Arrested for writing… a poem

woman in white
Dareen Tatour

Cuffed by the hands and the legs, she entered the prison after three years of court trials and uncertain fate. Her accusation? Writing a poem.

Dareen Tatour, a young Palestinian poet, was born in Al-Reineh village, occupied Palestine. She studied computer science and, later on, she studied media and film directing. Her academic endeavors didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream, which is writing poems and stories in Arabic, her tongue.

On October 11, 2015, the Israeli authorities arrested Tatour at her parents’ house after she released a poem called “Qawem Ya Shaabi Qawemahum” (“Resist, my people, resist them”). She had posted the poem on Facebook, with a soundtrack that played to images and videos taken from different violent confrontations between the Palestinians and Israeli armed forces.

Dareen was charged with incitement to violence and supporting a terrorist organization. The indictment included four sections. The first section cited the lyrics of the poem, “encouraging and calling for” violent behavior against the institutions of the state of Israel. The next three sections targeted images in the poem's video: a photograph of Israa Abed (a woman from Nazareth, as she lay on the ground of the central bus station in Afula after being shot by Israeli soldiers and guards); the call by Islamic Jihad for intifada in the West Bank and  inside the green line in defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque; and a profile picture of the poet with the caption, “Ana El-Shaheed Al-Jay”(I am the next martyr).

For three years starting with her 2015 arrest, Tatour suffered from different detention methods, including interrogation, home detention, exile alongside very restricted conditions, and trial. Tatour shared what happened next in an interview:

 “Wearing pure white clothes, on August 8, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., I was imprisoned after the Israeli court convicted me on the charges of incitement to violence, terrorism and supporting a terrorist organization. I was sentenced to imprisonment for five months.

“I said my farewells to my family and my friends and gave a few last looks at freedom and the bright blue sky. Then an officer came with a wardress. They took me behind an iron door and kept me there for hours. This was the first episode of what would be months as a political prisoner in the Israeli prisons.

“The wardress took me to a very small room without a window, without a light, with nothing but an iron door. I waited for nearly an hour until she returned and began carrying out the official procedures for receiving a prisoner whose only accusation is writing a poem. She asked me to take off my clothes, all of my clothes, claiming that the Israeli prison administration calls for a naked inspection! This inspection was the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life. I received this humiliation from another woman, just like me, a woman, who knows what kind of violation this is!

“After completing her task, the wardress took me to the registry office and gave me a number. Then she put shackles on my legs and handcuffs on my hands. I was astonished, so I asked her about the reason behind putting two restrictions on me, and she said, ‘You are a threat to the security of the state, a danger to the state and a danger to us, so these are the orders! To restrict you with two chains.’ I smiled and laughed a long laugh, which gave me a feeling of victory and glory. I smiled in her face and with my smile, she changed her features. I knew that my smile destroyed her ecstasy at my humiliation. They are terrified of words and laughs!

Next they began examining my bag in which I had put the items that I was allowed to enter prison with, according to a list I received from the prison administration. But they returned everything to my family and prevented me from bringing in my own clothes, on the pretext that the laws for detainees do not allow these items.

women embracing
Embraced by a loved one upon her release

“After spending a night in the Jalameh Detention Center (Kishon), I was transferred to Damon Prison in Daliyat al-Carmel, Haifa District. This place, which dates back to the British Mandate, has a capacity for about 500 prisoners. It’s worth mentioning that in 2002, human rights associations and a panel of lawyers determined that the place is not suitable for housing animals, let alone people. However, it is still, to this day, used as a prison for Palestinian (West Bank and Gaza) detainees, prisoners who were arrested because of their work without permits in Israel and, in Section No. 61, Palestinian political prisoners.

“I entered prison because of a poem, but I was freed from it with 101 poems, in addition to a novel I wrote with the details of my detention experience. My time in prison not only gave me motivation to write, but I also learned to paint in detention and I began to express myself through drawing as well. During house arrest I transformed my room into a photography workshop as I photographed a project of house arrest. Thus, my detention period turned into a time of additional creative energies. It confirmed that nothing can prevent a poet from broadcasting her feelings, even if her body is subject to arrest, because thoughts remain free forever.

“The most ridiculous thing about my case is that the Israeli authorities tried and imprisoned me and claimed that the poem I wrote promotes incitement and threatens the security of the state, yet all that time the poem stayed up on Facebook and YouTube, in full view. It’s extremely ironic that the poet is arrested and sent to prison, while the poem remains free and is not deleted, despite their claims that it incites violence and terrorism!

Tatour’s experience is unique. She is a woman who entered the Israeli prison because of a poem, nothing else. But she is also like many other Palestinian women for whom prison has only made them stronger and opened their eyes to the importance of their actions and their message to continue their personal fight against the occupation, whether in the occupied territories, West Bank, Diaspora, or Gaza Strip.

You can read Dareen’s poem here.

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Mentor: Bisanne Masoud

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