Ali Al-Domaini

 * Profession: Leading poet and writer. His publications include three collections of poetry and one novel in Arabic.

Date of arrest: 15 March 2004

Details of arrest: Among twelve leading Saudi intellectuals to have been detained since 15 March 2004 for criticising the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and for planning to set up their own human rights organisation. The NCHR is the kingdom’s first human rights watchdog, and was approved in early March 2004 by the Saudi government as part of limited steps towards political reform. However, many liberal and opposition figures want to see speedier and more radical change than is being offered by the government. A Ministry of Interior official reportedly announced that the detainees were suspected of issuing “statements which do not serve the unity of the country and the cohesion of society…based on Islamic religion”. Most of the detainees have reportedly since been released, but Ali Al-Domaini is thought to be among those to be charged after refusing to sign a document renouncing their political activism.

Details of trial: Al-Domaini is among three reformist intellectuals to have been charged with threatening national unity for their moderate reform activities. All three are said to be specifically accused of promoting a constitutional monarchy and using Western terminology in demanding political reforms. Al-Domaini was sentenced to nine years in prison on 15 May 2005.

Health concerns: He is a diabetic, and is thought to be held in solitary confinement. He has reportedly been granted fortnightly visits from his wife, who says that he is well and in good health. His father died in late October 2004, and Al-Domaini was not allowed to visit his father before he died.

Honorary member: English PEN

Released: 8 August 2005

    I am Fatima

by Ali Al-Dumaini

(Translation by

Amira Kashgary)



  To Fatima and Mansour who have been forcibly divorced against their wills on the ground of un-equivalent lineage.

  To their two children who will endure the pain and agony of this divorce.



 I am Fatima


I call not for waging wars

I pray not for new delusions

Suffice it

To hold on to my little share of humanity

To fiddle with my right to life behind bars.

I claim not that my vision’s always right

But I stand by my right to my destiny.

Have I not the right to breathe like all humans?

Isn’t my existence worthy of having its share of oxygen

 Imaginary as it may be?

Am I made of a nature different from other human beings?

I don’t go far in my dreams

But I hold on to every ounce of my being to be who I am.


I am Fatima

A woman from the land of arid desert and oil

A woman from the land of traditions and holiness

A woman who places her hands, soaked in darkness, on a dream:

To merely live

With her daughter, Nuha; With her son, Sulaiman; and With her husband, Mansour


I don’t ask for more

I don’t settle for less


I am Fatima, small but strong on her own

Big with sympathizers in my long journey in the darkness of jail I’m living in!!


And with the light of the innate right I carry within all my senses!


Only to live with my small family

Kept in my heart

After my big family, stretching from sea to sea, has lost me.


When I put my little son in my lap

Along that endless prison wall

When I lull him to sleep so that I have some solitude

When I sleep lonely, scattered and isolated

I feel more love for the life I have chosen,

For the husband I have accepted and

For the little children I’ve begotten.



I am Fatima

Never begging for a bite or for dignity

Never summoned my tears to join that river of larger tears

Never waiting for pity from a soul.




I am Fatima

Only waiting for fellowmen to open a door to my simple rights

To live together with my son, daughter and husband in our little house,

To open our eyes in the morning to a clear sun

As tender on us as young flower buds in this universe.


To fix my daughter’s uniform before she sets off  to her nursery school close to my heart


To relieve her father from carrying her on his shoulders throughout the times I was lost in the dungeons and charities


For Sulaiman and Nuha to laugh listening to their father’s songs


Or to have them laugh to a family love quarrel between their  parents



I am Fatima

I seek not to wage war on  anybody


I hope not for a fight between the trees and their branches

Or between the flowers and their roots


I merely march on towards my humanity

Which has been written in the lines of a true love story

Towards a marriage blessed by my father

Together with my future husband!!



I am Fatima


A tree in this open space

I monopolize neither “righteousness” nor truth,

I explain not why the stars sleep near dawn

I open my eyes on nothing but what makes the world happier, more transparent, and more just,

I am the innocent daughter of this country

And its true seed

I don’t take of its air more than I need

I don’t see of the sky further than  what’s enough for me

And for my simple freedom

I don’t open my eyes on more dewy blueness than I need

To embrace my son, my daughter, and my husband.


I am Fatima


With my own hand I’ve chosen my poison and my medicine

With my own fingers I’ve opened my cell

Inside me I carried my son

Till he came into the dark prison night,

Sharing  his mother the  harsh realities and details of the place


When Sulaiman smiles

Hope rekindles in my withered branches,

When he cries, I feel the walls of my vanishing jail cell,

The day his sister “Nuha” is allowed to visit me, we will celebrate our wedding under the shades of the black walls,

We will open our windows to “a hope incurable “

That we will unite together

A father, a mother and their two little children

In  joyous freedom of hope,

In sorrows of the present and flowers of future smiles.


I am Fatima

Not calling for war

Not calling for peace

Not calling for condemnation nor for dispute,

That’s is not for me,


But I raise my wounded voice

For the wind to hear

For voices of all times to recount,

To remain in power in open places I’m deprived of  


I am Fatima

I stand by my right to life

My right to «love»
And my right to live with my children and my husband

As all birds live peacefully in their nests!!



Dhahran 19-7-2007

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *