The conviction of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour on charges of “inciting violence” and “supporting a terrorist organization” relies on a wanton mischaracterization of her work and is an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Israel, said PEN America in a statement today.

Tatour has been in custody since October 2015, when a series of Facebook posts and her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” first led Israeli officials to arrest her. Tatour was refused bail and placed under house arrest in several locations from January 2016 onwards, during which time she was forbidden from publishing her work or accessing the internet, among other restrictions. At her trial, the prosecution contended that Tatour was not a legitimate poet and relied on an Arabic to Hebrew translation of her poem produced by an Israeli police officer without expertise in the Arabic language or Palestinian literature, refusing to consider alternative interpretations or translations of her work. Israeli writers have spoken out against the court’s decision. Tatour’s conviction carries with it the potential of an eight-year prison sentence, in addition to the years of confinement she has already endured; her sentencing is scheduled to take place at the end of May.

“Dareen Tatour’s conviction reflects an insistence on misinterpreting her words, which suggests it is not about Dareen’s work at all, but rather about setting an example that certain opinions will not be tolerated by the Israeli government,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America.  “In a democracy, creative expression, even that of dissident voices, must be protected, and to put a poet behind bars is to reject that fundamental value. A poem is no crime, and Dareen should be exonerated and granted her freedom.” 

In recent years, hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested for their social media posts.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected]