Muthaffar al-Nawab, Iraqi revolutionary poet, dies at 88

Muthaffar al-Nawab, Iraqi revolutionary poet, dies at 88
Political divides followed the polemic writer in death as in life, as mourners and protesters ejected Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi from al-Nawab's funeral procession on Saturday.
2 min read
21 May, 2022
The poet's funeral took place after his body was repatriated from Dubai, before being buried in Najjaf [Getty]

Iraqi revolutionary poet Muthaffar al-Nawab passed away on Friday in the United Arab Emirates, at the age of 88. 

The elderly writer had been suffering with chronic illnesses, and had stopped publishing poetry for many years.

Al-Nawab, who was once handed a death sentence for writing highly critical verses against the Baathist regime, is a household name throughout Iraq. 

While in prison al-Nawab reportedly dug his way to freedom and lived in exile across the Arab world for over 40 years, writing poetry condemning the tyranny of dictators throughout the region. 

The poet also pioneered writing verse in Iraqi dialect, reaching further into the Iraqi public consciousness than many of his contemporaries. 

His funeral took place on Saturday as thousands of mourners gathered in central Baghdad to receive his body.

During the procession Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was attending the funeral was ejected after paying his respects as mourners shouted “corrupt, corrupt” and other anti-regime slogans. 

Videos circulating on social media show al-Kadhimi being surrounded by security personnel as mourners become aware of his presence and start chanting in unison “Muthaffar is for the people, not for the thieves!” 

The prime minister is then seen being escorted through the crowd and whisked into his motorcade, which drives away at pace. 

Al-Kadhimi, a former head of the Iraqi intelligence service, had previously tweeted a picture of him standing beside the beloved poet with the caption “Iraq, whose name you have sung wherever you went, is filled with sadness as it bids you farewell to your final resting place.” 

An anonymous social media activist tweeted saying: “to those who called for respect of the funeral rites, I call for respect of the poet Muthaffar al-Nawab himself… it’s he who expelled the corrupt politicians from his own funeral.” 

Al-Nawab’s body will be buried in Najaf, in the same grave as his mother, at the poet’s request.