Poems for Freedom initiative calls on writers to support detainees
Activist Yara Salam - Photo courtesy of Yara's face Facebook page

CAIRO: A new initiative that has taken jailed activist Yara Salam as its symbol, was launched on Facebook earlier this month calling for people to write poetry demanding her freedom.

Poems for Freedom member Maha Shahbah told The Cairo Post Saturday the initiative, founded by journalist and poet Mohamed Harby, was “not only about Yara herself; she’s just an icon for an idea that supports detainees in Egypt and all over the world.”

Shahbah described the idea as a “global humanitarian initiative.” She added that they are calling on all writers from all over the world to participate, and even if Yara and her colleagues are acquitted, the idea will continue.

“This is a call for poets and writers from all over the world to write to demand freedom for Egyptian activist Yara Sallam, the daughter of Egyptian poet Refaat Sallam, and her fellows who were arrested and jailed for demonstrating peacefully in Egypt. It’s for all prisoners of free expression,” the initiative wrote on its Facebook page on Nov. 5.

The call added that all the poems will be collected and published later in a book titled, “Yara’s Face.” “Poems are not to be necessarily about Yara or any of our roses behind bars. You can write about freedom and humanity, dedicating it to them,” the statement read.

Shahbah told The Cairo Post that they already collected a good number of poems, and are aiming to publish the book in time for a book fair in January.

“We will be receiving all kinds of poetry, and it can come in an article or even a good drawing. The main idea is to use art to support the idea of freedom in general,” she said.

She added an offer was received by the initiative from a publishing house in Britain which said it would like to publish the English edition of their book when it comes out.

“The published poems will be chosen according to a committee held especially to decide what will be included in the book. That’s only because we can’t publish them all; we are limited with the number of pages,” Shahbah said.

Sallam, along with 22 other defendants including Sanaa Seif, was arrested on June 21, 2014 for illegally protesting at Ithadeya presidential palace. They were charged under the controversial 2013 Protest Law under which all political gatherings must first have official approval from security forces.

On Oct. 26, they were sentenced to three years in prison and a 10,000 EGP ($1,400) fine after being in pre-trial detention for more than 100 days.

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