LibyaPoemsSalah Ali Ngab

My Mother Country

Salah Ali Ngab

Tripoli, Libya


My homeland has no borders
And no gates that owners of coloured passports can pass through
With an entry visa that expires on the date of death
An idea that it is pointless to explain
To look for it in official language is in vain
I am the child of chance
Of the holy birth of God’s son
And the whole earth is my home

I am the son of a land that lies far away
From the gas chambers of the Nazis
And from the fatwa of hate law or the curses of the imams
The son of a land that was not overrun
By the crusades,
Nor by Hagana or Boko Haram

My homeland is no arid patch of land without feelings
It does not consist of piles of cash
And wells of black gold
And the curses of civil wars
And the victims of landmines

My mother country is
Where memories of childhood came to an end
When I was ten
Where my work
Was to play
Where it only cost me a smile
To gain a friend

Today it is a place
Where my children can sleep
Without fear of the noise of propaganda
And of wars of religion
And of the thieves of children’s toys


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 murder threats against 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.