A renowned revolutionary poet and political activist from Yemen, in 1983, only a few days after being married, Mansur Rajih was imprisoned and sentenced to death on charges of murder that never have been proved verifiable. After 15 years of imprisonment, he was finally freed in 1998, following major campaigns on his behalf by among others Amnesty and PEN International.
Mansur went straight from prison in Yemen to Stavanger, Norway. During his imprisonment, his poems were smuggled out and printed in newspapers all over the Arab world.
Mansur slowly rebuilt his professional career as a poet and his activities as pro-democracy and human rights activist. Bilingual (Arabic/Norwegian) collections of poetry are continuously published (also containing poems secretly written in prison), like Horoskop: Fengsel? Horoskop: Kjærleik. (2000), Så langt borte: Så nær (2003) and Min brors smerte (2008). Mansur writes and publishes in Arabic news media, both inside and outside Yemen.
Today, Rajih and his family live in Stavanger, Norway. Still blocked from returning home, The Arab Spring posed a huge source of hope and inspiration for Mansur, as well as many fellow exiled writers and human rights defenders from the MENA region. Mansur eagerly extended and intensified his dialogues with the freedom fighters inside Yemen during the uprisings. Well known among his countrymen, Mansur’s voice frequently addressed thousands of protesters on the squares of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities as he shouted through the phone from his city shelter in Stavanger, accompanied by a picture of him that was projected onto the large city walls.
Rajih has written and published numerous poetry collections, novels and essays and his life has been subject to several short films. Among some of his published work is: Text Memorial to the Unknown Victim, Outside of Prison, inside of Body, Life Conditional, From There.
He was Stavanger City of Refuge's guest writer from 1998 to 2001.