Poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has spent more than two years in jail or under house arrest since October 2015, was convicted on May 3, 2018 on charges of incitement to violence and support for terror organizations. On July 31, 2018 an Israeli court sentenced her to five months in jail, three months of which will be reduced due to the time she has already served. Tatour served two months in jail before being released on September 20, 2018.
Tatour was charged with inciting violence and supporting terrorism for three posts on social media. The first post on YouTube was Tatour’s reading of her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” set to images of Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces. At trial, the prosecutor attempted to prove that Tatour was not a legitimate poet, and engaged in debate over the translation of certain passages of the poem from the Arabic to Hebrew.
A poet and Palestinian citizen of Israel, living near Nazareth in northern Israel, Tatour was arrested in 2015 during a broader period of unrest and subsequent Israeli crackdown on Palestinians. In addition to the video post and accompanying poem, the charge cited two additional Facebook posts. In the first, she wrote about Islamic Jihad’s call for an intifada (the group is considered a terrorist organization and is banned in Israel). She followed the post with comments for a call for an intifada, but the Arabic word also carries a broader meaning of resistance.
Her second post on October 9 contained a photograph of Isra’a Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman who was shot by security officers in the Afula bus station; the status appeared next to Tatour’s profile picture, which included the phrase “I will be the next martyr,” a statement that she said was meant to imply solidarity with those protesting the killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in 2014. Shahid, an Arabic word for martyr, is sometimes translated as those willing to commit acts of terrorism like suicide bombings; however, many Palestinians use the word to refer to victims of Israeli state violence. This was yet another disparity in Arabic-to-Hebrew translation that has become central in the court case.
Prior to her arrest, Tatour, 35, lived with her family in Reineh, a small town outside of Nazareth. She wrote poetry—participating in local poetry readings—and was a photographer. Her debut collection of poetry, “The Last Invasion (or War)” was published locally in 2010 and received by a small audience. Her latest collection of poems and a novel called “An Appointment with the Whales” are ready for publication, but are on her laptop, which has been confiscated by Israeli authorities as evidence in her case.
PEN America has called for Tatour’s immediate and unconditional release, and at the 82nd PEN International Congress, Tatour was selected as one of four “empty chairs” representing writers at risk who were not able to attend.
On August 25, 2017, PEN America organized an event in New York, Distant Lives, Forbidden Voices, which highlighted the work of Dareen Tatour, among other writers at risk for their expression. Additionally, there was a solidarity event for Tatour held in Jaffa, Israel, on August 30. Israel’s Ministry of Culture called for a hearing to reduce funding for the Jaffa Theatre, site of the event.
July 1, 2019: Tatour receives an update from the Supreme Court that the Attorney’s Office has decided to appeal the court’s ruling, which had acquitted and cleared her of charges related to the poem she wrote. The Supreme Court also sets September 6, 2019, as the date by which a statement must be submitted by Tatour’s attorney in order to convince the court that the case should not be reopened.
September 20, 2018: Tatour is released from prison after serving 42 days, a day earlier than expected. She says “I regret being sent to prison for a poem, but it will be impossible to stop my writing.”
July 31, 2018: An Israeli court sentences Tatour to five months in jail, three of which will be reduced due to time already served. The prosecutors asked for between 15 and 26 months, but the judge decided on a shorter term.
May 3, 2018: Tatour is convicted on charges of incitement to violence and support of a terrorist organization. A sentencing hearing is expected on July 31, 2018.
October 2017: Verdict and sentencing are expected on October 17. If convicted, Tatour could serve up to an eight-year prison sentence.
May 2017: Conditions of Tatour’s house detention ease and she is permitted to be outside in daytime hours with supervision. She is allowed out to work, but the supervisory requirements are substantial for employers, making working difficult.
April 2017: Tenth hearing in the case and trial ends on April 27, with her defense presenting evidence that the charges are based on a mistranslation of her poem and posts. Each side is given 45 days to write summaries, and the prosecution is given an extension of two months, at which point they submitted their summary.
March 2017: Eighth hearing. Dr. Yoni Mendel, a respected literary translator, provides a translation of Tatour’s poem that was substantively different from the prosecution’s translation. Mendel interprets a line to refer to raids that Palestinians are subject to, while the prosecutor’s translator construes it as Tatour calling for aggression. Final witness testimony concludes.
July 2016: Third and fourth hearings are held. Family members and friends testify that the Facebook page in question is Tatour’s. Prosecution rests their case. Tatour fulfills conditions to continue her house arrest in her home in Reineh, but a judge orders her to be held in custody until operators of her electric bracelet arrive to connect it. She finally arrives home after a day in custody and after detention away from home for nine months.
April 2016: Trial begins; Tatour’s own testimony is postponed until November because the court cannot produce a competent Arabic-Hebrew translator.
January 2016: Tatour is released under house arrest and fitted with an ankle monitor. She is denied internet access. She is declared “too dangerous” to return to her hometown, so her family is forced to rent an apartment near Tel Aviv specifically for her detention.
November 2015: Tatour is indicted by Israeli prosecutors on two charges: incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization, which could result in an eight-year prison sentence.
October 11, 2015: Tatour is arrested and jailed for three months.
October 2015: On October 3 and 4, Tatour posts a video to her YouTube and Facebook accounts with audio of her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” set to images of Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces. On October 4, she posts a news item on Facebook from the website Islamic Jihad that had called for a “continuation of the intifada” in the West Bank. On October 9, a photograph of Isra’a Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman carrying a knife who was shot by security officers in the Afula bus station, is posted on her Facebook page, captioned with the phrase, “I will be the next martyr.” Shahid, an Arabic word for martyr, is sometimes translated as those willing to commit acts of terrorism like suicide bombings; however, many Palestinians use the word to refer to victims of Israeli state violence.
FREE EXPRESSION IN ISRAEL
Tatour is one of some 400 Palestinians who have been arrested for posts on social media since October 2015. Her case is one of a number of recent cases of administrative detention and legal charges brought against journalists and those who use social media to publish their writing, both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, including the cases of Palestinian journalists Muhammed al-Qiq and Omar Nazzal.
IN THEIR WORDS
Below is the poem that led to Dareen Tatour’s arrest:
Other poems by Dareen Tatour can be found here: https://freedareentatour.org/poems