Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association (YJA) requests the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) for the second time to intervene and take necessary actions immediately to ensure the safety of the unjustly arrested and currently detained poet, Ahnaf Jazeem who penned ‘Navarasam’, which is a poem voicing against war and extremism.
On December 9, 2020, the Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association (YJA) lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) against the arrest of Ahanaf Jazeem for writing a book of poetry. The association has stated that this letter has been submitted in addition to the previous complaint.
Ahnaf Jazeem was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on detention orders by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) and his lawyers were not allowed to meet him and that the detained poet has been bitten by a rat while on detention, the Journalists’ Association states.
The Young Journalists’ Association has pressed in their complaint that Ahnaf was arrested over a work of literature, “Navarasam”, without examining the content of the book, which includes Tamil poetry about peace, anti-war themes and is against ISIS extremism and information has been received that Ahnaf will be forced to make pre-arranged statements before the magistrate.
The association has urged Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to expedite the veracity of these facts, to take action if this youth has been abused, and to issue recommendations to the IGP, the Director of the Terrorism Investigation Division and the Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order to prevent further violence and to protect his life.
The YJA also emphasizes the possibility for youngsters to become a victim of extremism by such unjustified actions and also presses the fact that everybody has the freedom of speech and expression and arresting Ahnaf for composing a work of literature is a violation of his fundamental rights which are protected by the Constitution.
As the youth has been in custody since May 2020 on detention orders, the Young Journos has called for an immediate investigation and action.
“Request to ensure safety of the youth, Ahnaf Jazeem, who is being held under
detention orders in relation to writing a poetry book
This is in connection to the complaint made by the Sri Lanka Young Journalist Association to your
Commission on 9th
December 2020 about the arrest of the above youth in relation to writing a poetry book.
It has been reported to us that the above youth has been bitten by a rat while he was
being held at the Terrorrist Investigation Division under detention orders. We are
submitting this letter in addition to the previous complaint we had made.
According to reports made to Colombo Fort Magistrate Court by the Criminal Investigation Department who are investigating the bombings that took place on Easter Sunday, on 16th May 2020, a literary personality Ahnaf Jazeem, has been arrested and detained under detention orders by the Terrorist Investigation Division in connection with the incident of Attorney – at – Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.
This youth had printed a book called “Navarasam” containing poetry pened by him. The
reason for his arrest is that this book was found in a place that is said to be owned by
“Save the Pearls”. We have presented detailed information about this in our previous
According to reports made by the Criminal Investigation Department to courts, a person
named Saul Hameed Mohamed Sultan, a resident of 152, 4th cross street, Al Manar,
Kalpitiya, Puttalam, and said to have done coordinating work for the organziation “Save
the Pearls” had been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department on 3rd May
2020. The book “Navarasam” had been found in his possession. Afterwards the
Criminal Investigation Department had investigated another building of the organization
“Save the Pearls” said to be in Madurankuliya, and taken into custody 19 copies of the
book “Navarasam”. Ahnaf Jazeem (Mohamed Jazeem Mohamed Ahnaf), who had been
teaching in the school “School of Excellence” adjoining the building in Madurankuliya
has authored the book “Navarasam”. The Criminal Investigation Department had
arrested the above youth (Ahnaf Jazeem), a resident of 57/2 Pandaraweli, Silavathurai,
Mannar on 16th May 2020.
Although the Criminal Investigation Department has reported as above, it has been
revelaed that the books had been disccovered not from the said place, but from the area
that the youth is a resident of. It has been revealed that the Criminal Investigation
Department had gone to the village Mosque and made an announcemnet for persons
who had the book to hand it over and that afterwards, those who had the book had
handed them over.
When we examined poetry in this book and some of his other poetry, we noticed that he
had authored many poetry against IS. He had also written poetry against war and for
peace. Many of these poetry were high quality lietrary works and of special significance
was that they were against extremism.
The Criminal Investigation Department had also made a request to courts to call for a
report from doctors at the the Lady Ridgeway Children’s hospital whether poetry in this
book would cause any harms to children’s minds. It has been revaled that the book
contained poetry about life after death and that some persons had expressed the opinion
that they would be harmful to children’s minds. There are many books used in Sunday
Schools and schools that contain stories from Buddhist literature discussing about life
after birth. Hence, its a serious problem that a author of literary work in Tamil like this,
has been arrested and detained for a long time.
It has also been reported to us recently that no opportunity has been granted for lawyers
to meet this youth. It has also been revealed that this youth has been bitten by a rat
while being detained at the Terrorist Investigation Division under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act. Although it was said before that his arrest was due to extremist incidents
in the book “Navarasam”, it has been revealed that now, there is a different investigation
against him and that he is being pressured to make a statement before the Magistrate.
We kindly request to speedily look into the truths in relation to above, and to take action
if this youth has been subjected to any harrasment and make recommendations to the
Inspector General of Police, the Director of the Terrorist Investigation Division and
Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order to ensure that this youth will not be subjected
any harrasment in the future and to protect his life.
To arrest and detain without any reasons youth like this who are against extremism and
attracted to literarture and arts, is to push them towards extremisim.
According to the Sri Lankan constitution, all persons have the freedom of expression,
opinon and publications. These are also relevant to the author of “Navarasam”. To arrest
him due to publication of a literary work is to violate fundemental rights protected by the
constitution. If there was a need to check whether the book had contents related to
extremism, it could have been translated, and if there was anything illegal, legal action
against him could have been taken. But the first thing that has been done is to arrest
Since this youth is in detention on detention orders since May 2020, we request to look
into this speedily and take needed actions.”