Calls intensify for freedom for Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour as trial continued until November

tatourPalestinian poet Dareen Tatour continues to face an Israeli trial for her poetry; after the postponement of the beginning of her defense from 6 September to November due to the lack of a qualified Arabic-Hebrew translators (despite both languages’ ostensible status as official languages), she remains on house arrest in her home in Reineh.

Prosecutors concluded their case at the 6 September hearing, presenting their final witness, a policeman present at four of Tatour’s interrogations. In the course of the trial, it became clear that the interrogations were not accurately transcribed and that Tatour was subject to pressure and denied access to the transcript of her testimony.

The Israeli prosecution against Tatour has highlighted the growing international solidarity campaign in support of the poet, who has spent 11 months in prison and house arrest accused of “incitement” for publishing her poetry online, in its attempt to make her house arrest even harsher. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in November 2015 in a raid on her home following publication of a video of her poetry on YouTube. She has been supported by hundreds of internationally prominent writers and artists, including Alice Walker, Dave Eggers, Edwidge Danticat and Naomi Klein.

After over seven months of imprisonment first in an Israeli prison and then in a rented apartment outside Tel Aviv under harshly restrictive conditions that required her brother and sister-in-law to lose work and studies, she was finally allowed to serve her house arrest in her home village of Reineh following the international exposure of her case and support from prominent artists. “Since my case has become internationally known and a case of public opinion on the freedom of expression, I learned from my lawyer that the prosecutor became very concerned about the wide-spread attention. I can say, and even confirm, that the solidarity campaign could affect the course of the upcoming trial, just like it did in the decision to place me under house arrest in my house in Reineh,” said Tatour in an interview.

Tatour had a hearing on 12 September as she sought additional time to visit family during the four days of Eid al-Adha, allowing her to visit family. The Free Dareen Tatour campaign noted that “the judge sternly refused to allow Dareen to visit 2 aunts in Reineh, mentioning that Dareen’s offence involved speaking with people, so she shouldn’t be allowed to meet too many people.”

Israeli prosecutor Alina Hardak argued in court that the growing number of articles and actions in support of Tatour are violations of her house arrest, despite being written and published. by other people and organizations. The campaign noted, “She said to the judge: ‘Just write her name in Google and you will see how many violations there are!’…the conditions for the house arrest prevent Dareen from publishing things, but do not prevent others from publishing about the case.” The prosecution repeatedly proclaimed Tatour to be a “security threat” in opposing her requests to visit her family.

PEN Center USA joined with PEN International to issue a new call to action and petition in support of Tatour and demanding the dropping of all charges against her. “After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and activism and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.”

free-dareenJennifer Clement, president of PEN International, said that “Dareen Tatour is on trial because she wrote a poem. Dareen Tatour is critical of Israeli policies, but governments that declare themselves as democracies do not curb dissent. Words like those of Dareen Tatour have been used by other revolutionary poets, during the Vietnam war, during other liberation wars, and they can be found in the works of Sufiya Kamal of Bangladesh, of Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, and so on.” PEN’s petition is available online:

IFEX, the international network on freedom of expression, also highlighted Tatour’s case, noting that “Dareen Tatour was largely unknown before her pre-dawn arrest on 11 October 2015. After posting a poem to YouTube a few days earlier, she now faces up to eight years in an Israeli prison on charges of incitement to violence. Over 300 renowned writers, poets, translators, editors, artists, and public intellectuals have since called for her release.”

Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa emphasized the targeting of Tatour as a Palestinian writer, amid a long history of the imprisonment of Palestinian poets and writers by the Israeli occupation, from Mahmoud Darwish to Tawfiq Ziyyad. “Dareen is being punished because she is a Palestinian who dares to be proud, defiant, strong, and unbroken in the face of a system that institutionalizes the idea that she is a lesser human,” said Abulhawa.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges the widest support and mobilization for freedom for Dareen Tatour and her fellow Palestinian prisoners, and participation in the PEN action and all other actions that highlights Tatour’s case as an attempt to silence a Palestinian writer and, indeed, the Palestinian voice altogether. Thus, her case is critical to the defense of Palestinian voice, narrative and expression under attack on all fronts for nearly 70 years.