Alice Walker, Dave Eggers call for release of jailed Palestinian poet

Over 150 literary luminaries sign letter expressing solidarity with Dareen Tatour, who was imprisoned for a series of poems she published on Facebook.

American author Alice Walker. (photo: codepinkhq/CC BY-SA 2.0)
American author Alice Walker. (photo: codepinkhq/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Over 150 renowned writers, poets, and literary figures, including Alice Walker, Dave Eggers, Natasha Trethewey, and Susan Abulhawa have signed on to an open letter calling for the release of jailed Palestinian poet, Dareen Tatour.

Tatour, a 33-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel from the village Al-Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested by Israeli authorities in October of 2015 for a series of poems she posted on her own personal Facebook page and YouTube during the height of latest wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. She was charged with incitement to violence and identifying with a terrorist organization.

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).

Dozens demonstrate for the release of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, Jaffa, Israel, July 26, 2016. (photo: Tawfik Tatour, father of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who was arrested and put under house arrest, demonstrates for her release at Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square, June 26, 2016. (photo: Haim Schwarczenberg)
Dozens demonstrate for the release of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, Jaffa, Israel, July 26, 2016. (photo: Tawfik Tatour, father of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who was arrested and put under house arrest, demonstrates for her release at Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square, June 26, 2016. (photo: Haim Schwarczenberg)

The letter marks the launch of an international solidarity campaign organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY to demand Tatour’s release, as well as to draw attention to the widespread arrests and detentions of Palestinians for political expression on social media, as well as Israel’s targeting of Palestinian writers and artists.

The letter states:

We believe in the rights of artists and writers to freely express their artistic vision, and share work freely. The Israeli government’s actions reveal a desire to silence Tatour, part of a larger pattern of Israeli repression against all Palestinians.  Expressing resistance to oppression and Occupation through poetry is by nature non-violent and should not be criminalized by any government.

We, the undersigned – writers, artists, and people of conscience from around the world – believe that poetry is not a crime. We are calling for poet and activist Dareen Tatour to be released immediately from house arrest and for all charges to be dropped.

Tatour spent the first three months of her detention in three separate prisons before being transferred to house arrest. An Israeli court insisted that she be kept at a distance of 40 kilometers from her home, due to the alleged “danger” she poses to the public. Tatour’s brother was forced to quit his job and studies in order to fulfill his role as the court-appointed ward, and moved into an apartment in Tel Aviv that was rented out for that purpose during her legal proceedings.

On July 18 Tatour will file an appeal to be allowed to transfer to house arrest in her village. Her hearings are scheduled to continue to until September, when she could be sentenced to additional prison time if convicted.

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