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PEN International: Dareen Tatour is being targeted for her peaceful exercise of her right to free expression

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Poet Dareen Tatour–a Palestinian citizen of Israel–is currently standing trial on charges of  “support for a terrorist organization” and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity. She was arrested in a pre-dawn police raid on her home on October 11, 2015 and spent over three months in police detention and half a year in house arrest in forced exile before being allowed to continue her house arrest at home. Two years later, her trial continues and she remains under house arrest, the conditions of which continue to be strict and include the prevention of her movement outside of her home unless under the supervision of a licensed chaperone and a blanket ban on accessing the Internet or on publishing any of her works.

In October 2017, PEN International’s President, Jennifer Clement, and PEN’s Executive Director, Carles Torner, visited Tatour at her home in Reineh near Nazareth. This is Tatour’s message to the PEN membership:

“As a detained poet, your support gave me a spark of hope that would never extinguish, and it confirmed that there is someone who works to protect the rights of the writer and the poet as a human being, and to ensure that the spark of creativity remains alight forever. Thank you PEN International. Thanks very much for visiting me, for your support, and standing by poets and writers who suffer and face imprisonment like myself solely for expressing their views through art.”

PEN International believes that Dareen Tatour is being targeted for her peaceful exercise of her right to free expression and continues to call for her immediate and unconditional release one year after campaigning for her on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2016.

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Please send appeals to the Israeli authorities:

Urging them to release poet Dareen Tatour from house arrest immediately and unconditionally;

Calling for all charges against Dareen Tatour to be dropped as she is being held solely for her peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression.

Write to:

Minister of Justice
Ayelet Shaked
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem, 91010, Israel
Fax: +972 2 628 5438
Email: [email protected] Salutation:
Dear Minister

And copies to: Attorney General
Avichai Mendelbilt
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Fax: +972 2 530 3367
Email: [email protected]

Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Israel in your country. A list of embassies can be found here:

Please check with PEN International if sending letters after 15 November 2017


Tatour’s arrest at her home in Reineh, a small town near Nazareth, on 11 October 2015 came amidst a wave of violent attacks on Israeli soldiers and citizens, and a corresponding crackdown by the Israeli authorities, which saw its officers given greater opportunity to open fire. She is currently under house arrest until the conclusion of her trial on charges of ‘support for a terrorist organisation’ (under articles 4(b) + (g) of the Prevention of Terror Ordinance-1948) and several counts of incitement to violence (under article 144(d) 2 of the Penal Code-1977). The charges relate to a video, which Tatour posted on YouTube in which she recites one of her poems entitled, ‘Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them).’ In the video, the poem is set to music against a backdrop of video footage of Palestinian resistance – as men throw stones at the Israeli military. At the time of her arrest, the video had been viewed a mere 153 times according to the indictment.

PEN International’s president, Jennifer Clement with poet Dareen Tatour in Nazareth; October 2017. (Photo: Carles Torner)

Tatour also faces charges in connection with two Facebook posts. In the first, on 4 October, Tatour remarks upon an apparent call by Islamic Jihad–a banned terrorist organization–for continuation of the intifada. She goes on to call for an intifada. The term intifada in Arabic means awakening and may broadly be understood as resistance. The second Facebook post to have aroused the suspicions of the authorities–dated October 9, 2015–is a photograph of Isra’a Abed, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was shot by security officers while carrying a knife and mistakenly suspected as planning an attack in a train station (she survived her wounds and was not accused of any violence). Tatour explained that she posted Isra’a Abed’s image as a protest against the shooting of the innocents. The image reportedly appeared alongside Tatour’s profile photo which said “I am the next martyr,” which she published in July 2014 protesting the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

A hearing scheduled for September 6, 2016 was postponed after the translator declared a conflict of interest and withdrew, prolonging Tatour’s trial by a further two months. During subsequent hearings, the court relaxed some of the requirements of her house arrest; while she still has no access to the internet, she is no longer required to wear an ankle monitor and is now able to leave the house between 9am and 7pm, however, she is required to be with a ‘licensed supervisor’ at all times. In March 2017, Dr. Yoni Mendel, a respected literary translator, provided a translation of Tatour’s poem that was substantively different from the prosecution’s translation. The defense presented evidence that charges against Tatour were based on a mistranslation and misinterpretation of her poem and posts. In April, the prosecution and defence were given 45 days each to submit their case summaries. The verdict was due to be heard at a hearing scheduled for October 17, 2017. However, the hearing was delayed due to a request by the defense to present new evidence to the court. The new evidence should be presented on November 9. New date for the verdict will be set later.

For further information on Tatour’s case, see:

PEN International

PEN International is the worlds leading association of writers, working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression around the world. PEN was founded by the British poet, playwright and peace activist C.A. Dawson-Scott, as an international club providing space for writers to share ideas and as a forum, uniting writers irrespective of their culture, language or political opinion. Today PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London, spanning over 100 countries, with 149 PEN Centres worldwide.

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5 Responses

  1. Ossinev on October 31, 2017, 10:24 am

    Sorry if it sounds a little bit callous given the situation that Tatour is in but is PEN International SERIOUSLY suggesting that MW readers write letters of appeal to a Fascist so called “Minister of Justice”.

    This creature is an unhinged freak – do you really expect an unhinged freak to respond and / or do the right thing.

    • pabelmont on October 31, 2017, 11:33 am

      Ossinev: Good point, but perhaps these officials have more-or-less balanced servants who read their mail for them?

  2. JosephA on October 31, 2017, 7:22 pm

    There is little justice in modern Israel.

    Having said that, Israelis claiming hommous as their own food is some sort of sick, twisted poetic justice. They know it’s not theirs, this Palestinian food, but they pretend anyway.

  3. punterweger on November 1, 2017, 11:29 am

    @Ossinev – you are right about Ayelet Shaked, but don’t forget that such campaigns are not primarily about changing an ethno-fascist minister’s mind. They are about 1) showing Israeli authorities that the world is watching, and 2) spreading the word about Israel’s injustice and undermining their claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”. I, for example wlll make a public post of this MW article to my FB page together with my letter, which will inform people about injustice in Israel and in some cases help to put pressure on Israeli authorities. Here is my letter:

    Dear Minister,

    I have followed the story of Ms. Tatour’s persecution by the Isreali authorities since her arrest 2 years ago. Ms. Tatour is a poet and citizen of Israel and as such is clearly entitled to the freedom of speech that is a basic right in any country that wishes to be considered a democracy. PEN International, as well as its US affiliate PEN America have both recognized this violation of Ms. Tatour’s fundamental l rights by the state of Israel.

    Moreover, during Ms. Tatours trial it became plain that the Israeli state arrogates to itself the right to determine what constitutes art and what not. In addition, it appears that the prosecution was based on a false or biased translation of the poem that the authorities considered offensive.

    In view of these facts, I urge you to immediately and unconditionally release poet Dareen Tatour from house arrest, and call upon you to drop all charges against her as she is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression.


    Peter Unterweger

    Beacon, New York
    United States

    cc. Avichai Mendelbilt, Attorney General
    Embassy of Israel to the USA, Consular Services

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