Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police last year because of a poem she posted to Facebook. Now she lives with an ankle monitor under strict house arrest.
By Yael Marom
Dozens of Palestinians and Israelis demonstrated at Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square on Saturday evening to call for the release of Palestinian poet, Dareen Tatour, who has been held under house arrest for the past five months.
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Tatour, 33, from the Arab village Al-Reineh near Nazereth, was arrested by Israeli police on October 10, 2015 because of a poem she had posted to Facebook, along with a number of other Facebook statuses she published at the height of latest wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. She was charged with incitement to violence and identifying with a terrorist organization — all because of her poem.
The main clause of her indictment was based on a poem that she had allegedly posted on YouTube under the title: “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum” (Resist my people, resist them). Another main clause in the indictment relates to a news item, cited in a post on Tatour’s Facebook page, according to which “The Islamic Jihad movement calls for continuing the Intifada all over the [West] Bank…” The same post calls for a “comprehensive intifada.” (Read more about Tatour’s arrest here).
On Saturday night demonstrators held signs and Palestinian flags, while passersby responded with curses and threats. Policemen at the scene prevented any physical confrontations.
Among the protesters was Dareen’s father, Tawfik, who thanked the crowd for standing alongside his daughter. “They are silencing my daughter, there is no other way to put it.” Tawfik told +972’s Hebrew sister site, Local Call. “I did not expect this kind of thing from a democratic state, but it turns out that this is a democracy for some. Dareen is only a poet, all she did was write poems. If you ask me, this should be allowed in a democratic country.”
According to Palestinian prisoners’ organization Addameer, since October 2015 over 150 cases have been brought before Israeli military courts in which sole charge was incitement on social media, or allegations such as “providing a service for an unlawful organization.”
Abed Abu Shehada, a political activist from Jaffa, was more unequivocal: “Anyone who believes they are an activist, whether in the field or on Facebook, whether they are an artist or a poet, needs to know that it’s only a matter of time until this happens to them. Anyone who partakes in criticism needs to be afraid. Dareen’s story is a precedent on the issue of freedom of expression and the legitimacy of criticism.” Abu Shehada also spoke about the violent reaction from passersby: “This is not the first time we have protested here, but this time we see people allowing themselves to attack demonstrators because they feel they are allowed — that there is a general atmosphere of support for that behavior by the police.”
Following her arrest Tatour spent three months in detention. Over the last five months she has been under house arrest under especially tight restrictions. She is forced to wear an ankle monitor, is not allowed to visit her village, and is forced to live in a home without internet in Kiryat Ono, where she is heavily guarded 24 hours a day. On Monday an Israeli court will hold a hearing on her appeal to ease the conditions of her house arrest and allow her to return to her family’s home in Al-Reineh.
Israeli poet Rachel Peretz, who took part in Saturday’s demonstration, told Local Call: “A 32-year-old woman is being jailed because she wrote a poem. And this didn’t happen in Africa or so-called oppressive states. This is happening in the oppressive state that we live in.”
Peretz says that she had trouble finding people to agree to translate Tatour’s poem in the run-up to a solidarity event to be held in Tel Aviv on Monday of next week, since it could put the translator in jeopardy. Finally Dr. Oded Welkstein decided to help, although Peretz claims that he too knows that this could endanger him.
“In my eyes this is an intolerable reality,” says Peretz, “no only because this affects me as a woman or a poet. The arbitrariness that allows for someone to be arrested without any real public discussion. It feels like another red line that has been crossed, but the red line has been crossed long ago.”
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.