Muhammad Ahmad Almaghout (1934- 2006) (Arabic: محمد الماغوط‎) was a Syrian poet, playwright, journalist. Almaghout was born in Salamiyah, Hamah, Syria. Being a son of a poor farmer, Almaghout’s childhood was marked with toil and poverty, which featured later in most of his works. He could not continue his education indirectly because of his family’s poor financial statues. In 1948, he moved to Damascus at age 14 and enrolled in a boarding school to study agronomy. His father sent a letter to the principal of the school explaining the financial conditions of the family asking the principal to be flexible with the 14-year-old boy until the father would send the fees. Instead of understating the family’s conditions and cooperating, the principal of the school posted the letter in the bulletin board for the teaching staff and the students to read. Almaghout could not bear the harassment he received from his school mates and some teachers. It was the end of the student life for Almaghout. Disappointed and angry, Almaghout left Damascus and went back to his hometown.
In Salamiyah, there were only two political parties, Albaath party and the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP). Almaghout, later in a TV interview with Aljazeera channel told the story. ‘I joined the (SSNP) before I read anything about its ideology. It was simply because the office of SSNP was closer to my house and they have a stove to heat the office.’[1]
Joining the (SSNP) at that winter night changed Almaghout’s life forever. In 1955, while attending a soccer match, a sergeant who belonged to the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) assassinated Malki, who was a member of Albaath party and served as the deputy-chief of the Syrian army. In the trials, SSNP members were accused of complicity in the assassination. Almaghout was among those who were arrested.
In Almazeh prison in Damascus, he met other Syrian poets such as Kamal Khair Baik, Ilias Massouh and Adonis. In the prsion, Almaghout knew what fear was. This fear marked his works as poverty did. He always talked of his fear as the major factor in his writings. He once claimed ‘fear has excavated inside me like a bulldozer, in my heart, in my soul, in my eye and in my ear. I do not shiver because of cold or hunger. I shiver because of fear’.[2]
Almaghout died on April 3, 2006 at the age of 72 in Damascus. A true original and a national character, he was a Syrian intellectual who refused all unsatisfactory compromises and an independent voice for liberty and justice in the Arab world. One of his most famous satirical sayings was, “There’s only one perfect crime – to be born an Arab.”
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