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Hessa Hilal - Saudi Arabian poet


Hessa Hilal, former Saudi journalist, now a reckless poet.

Background: Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy whose constitution is based on the Koran and the Sunna (prophetic tradition).

Opposition to it is forbidden and punishable by the death penalty, religious freedom is limited and male/female segregation is obligatory. Women are banned from working and traveling, and in public, they must cover up with a full-length cloak and veil.

What she fights for: Mixing of sexes, freedom, improvement of women's status, ending corruption and religious extremism.

Her weapon: Poetry.
In order to express herself freely, Hessa Hilal doesn't do things by half. She registered for the popular televised competition "Million's Poet", a sort of Pop Idol for poets, broadcast in all the countries in the Gulf.

Completely veiled and reading bitter verses, she denounced Islamic conservatism in front of thousands of viewers and spoke in favor of freedom of thought. In The Chaos of Fatwas, she publicly denounces that "evil comes from those fatwas" and that the authors of the fatwas are "monsters wearing belts".

Downsides: Her words attracted the wrath of Islamic extremists and led to several death threats.

Recognition: Hissa Hilal didn't win the competition but the judges scored her highest in every round and she finished in 3rd place, winning $800,000.


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