‘Untitled’, a poem by Saida Menebhi.

Give us a swirl: How Mohamed Melehi became Morocco's modernist master | Art  | The Guardian
‘Untitled’, 1962, Mohamed Melehi.

Saida Menebhi (سعيدة المنبهي ; 1952-1977) was a Marxist revolutionary, a teacher, and a poet.

Born in 1952 in the quartier populaire of Riad al-Zaytoun in Marrakesh, Menebhi studied English in Rabat, trained as a teacher, and after taught at the Lycée al-Khawarizmi in Casablanca. She was a member of the National Union of Moroccan Students (UNEM) and the Moroccan Union of Labour (UMT). 

As a member of clandestine Marxist-Leninist organisation Ilā al-Āmām (‘To The Front’), Menebhi was arrested in January 1976 and held in the infamous torture centre, Derb Moulay Cherif. With other members of Ilā al-Āmām, she was sentenced with “threatening state security”.

On 10 November 1977, Menebhi and 138 other detainees across the prison system began a hunger strike against their solitary confinement and for political-prisoner status. On 11 December 1977, her 34th day of her hunger strike, Saida died in Casablanca’s Averroes hospital. She was 25 years-old.

The following poem was written in French on 14 September 1977, and collected in Saïda Menebhi: Poèmes, lettres, écrits de Prison, published in 1978 by the Comités de lutte contre la répression au Maroc, Paris.

We have included an Arabic translation of the same poem by critic and poet Abdellatif Laâbi, himself a long-time political prisoner. It was first published in 1982, in Al-Badil (البديل).



a mother and her child 

in the panic of abandonment 

the jailer. 

Glare of light  

in the penumbra of my loneliness

this child 

this mother 

the bars separate them

each a side

meet of two glances 

no words 

the girl stamps 

and it’s a long time already

that you’ve gone about your business

she wants to be in your arms 

children at that age 

believe that the world 

belongs to them

like a melon

she wants to be in your arms 

she ignores the bars


but the tears of anger

flood her pale face 

she feels the bars’ cold

why do they exist

as if it was the first thing 

to contemplate 

in life


the child, the mother

and the bars

when a child and their mother


through even the traitorous bars

love is incarnated

chirping gently

from a filigree on the horizon 

appears the world of tomorrow 

mountains, hills

to their feet lower

the remotest trails 

the maquis paths 


‘Abdelkrim’s song 

the Internationale 

Oh my child 

If old age gets me 


if they cut my head 

the struggle between the hands

you and all the other children 

so that tomorrow 

children your age 

never see prison

before you obstacles will fall

doors open 

the sun will penetrate prison



ام وطفلتها

في ذعر الإهمال 


ضوء باهر

في ظلمة وحدتي

هذه الطفلة

هذه الأم 

تفصلهما القضبان

كل واحدة من جهة

لقاء نظرتين

دون كلمات

الصغيرة تضرب الارض برجليها

وانت منذ وقت طويل

منشغلة بشؤونك

الأطفال  في مثل هذا السن

يظنون ان العالم ملك لهم

انها تريد ان اكون كالبطيخة

بين ذراعيك

انها تجهل القضبان


لكن دموع الغضب

تسيل على وجهها الممتقع

إنها  تشعر ببرودة القضبان الحادة

لماذا هذه القضبان

كانها اول شيء يجب أن  يرى

في الحياة


الطفلة الأم 


عندما تتبادل طفلة وامها


حتى لو كان ذلك من خلال

القضبان الغادرة

يتجد الحب

بغرد خفية

عالم الغد

وفي الافق يرتسم

الجبال ,التلال

تركع لهما

بينما يعلو في الدروب البعيدة

في الممرات الادغال

نشيد عبد الكريم


يا طفلتي

إذا ما بلغتني الشيخوخة

او الموت

إذا ما قطعوا راسي …

لكي لا يرى السجن غدا

اطفال مثلك

فالعراقيل ستنتفي امامكم

ستفتح الأبواب 

ستجد الشمس طريقها

الى السجن

عبد اللطيف اللعبي –

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