Project Description

Malka Al Haddad

Malka AlHaddad is an Iraqi human rights defender, living in exile in the UK. Al-Haddad worked as a lecturer at Kufa University, Iraq, and taught literary criticism. Malka’s poetry collection, Birds Without Sky, which was published in the UK, (all proceeds are donated to two UK charities), and longlisted for the Leicester Book Prize 2018. A pamphlet of this collection’s first section was also long-listed for the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition in 2017. She has a Master’s degree in Arabic Literature from Kufa University and has recently attained an MA at the University of Leicester, in the Politics of Conflict and Violence.

Malka’s poetry captures the history and culture of her homeland and is a chronicle of her journey into exile and the welcome she found in Britain. She has read her poetry in various locations across the country, including at the House of Commons to Members of Parliament. She is a poetry editor of the Other Side of Hope magazine, the UK’s first literary magazine of Sanctuary, accredited by the City of Sanctuary UK.

Yarl’s Wood

I wrote a poem, two, three, and ten,
I have not forgotten.
I swallowed all the spiders in my room
Lay on a hot oven tray
Drank all the drainage in my shelter
Vomited everything I ate
And I did not forget.

Suicidal, sectioned and 180 doses to wash up my mind
In The Bradgate Mental Health Unit
And I did not forget.

Divided my life into
Pre-Yarl’s Wood and post-Yarl’s Wood

I bought the threads for my wedding dress,
I sewed it, embroidered it, put it on,
Danced with my love,
And I did not forget.
I shook hands with the sun on the shores of Wales
Tide and traction hundreds of times
And I did not forget.
Counted the stars in the sky of Scottish Highlands
The fields turned green and brown ten times.
And I did not forget.

Hung my memories on the washing line
Waited for it to dry everything out,
And went back to say:
Yarl’s Wood *
It’s not forgotten
Not forgotten.

This morning I looked in the mirror
at my hair which was full of white
And I realized then that I got older quickly
Faster than I could imagine
And I still haven’t forgotten.

*Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is a detention centre for foreign nationals before their deportation from the UK. Detention in Yarl’s Wood is experienced as a form of “kidnapping” and psychological torture.