanies the sea to a temple.
Is a blaze of a devout tree.
Is the breakage of a jasmine flower storm and,
The fire of the hill.
Is the whinny of the cold desires and
The thunder of the timeworn silence in a far house
Is a women lost by jasmine to be a beloved.
Is a wine forgot its lightening grape bunch
Is a yesterday has hust remembered itself as today
Is the runaway of time from things
Is a crawling of time from places till its mercy peril.
شهوة من أعالي الحنين
تجوس دمي حتى الغياب
تحرث مستنقع الأنين
تستنطق أسئلةَ الجواب
بذرة كانت حرفاً اخترع ذاته فلم يجد في ذاته
سوى اسمٍ ،اسمُه " ناهدة ".
تساءلت صفصافة تذكرت ماءها
ما من همسة إلا صخرة حروف
أجابتها نارها النائمة في الجذور
ما من جواب يولد من فم إلا ويصبح سؤالاً وهم
* * *
ناح في البراري عصفور التفاح
أريجُ ناي في عرس الزهور يغني
هدهدَ سليمان تاه في الحروف
دليل التراب لوردة
هديل حروفها صعق الرياح البهية
نور وردة تخاف الماء
أذهلها وجيبُ قلبها البلور
هرعت إليها السنونوات مسحورةً
داهمها العشق في غفلة النبض حتى
هوت من علياء شهقتها الشاهقة
نارٌ عتيقة أطفأها لهيب عشقٍ
أنارت همهمة البدء ثم
هبت عليها قبلة أو قرنفلة
دهر حلم الوجد به حتى
صوت النهر حين ينهض الحنين
فوق ضفاف الرؤى
خيمة تنام في ظل طفلة مشلّعة
دوار يأخذ البحر إلى معبد
ولهيب شجرة خاشعة
انكسار عاصفة في زهرة ياسمين
صهيل الرغبات الباردة
هزيم الصمت العتيق في بيت بعيد
امرأة - ضيعها الياسمين – عاشقة
نبيذ نسي عنقوده المنير
أمسٌ تذكر أنه اليوم
هروب الأوقات من الأشياء
دبيب الزمن في الأماكن حتى
(مقتطفات من قصيدة ناهدة من مخطوط تاريخ الرغبة )