Tunisian Poet's Verses Inspire Arab Protesters

Among the chants and slogans of protesters on the streets of Egypt are the words of an early 20th century Tunisian poet. The poem has become a rallying cry both in Egypt and in Tunisia.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Our top story this hour, of course, the ongoing demonstrations in Egypt. Thousands of protesters are still gathered in cities across that country despite a government curfew. Demonstrators are vowing to keep up the pressure until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.

And among the chants and slogans in those crowds are the words of an early 20th century Tunisian poet named Abdul Qasim al Shabi.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: One of his most famous poems has become a rallying cry, both in Egypt and before, in Tunisia. The poem is called "To the Tyrants of the World"

(Foreign language spoken)

Oppressive tyrants, lover of darkness, enemy of life, you have ridiculed the size of the weak people. Your palm is soaked with their blood.

You deformed the magic of existence, and planted the seeds of sorrow in the fields.

(Foreign language spoken)

Wait, don't be fooled by the spring, the clearness of the sky or the light of dawn, for on the horizon lies the horror of darkness, rumble of thunder, and blowing of winds.

Beware, for below the ash there is fire, and he who grows thorns reaps wounds. Look there, for I have harvested the heads of mankind and the flowers of hope, and I watered the heart of the earth with blood. I soaked it with tears until it was drunk. The river of blood will sweep you, and the fiery storm will devour you.

(Foreign language spoken)

RAZ: The poem "To the Tyrants of the World," written by the Tunisian poet Abdul Qasim al Shabi. In recent weeks, it's become the unofficial rallying cry for millions of Arabs in Egypt and in Tunisia. It was read for us by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. Special thanks to Adel Iskandar for the English translation.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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