Qassim Haddad

Foto: Simone Ahrend, sah-photo

Qassim Haddad was born in 1948 in Muharraq/Bahrain. Even as an adolescent, he resented being coerced. He had problems with authority, dropped out of school and worked on construction sites to support his family financially. As a young man, he became active in the country’s opposition, for which he received a 5-year prison sentence. After his release, he had the opportunity to work in a public library. He realized this as a chance to satisfy his hunger for books and quench his thirst for knowledge. In 1969, at the young age of 21, he founded the first Writers’ Association of Bahrain (and the Gulf region) and soon became its chairmen. As its editor-in-chief, he was in charge of the association’s literary newspaper Kalemat. In 1970, his first volume of poetry al-bischara (Glad Tidings) was released. In his poems, shaped through imagination and a language rich in associations, he is critical of political reality and the social tension in the Arab world. His unwavering dedication to structural and social change, to freedom and social and political justice earned him several arrests. Qassim Haddad played a vital role in the founding of cultural and political institutions in Bahrain such as the “Awwal-Theater”. In 1994, when few had access to the Internet and it was still not as taken for granted as it is today, he founded the Internet platform, one of the most important sites for Arabic poetry. In 2001 he received one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the Arab world, the Sultan Oweiss Award. In addition to about 20 volumes of poetry, he has published predominantly essays of literary criticism. Qassim Haddad is considered one of the most significant poets in the Gulf region. In 2012 he and his wife lived as guests of the Heinrich-Böll-Haus in Langenbroich. From November 2013 to August 2014, he received a grant for the Writers in Exile Program of German PEN and resided in Munich. Haddad was able to return home and is living in Bahrain today.