Meet the Media

Meet Abd Al-Rahman Yusuf a poet, an activist, and a TV presenter


PHOTO BY LAURA GUINDY

BY GEHAD ABAZA

Abd Al-Rahman Yusuf, poet, activist and television correspondent discussed his poetry and how it was affected by the Egyptian political scene on Mar. 7 at Moataz Al- Alfi hall.

Dr. Hafez Al-Mirani, dean of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department, held the event and introduced the discussion with Abd Al-Rahman Yusuf.

Abd El Rahman Yusuf had a strong presence in the January 25th revolution, and before that with his published diwans (book of poetry) of political poetry, in which he indirectly criticizes the former regime as well as the former president, Hosni Mubarak.

Inside Moataz Al-Alfi hall, the event began with the screening of a few clips Yusuf reciting some of his political poetry. After the screening of those clips, Yusuf proceeded to talk about his poetic career, saying that his love of poetry has existed since his childhood.

He wrote his first diwan in 1992 after finishing college, and it included three chapters of different topics; including poetry about love, life, and a bit of politics. Yusuf did not publish his first diwan, but he did send it to several prominent figures of the time, including members of the old regime, and intellectuals.

After the occupation of Iraq in 2003, Yusuf wrote his first completely politically oriented diwan, and he printed it under a pseudonym.

“That diwan broke the fear barrier inside me. Weeks, and then months passed and the central security did not get a hold of me,” said Yusuf.

In 2004, Yusuf published another diwan called “The Health of the Nation”, which came out in his name. It is very clear that there is criticism of the president, without specific mention of the president’s name, Yusuf explained.

According to Yusuf, this diwan had a huge impact among intellectuals, and was even published in several other Arab countries, like Lebanon. During that time Egypt was beginning to have a stronger opposition, and the Kefaya movement was created. Later, Yusuf joined the Kefaya movement, and began campaigns promoting Dr. Mohamed El Baradie for presidency.

Yusuf also shared a personal anecdote with the audience, saying that he had a friend talk to him and warn him that his politically oriented diwans would result in him either “going to jail or getting hung.”

Yusuf discussed the condition of Egypt at the time saying he believes it was “under occupation”.

“What America used to get from other nations using military force, it got from Egypt through the presence of Hosni Mubarak,” he added.

During the question and answer session, Sara Al Galeel asked Yusuf about Egypt’s current condition and whether it is still “under occupation” or not.

“Egypt is currently under a transition period, in which it is between occupation and stability,” replied Yusuf.

He continued by stating that there is no power in the world that could bring Egypt backwards or stop the revolutionary youth that stood with “naked chests” in front tanks.

Another member of the audience, Hoda Abu-Zeid asked about Yusuf’s insistence on writing in classical Arabic, what his views are on poetry written in colloquial Arabic, as well as his incorporation of Islam into his poetry.

Yusuf explained that there is rivalry between poetry written in colloquial and classical Arabic, but he just prefers classical Arabic.

Mr. Yusuf told The Independent that his love poetry has existed since childhood and that it is not as much choice as it is “fate and destiny”.

He also said that Egypt is heading toward light after the revolution, and that the parliament is “successful to an extent”.

“Your primary enemy is not SCAF, nor is it Islamism, or Israel, or the United States, but it is despair,” added Yusuf, advising the revolutionaries.