Free Ahnaf Jazeem

Who is Ahnaf and why is he detained?

Ahnaf Jazeem of Silavathurai, Mannar, Sri Lanka, is a 25-year-old teacher and poet who writes as Mannaaramudhu Ahnaf. In May 2020, Ahnaf was arrested for his book of poems, “நவரசம்,” Navarasam, written in Tamil and published in 2017, and has been imprisoned ever since.

Ahnaf is detained by order of the Terrorism Investigations Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka Police, under sections of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007. If found guilty, Ahnaf could be imprisoned for up to 20 years under the PTA or up to 10 years under the ICCPR Act; he is currently being held indefinitely in detention without trial and with only limited access to representation. (See below for updates from Ahnaf’s lawyers.)

The allegation against Ahnaf, as well as accompanying disinformation and misrepresentation in the media, is the accusation that the book Navarasam is an “extremist text”. Since Ahnaf’s arrest is part of the “investigation” into the Easter Sunday bombings, the insinuation is that this book is in some way material used for the indoctrination of students.

After Ahnaf’s arrest, the magistrate had the book translated in a rush by sworn translators working for the court, which resulted in an extremely literal translation. Even more absurdly, the court then sent this to child psychiatrists at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children for them to report on whether this text could influence children towards “extremism.” This psychiatrist’s report is available in this document on pages 447-451 as numbered in the court document, or starting at page 167 in the PDF, or attached to the tweets here.

What is this website?

Ahnaf has legal representation since December 2020. The full text of his book is now online. This website is a collaborative project to translate it to counter the disinformation. Additional translations are available in this document. We hope to bring those translations onto this site soon as well, for ease of access.

What’s happening with Ahnaf’s case?

For the most recent updates and relevant documents, see the Facebook, Twitter, and Scribd posts of Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera, member of the legal team supporting Ahnaf. Some recent updates:

Jun 22: Update on court proceedings of Jun 22. Next court date Jun 29.

May 16: 13 organizations including PEN, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Article 19, the International Truth and Justice Project, and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka issue a joint statement calling for Ahnaf’s release.

Apr 16: Fundamental rights case filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of Ahnaf Jazeem.

The Poems

The book’s title, Navarasam, refers to the nine expressions of emotion, or nine emotions as expressed in Tamil art forms, specifically facial and physical expressions in Barathanatyam.

  1. அற்புதம் | Wonder/Awe
    1. முற்றறிவன் | All-Knowing One
    2. இறைவன் | God
    3. இறைஞ்சுவோம் | We Pray
    4. மறு உலகு | Other World
    5. ஈசன் செயலம்மா | God’s Doing, Amma
  2. ஹாஸ்யம் (நகை) | Amusement/Laughter
    1. மாநாட்டுக்கவி
    2. ஆடு அவன் ஆடவன்
    3. பெப்ரவரி – 14
    4. காதலன் – கணவன்
    5. சாப்பாடு
  3. வீரம் | Bravery
    1. இடியும் இமையம் | The Thundering Himalayas
    2. சுயம்
    3. யுத்தம்
    4. நகர்வு
    5. தண்ணீர்
  4. சாந்தம் | Peace/Serenity
    1. தாசன்
    2. கைமாறு
    3. உருவாக்கு
    4. ஏகாந்த இருள்
    5. மத்திமம்
  5. ரௌத்திரம் | Anger
    1. வேண்டாம்
    2. பர்மிய பூர்வீகம் | Natives of Burma
    3. பிளிறி அழுகிறது பிரான்ஸ் | France Cries Loudly
    4. மன்றக்கவி
    5. நானெப்படி கொண்டாட முடியும் | How Can I Celebrate Eid?
  6. சிருங்காரம் (சிங்காரம்) | Bashfulness/Shyness
    1. சீ….! நீ…!
    2. சீயங்களின் சீவியம்
    3. பொல்லா அறம்
    4. கன்னித்திருட்டு
    5. பெண்ணுள்ளம்
  7. பயம் | Fear
    1. புகை பகை | Smoking is Our Enemy
    2. விதைத்தது விளைந்தது | Reaping What We Sowed
    3. வையாதே | Don’t Complain
    4. மரணமென்ன முடிவு?
    5. அனர்த்தம் | Disaster
  8. குற்சை (இழிவரல்) | Revulsion
    1. அலப்போ விழப்போகிறது | Aleppo is going to fall | අලප්පෝ නගරය බිඳ වැටෙයි
    2. கொண்டாடுவோம் | We Will Celebrate
    3. அறபுக்கில்லா அக்கறை ஆழ்கடலுக்கு | The Solicitude of the Deep Sea
    4. செருக்கு | Arrogance
    5. ஆசிரியர் தினக்கவி | A Poem for Teachers
  9. கருணை | Mercy
    1. கலுழும் நெஞ்சு | A Crying Heart
    2. அநுபவக்குமுறல் | Experience | අත්දැකීම්
    3. அன்னை | Mother | මව
    4. வாழ்த்து | Our Respectful Compliments | සුබපැතුම්
    5. பகலுணவு | Lunch | දිවා භෝජනය

In the media