Nabeel Yasin was born on 18 March 1950 in the Karradat Merriam District of Baghdad. He finished his degree at the University of Baghdad in Arabic Literature in 1971. As a student in Iraq, he took part in the annual poetry festivals at the University and was one of its most talented and exciting poets. He also participated in other national poetry festivals, such as the Merbid festival in the southern city of Basra and the Abu Tammam poetry festival in Nineveh in the North of Iraq.
In 1966, Yasin began working as a journalist at national newspapers, including al-Thuwra, al-Jumhuria, and the children’s weekly, Mejelitee-wal-Mismar, where he was editor. He was also an editor at Aleef-ba until 1976, after which an order from Saddam Hussein forced Yasin to quit his posts in official Iraqi journalism. Nevertheless, Yasin continued to write in the daily opposition publication, Tereek Al Sha’ab, until Saddam’s crackdown on the opposition in 1979 put the lives of its writers in danger. Yasin helped his colleagues to escape to the safety of neighbouring countries, being the last to remain before he left Iraq on 28 January 1980.
He remained in exile for another twenty-seven years, completing his PhD at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Philosophy in 1987 and working endlessly for a free Iraq from his exile in Europe. During these years in Hungary and the United Kingdom, Yasin was a leading political figure in the Iraqi Opposition in exile. His contributions to Arabic and International newspapers and his poems did much to highlight the plight of the Iraqi nation as well as keeping the memory of the Iraq of his childhood alive. Yasin returned to Iraq for the first time in 2007.
In 2009, British film director, Georgie Weedon, produced a film on Yasin’s final years in Iraq, and subsequent exile, titled The Poet of Baghdad. It is to be aired on Al Jazeera English in late 2009.
Home and Away--Writing of Nabeel Yasin
The exile was a poetic idea in the poetry I wrote in Iraq, an existential sensation about expatriation in time and other people. I explored the complexity, the mix of feelings about birth and death, love and departure, pain and pleasure, the maze and the horizon.
Later, exile became reality, my daily fate. And the experience of being an exile permeated everything, excluding me from language, making me a stranger in train stations, airports, motorways and winding forest roads. It changed the way I looked at everything and everybody from the faces of policemen to the visa stamps in my passport.
And my wife and son were victims of my exile: like two trees I tried to plant them, without success. And this failure confused me. The further away I moved from my homeland the more I began to imagine I was perhaps on my way home once again. Talking about home and reading about home replaced being there.
Now I am on the threshold of returning to my homeland for the first time in twenty-seven years. When I left, for strange, unknown lands, I did not expect anyone to welcome me. Always, I told myself that one day I would return home and there receive a warm welcome. Now that my return is approaching I wonder, with so many of my family and friends dead or gone, who will open the door when I knock at it, and who will be there to welcome me.