13 May, 2014

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11 May, 2014

Every revolution is messy–Times of Malta

Hani Shukrallah and Karl Schembri

Hani Shukrallah and Karl Schembri–Photo by Daniel Bezzina

Egypt celebrated world press freedom day last week with one of the highest number of journalists under arrest, ever, and many more silenced through the on-going frenzy to clamp down on everyone.

One of Egypt’s most respected journalists, Hani Shukrallah, expects things to go on in the current chaotic fashion for a few more years. The Egyptian revolution is a messy one, he believes, because all revolutions are that way by definition.

Shukrallah was speaking to author Karl Schembri during the first edition of the Book Festival on Campus, which was organised by the National Book Council and l-Għaqda tal-Malti (Università).

The journalist explained why the ouster of “the dictator loved by the west”, Hosni Mubarak, from the presidential palace three years ago, was not followed by a new political movement made by the very same people who rallied in the streets to get rid of him.

“The young revolutionaries were incredible; impressive in their determination to bring change,” Shukrallah said. “They would be shot at by the police and instead of running away as we used to do, they would charge back with even more determination. Yet, they made awful politicians as they had no programme, no vision of what to do after getting rid of Mubarak.”

Young revolutionaries, Shukrallah believes, need time to learn strategy, to be able to navigate through the pragmatic world of politics. Yet, it is thanks to them that a completely decades-old debilitating paradigm has been shattered – what Shukrallah called “the period of ugly choices” for the Arabs.
“We had to either side with Saddam or with George Bush; with Islamists or with brutal dictators. Thanks to the Arab revolutions, this has been shattered and we are now exploring alternatives,” Shukrallah said.

With the Muslim Brotherhood now driven underground, just like in Mubarak’s time, there is a clear attempt to instal the worst form of police state ever inside Egypt.

Shukrallah compares the current climate to “a cartoon impression of the US after September 11”, where the media was blindly and willingly spreading the “war on terror propaganda by the Bush administration, while liberties were thrown out of the window”.

The journalist has himself experienced firs-thand the implications of unchecked and unfettered power. In 2005 he was sacked from chief editor of Al Ahram Weekly after a series of critical articles aimed at the political class and his vociferous scepticism about the then promised reforms.

He was again forced out of Al Ahram Online, Egypt’s largest English-language news website, which he had founded himself. His forcible removal last year by allies of the Muslim Brotherhood prompted him to publicly denounce the rapidly deteriorating Islamist regime led by Morsi.

“I have something immeasurably more precious: my dignity and self-respect. What do you have?” Shukrallah wrote on his Facebook page in a message that would be picked up by some of the world’s leading media.

Now he’s back to writing for Al Ahram, although one never knows for how long.

“We have to work through the cracks; that’s how we claim our freedom of expression,” he said.

Born in Cairo in 1950, Shukrallah was a Marxist student activist during the time of Anwar Sadat, but he was also critical of the dogmatic leftist thinking. Throughout his career as journalist and author, he built a reputation for stand-ing up to speak the truth to those in power.

Besides the session with Shukrallah, the book festival saw a large tent erected in the Campus Quadrangle, with several local publishers exhibiting and selling their latest titles.

The week-long festival brought with it a number of literary events, including debates on sexuality in Maltese literature, readings by seminal contemporary authors such as Immanuel Mifsud and lectures about literary translation and the preservation and restoration of historical documents. Young, aspiring authors were also allotted evening slots where they could share their writings as part of the Taħżiż2 initiative. The festival closed with Leħen il-Malti poetry readings set to music by Danjeli and friends.

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7 May, 2014

Hani and I during the interview--Photo by Clare Azzopardi

Hani and I during the interview–Photo by Clare Azzopardi

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21 April, 2014

Speaking truth to power

On 30 April, at 7.30pm, I will be interviewing one of the most respected Egyptian journalists and friend, Hani Shukrallah, at the Book Festival on campus at the University of Malta.

We have called the event ‘Speaking truth to power’, as that is exactly what Hani has been doing all his life. We will speak about the Arab Spring, the Egyptian revolution, the future of Egypt and the mission of journalism.

Read more about it here and here.

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24 August, 2013

Passju Taħt ix-Xita published by Horizons (Malta)


My new book of poems in Maltese, Passju Taħt ix-Xita ( Hopscotch in the Rain – also the name of this blog, just in case you missed it) is on sale, just published by Horizons Publications. Fabulous cover photo and design by my friend Gilbert Calleja.

You can now order a copy by clicking here.

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14 August, 2013

Interview on AidWorks

The Byron Bay Writer’s Festival was recently on and AidWorks’ own Cate Coorey was there on the ground. One of the guests of the festival was Karl Schembri. Karl is a Maltese born journalist, poet and novelist and he lives in Gaza. He is the media spokesperson for Oxfam in Gaza and also now spokesperson for Oxfam on the Syrian crisis. In between times he manages to write poetry. Karl spoke to Cate Coorey about life in Gaza and what is happening now with the crisis in Syria.


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2 August, 2013

Interview on SBS

Maltese journalist, author and poet based in the Middle East, Karl Schembri is currently in Australia as one of the speakers at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Marlene Galea interviewed him for SBS.

Full interview on SBS website

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21 July, 2013

Byron Bay Writers’ Festival


In a few days’ time, I will be joining other authors in Byron Bay, Australia, for the yearly writers’ festival there. It’s always an inspiring experience, meeting other writers, and even more the readers, getting their reactions instantaneously. There’s a whimsical touch to such encounters that I love to take back with me, after all is said and done.

I will be reading from my new book of poetry, Remember the Future, and participating on three sessions:

Discomfort zone: how extreme environments affect creativity.

Do poets do it better? Writing the book of love.

In this I believe: credos, faiths and affirmations for the 21st century.

For more information, click here, and here to download the festival programme.

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16 June, 2013

Remember the Future published by Writing Knights Press (US)


My collection of poems Remember the Future has just been published by Writing Knights Press (US). This is my first ever collection of poems in English. I’ve only been writing creatively in English since July last year, so it’s both exciting and terrifying.

The book can be bought directly from the publisher by clicking here:

My sincerest thanks to Adrian Grima, Albert Gatt, Albert Marshall, Mario Azzopardi, the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, Festival de Lodève Voix de la Méditerranée, and the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival.

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23 April, 2013

Biljett Miftuħ/Open Ticket – Tales, poems & music of protest, love & death

10 April 2013, Coach and Horses, Malta

Photos by Gilbert Calleja / 

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27 March, 2013

Biljett Miftuħ/Open Ticket – Tales, poems & music of protest, love & death

Heading home to Malta next week where I will be reading some of my latest stories and poems in English and Maltese that will be published later this year. My friends Albert Gatt and Glen Calleja will be helping me with the readings, and Antonio Ghio agreed to finally get his legendary double bass out of the loft to play.

Last time we were all together reading and musing on a stage was longer than I care to mention, next to a fire place in an old cellar at a place called The Labyrinth in Valletta. We used to improvise a lot – improvise being the artistic justification for playing and writing while drunk.

This time it will be at Coach and Horses in Valley Road, Msida, on Wednesday 10 April at 8pm.

Biljett Miftuħ facebook page


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