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As Palestinians mark Land Day with the Great March of Returnthe Freedom Flotilla Coalition is thrilled to announce the winners of its first literary competition, Keys for the Future of Palestine, honouring poets and authors from around the world, in three languages; Arabic, English and Spanish. Our jurors for each of those languages had the daunting task of selecting winners and runners up in the categories of short story and poetry. You can see the names of winning contributors and their works below. Keep visiting our site over the coming days as we publish their texts.

In addition to the adjudicated submissions, we received an impressive and moving collection of stories from children at Al Aqsa school in Lenasia, South Africa (Extension 5 and 10) – special thanks to their teacher, Ismail Mohammed. These children, many of whom have family members who suffered the devastating effects of living in an Apartheid state, have expressed themselves beautifully with their powerful words

We received 29 submissions in English. The literary jury for the English language submissions included Naomi Wallace, Sumayya Lee, and Monia Mazigh (biographies). They selected as the winning short story Salaam, It Means Peace by Mikayla Boorany of South Africa, and as runner up May I Show You My City by Dan Lieberman (USA). In the poetry category they selected Poem(s) for Palestine by Gerry Sloan from the USA as the winner, and The Year 2037 by Anna Dóra Antonsdóttir of Iceland as runner-up. Jury member Naomi Wallace commented: “It has been both an education and an honour to be a judge for this competition. These poems and short stories give one inspiration not only in this struggle for a more just world, but in reclaiming imagination to speak truth to power.”

The jury for submissions in Spanish, which included Marga Clark, Valentí Gómez-Oliver, Charo Fierro and Fernando García Burillo, see details here, judged 48 works. They awarded the first prize to the story Diario semanal de un niño al que no dejaron ser niño (Weekly diary of a child who was not allowed to be a child) by Yusra el Kasmy el Kasmi from Catalunya and of Moroccan origin. The runner-up prize went to the poem Para ahuyentar a los cuervos (To Scare the crows away) by Marieta Machado Batista from Cuba. They awarded a second runner-up prize to the poem En memoria de Gaza (In Memory of Gaza) by José María Montes Presa of Asturias, Spain. Full jury notes on each of these works can be found here in Spanish

In Arabic, we received 186 short stories and 168 poems. We will announce the winners of these competitions over the coming days, when we receive the decisions from those juries.

The quality of submissions was exceptional and we thank all who submitted their work and who bravely spoke out against the illegal blockade of Gaza: we are considering ways we can honour more of the submissions in another publication. Art and literature are important ways that we can express the injustices that Palestinians experience every day.

As we prepare for our Freedom Flotilla sailing in May, we keep in mind the words of Naomi Wallace, playwright & jury member: “The dream of breaking the blockade continues with real boats and real hearts and minds that do not give up. The poems and stories created by writers about Gaza will be much needed wind in the sails of the next determined boats to sail for justice for Palestine.”

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