Palestinians bury poet Darwish in emotional funeral
Thursday, 14 August 2008

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Wed Aug 13, ( - Palestinians gave their national poet Mahmoud Darwish what amounted to a state funeral in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, mourning a man who articulated their sense of loss, exile and defiance.

Around 10,000 people joined the procession that took his coffin, draped in a Palestinian flag, to a hilltop grave.

"O Mahmoud, O Mahmoud, you rest and we will continue the struggle," mourners chanted as the poet was buried.

A helicopter had brought his body from Jordan, where it had been flown from the United States. Darwish, 67, died on Saturday from complications after heart surgery in Houston, Texas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with scores of tearful officials, dignitaries and relatives of Darwish, received the flower-strewn coffin at his Ramallah headquarters.

"He was the master of the word and wisdom, the symbol who expressed our national feeling, our human constitution, our declaration of independence. Who could offer him the lament he deserves?" Abbas said in a speech.

Darwish crafted the Palestinian declaration of independence adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1988.

"This is a loss of the Palestinian voice, the Palestinian vision," said lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi. "Somehow we felt that as long as there is Mahmoud Darwish, there is a sense of goodness, a sense of hope, a sense of possibility for salvation."

A vehicle topped with a yellow wreath bore Darwish's casket slowly through the streets of Ramallah to a hill near the city's Cultural Palace, where he read his last poems in July.


The official funeral organized by the Palestinian Authority is an honor previously extended only to the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.

Darwish's award-winning poetry, translated into more than 20 languages, captured the feelings of many Palestinians and Arabs.

"He left a legacy of poetry behind him. He is immortal in our hearts," businessman Mohammad Saqf al-Heit said.

During three days of national mourning, portraits of the poet have hung in the streets of Ramallah, together with his famous line: "There is much on this land worth living for."

Darwish, in a rare political intervention, denounced Palestinian infighting after Hamas Islamists routed Abbas's Fatah faction and seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Hamas-Fatah enmity remains unhealed, but in death, Darwish drew tributes from both sides, with senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar calling him a symbol of Palestinian literature and culture whose poetry crossed psychological and geographic lines.

"Darwish has managed to break many of the taboos between the occupier and the people who resist the occupation," he said.

Many ordinary Gazans were saddened by Darwish's death.

"Darwish was Palestine personified in a man... A man full of love, nationalism and passion," said teacher Menna Ali.

"I wept as I never did before and I will weep every time I read or recall one of his great poems," she told Reuters.

Born in territory that is now in Israel, Darwish was jailed several times by the Israelis for his political activities. He left in 1971 for the Soviet Union. Exile in Cairo, Beirut, Tunis and Paris followed. He made his home in Ramallah in the 1990s.

While abroad he rose to prominence in the PLO, but resigned in 1993 over the Oslo accords that Arafat signed with Israel.

Comments Add New
Write comment
  We don't publish your mail. See privacy policy.
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.