Israel: all charges against poet Dareen Tatour must be dropped

Poet Dareen Tatour should be released from house arrest immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against her dropped.

The trial of the Palestinian citizen of Israel on charges of ‘support for a terrorist organisation’ and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity was due to resume today, 6 September. Reports suggest that the hearing has now been postponed until 9 November, as the court was reportedly unable to find a translator for Tatour’s testimony.

Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International, said:

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.

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.

Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

The charges levelled against Dareen Tatour are serious, and the Israeli state wants to make the case that her words have directly led to specific violent incidents. But Israel has shown no such direct linkage. All Dareen Tatour has done is to have written a poem. She should never have been under house arrest; the world is watching; Israel should drop all charges against her. If the trial goes ahead, we hope it will result in her complete acquittal

Dareen Tatour writes of the need for Arab unity in the face of oppression, the absence of the Palestinian voice, and loss; she regularly makes references to those Palestinians who have been killed or have been the targets of violence. She was arrested at her home in Reineh, a small town near Nazareth, on 11 October 2015. Her arrest came amidst a wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens, and a corresponding crackdown by the Israeli authorities, which saw its officers given greater opportunity to open fire; it is in this same context that Tatour wrote the material cited in the charge sheet.

Tatour has argued that the entire case against her centres on a mistranslation of a poem which she regards as a legitimate protest against crimes committed by Israeli settlers and soldiers occupying Palestinian land. The prosecution has reportedly petitioned the court not to allow Tatour’s defence team to present an alternative translation of the poem from Arabic into Hebrew.


Sign the petition for Dareen Tatour

Our colleagues at PEN South Africa are supporting this petition for Dareen Tatour, signed by over 300 renowned writer, poets, translators, editors, artists, public intellectuals and cultural workers. Add your name to the petition here

Spread the word

Share Tatour’s story amongst your circles and on social media using #DareenTatour.

Read Tatour’s poetry

In November last year Tatour wrote a poem titled ‘A Poet Behind Bars’: read Tariq al Haydar’s English translation on Arabic Literature. You can also watch an interview  in which she discusses the poem that led to her arrest on AJ+.

For further information on Dareen Tatour, please visit the PEN International website.

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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