LibyaPoemsSalah Ali Ngab

Here and There

Salah Ali Ngab

Tripoli, Libya

 

Between here and there
There is no difference
Believe me, humans are humans

In my country
The nationalists fill the streets with hate speech
And here – sixty, seventy or eighty years ago –
The nationalists filled the streets with hate speech
There, everyone hates the Jews
And the neighbours
And dark-skinned people
And the prematurely born
Here too – sixty, seventy or eighty years ago –
Everyone hated the Jews
And the neighbours
And dark-skinned people
And the prematurely born

There, neighbours destroy whole cities
Thousands die and everyone fights everyone else
On the holy ruins and at the doors of hospitals
To rule the world
Or what remains of it
They are the best nation on earth, thanks to the chance of where they were born
And a little bit because of oil and because of an inheritance,
Half of which is holy, and the other half of which is built from daydreams
Here too – sixty, seventy or eighty years ago –
Neighbours destroyed whole cities
Thousands died and everyone fought everyone else
On the holy ruins and at the doors of hospitals
To rule the world
Or what remained of it
They are the best nation on earth, thanks to the chance of where they were born
And a little bit because of oil and because of an inheritance,
Half of which is holy, and the other half of which is built out of daydreams

There, children dream of victory for the national football team
And girls dream of the day when they may fly
Without surveillance by the beard of their younger brother
Or of a religious leader, surrounded by fatwas of prohibitions and bans
But here, children celebrate the victory of the national team
And the girls fly between continents
In search of a different life
Without surveillance by the beard of their younger brother
Or of a religious leader, surrounded by fatwas of prohibitions and bans

And that is the difference between here and there
Believe me, my friend
Only sixty, seventy or eighty years

 

Salah Ali Ngab (37)

comes from Tripoli in Libya. A publicist, researcher and human-rights activist, he has devoted himself to criticism of fundamentalist extremism and religious hate speech. He founded, among other publications, the arts magazine Armat, which means “justice” – but this, according to Salah, has never existed in Libya. It did not exist under Muammar al-Gaddafi and does not exist at all today. In consequence of his studies on fundamentalist religious thought and his membership of the Libyan Liberal Democracy Forum he was threatened by the Ansar al-Sharia group. The Democracy Forum had to close as a result of threats to murder its members. Salah’s readings to enlighten audiences about Islamic scriptures led to his persecution during Gaddafi’s regime. He was prosecuted for libel, blasphemy, heresy and atheism. He was listed as a “dangerous political activist” by various Arab government organisations and was arrested at airports several times.
Finally, in October 2014, armed militiamen of the Muslim Brotherhood abducted him on the street. He was beaten and threatened with death. Salah owes his life to influential friends who worked for his release. For him and his acquaintances, he says, there is no longer room in Libya; he is surrounded by enemies. In 2015 Salah succeeded in fleeing to Tunisia and then to Germany through an invitation to the Open Eye Award of the German foundation MiCt (Media in Cooperation and Transition) thanks to his work as a journalist. In the same year he applied for political asylum in Germany.
Today Salah lives in Düsseldorf with his wife and two daughters.