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Iconic Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti dies aged 76

 Iconic Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, died on Sunday at the age of 76, his family said.

On his official Facebook page, his son, the poet Tamim Al Barghouti, mourned his father Mourid by posting a black picture with his name.

Barghouti, who was known for being a strong advocate for the Palestinian cause, was bornin 1944 in the mountainous village of Deir Ghassanah, west of the River Jordan in Palestine.

The cluster of villages was dominated by the Barghouti clan of politicians, poets and landowners. His father worked the land, then joined the Jordanian army. Aged four, when the state of Israel was declared, Barghouti learned of the Palestinian nakbah, or catastrophe, as non-Barghoutis with different dialects appeared in his village.

The second of four brothers, he moved with his family to Ramallah, aged seven. At school he admired the Iraqi modernist poet of the late 40s, Badr Shakir Al Sayyab, who broke the classical Arabic poem that had survived for 15 centuries unchanged, during the surge of Arab liberation movements against British and French occupation.

He came to Cairo in 1963 to study English literature at Cairo University and graduated in 1967, after which he didn’t go back to Ramallah for 30 years.

It was autobiographical novel Ra’aytu Ram Allah (I Saw Ramallah), published by Bloomsbury in 2004 in a translation by Ahdaf Soueif, that first won him a readership in English. It was translated to English by his late wife, iconic Egyptian novelist Rawda Ashour.

Barghouti published 12 poetry books in Arabic since the early 1970s, as well as a 700-page Collected Works (1997). He read in overflowing amphitheatres and in refugee camps. Midnight and Other Poems was his first major collection in English translation. The late Edward Said saw it as “one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement”.

His poems were translated into several languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Russian.

The Palestinian Minister of Culture, Atef Abu Seif, mourned the late poet, saying that Palestinian and Arab culture had lost with his death “a symbol of creativity and the Palestinian national cultural struggle.”

Abu Seif pointed out that Mourid Barghouti was “one of the creative people who devoted their writings and creativity in defense of the Palestinian cause, the story and struggle of our people, and Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian existence.”