Saudi poet-politician who praised suicide bombers dies at 70

Saudi poet-politician who praised suicide bombers dies at 70

Ghazi Abdul Rahman al-Gosaibi, Saudi Arabia's minister of labour, former ambassador, and prolific poet who caused controversy by praising a Palestinian suicide bomber, has died aged 70 from cancer, officials said Sunday, dpa reported.

Gosaibi published more than 20 books, including novels and poetry, many of which were banned in the conservative kingdom until last month due to their themes of materialism, criticism of conservatism and open discussions of romance and love.

Though seen as a liberal by Saudi social standards, his political views led him at times to be perceived as a hardline, Arab nationalist in the West.

Shortly before returning home from his nearly-two-decades as ambassador to Bahrain and then Britain and Ireland, he published a poem in 2002 praising Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber.

Born in 1940, he took a law degree at the University of Cairo before moving to the West to obtain advanced degrees in international relations and law at the University of Southern California and University of London.

As the son of a well-known and wealthy trading family in the Gulf, he was a businessman for the first part of his adult life.

After his diplomatic career, Gosaibi entered the Saudi cabinet in 2002 as minister of water until, in 2004, he took over the Labour Ministry, a position he held until his death.

In his later years he also became a prolific writer.

In a country with an orthodox and absolute monarchy, al-Gosaibi's literary subjects were taboo and often forbidden.

One story dealt with a man's affair with a married woman while another tackled the corruption of people faced with the trials of courtship.

"An Apartment Called Freedom," his first novel, made a splash on the Arabic literary scene in 1994.

It told the story of young Saudi men who left the traditional kingdom, which follows strict Islamic law, to study abroad in Cairo in the 1950s where they enjoy the pleasures of a country that was experimenting with social liberalism.

Many of Gosaibi's writings were banned in his own country for many years, but in the weeks before his death the kingdom announced his books would no longer be outlawed.

The ministry of culture said it would be "inappropriate" for the volumes to be absent from the nations' libraries.

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