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. He has been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and is still imprisoned.
There are currently cases filed against Ahnaf by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) as well as 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.
Part of these cases, as well as 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.” Neither this translation nor this report have yet been made public.
What is this website?
Ahnaf has legal representation since December 2020. The text of his book is now online. However, no full, public translation into English yet exists to help counter the disinformation.
This website is a collaborative project to create that translation.
What’s happening with Ahnaf’s cases?
Recent updates from Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera, member of the legal team supporting Ahnaf:
Feb 24: Update on the CID case. Next hearing March 3. Copies of the original court-ordered translations and the psychiatrists’ report have been requested by the defense.
Feb 23: Update on the TID case. Next hearing March 2. The defense requested immediate medical attention for Ahnaf, who had been bitten by a rat while in TID custory, and is also suffering from urethral stones. The court has directed TID to provide medical attention.
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.
- அற்புதம் | Wonder/Awe
- இறைவன் | God
- மறு உலகு
- ஈசன் செயலம்மா
- ஹாஸ்யம் (நகை) | Amusement/Laughter
- ஆடு அவன் ஆடவன்
- பெப்ரவரி – 14
- காதலன் – கணவன்
- வீரம் | Bravery
- இடியும் இமயம்
- சாந்தம் | Peace/Serenity
- ஏகாந்த இருள்
- ரௌத்திரம் | Anger
- பர்மிய பூர்வீகம்
- பிளிறி அழுகிறது பிரான்ஸ்
- நானெப்படி கொண்டாடுவது
- சிருங்காரம் (சிங்காரம்) | Bashfulness/Shyness
- சீ….! நீ…!
- சீயங்களின் சீவியம்
- பொல்லா அறம்
- பயம் | Fear
- புகை பகை
- விதைத்தது விளைந்தது
- மரணமென்ன முடிவு?
- குற்சை (இழிவரல்) | Revulsion
- அலப்போ விழப்போகிறது
- அறபுக்கில்லா அக்கறை ஆழ்கடலுக்கு
- ஆசிரியர் தினக்கவி
- கருணை | Mercy
In the media
- Young journos reach out to the HRCSL to intervene in the arbitrary arrest of young poet (English, MediaLK, Dec 10 2020)
- Poetic injustice: Another writer languishes in prison under PTA (English, Daily FT, Dec 14 2020)
- Sri Lankan government detains young Muslim poet on bogus charges (English, WSWS.org, Dec 20 2020)
- இலங்கை அரசாங்கம் போலி குற்றச்சாட்டில் இளம் முஸ்லிம் கவிஞரை தடுத்து வைத்திருக்கிறது (Tamil, WSWS.org, Dec 24 2020)
- FR to be filed over poet detained under PTA (English, Ceylon Today, Dec 25 2020)
- Complaint Lodged With HRCSL Over Poet Ahnaf Jazeem Detained Under PTA (English, Colombo Telegraph, Dec 31 2020)
- දෙමළෙන් ලියූ වරදට හිරේ ගිය කවියා (Sinhala, anidda.lk, Jan 4 2021)
- Arrest of Mannar poet under PTA: Academics, writers and activists cry foul (English, Daily FT, Jan 6 2021)
- The Mannar Poet Behind Bars (English, Daily Mirror, Jan 7 2021)
- Suppression of ideas as part of the New Normal: Young poet Ahnaf Jazeem awaits justice (English, Daily Mirror, Jan 12 2021)
- ශ්රී ලංකාවේ ආන්ඩුව ව්යාජ චෝදනා මත තරුන මුස්ලිම් කවියකු සිරගත කරයි (Sinhala, WSWS.org, Jan 20 2021)