Jailed Palestinian poet: ‘I am not a terrorist’

After three months in prison and six months under house arrest, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is finally allowed to return home.

By Yael Marom

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour.
Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour.

After three months of imprisonment and another half year of house arrest, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour returned to her family’s home in northern Israel on Thursday. An Israeli court previously issued a restraining order against Tatour, who was arrested in October 2015 for publishing a poem and a number of statuses on Facebook, preventing her from residing in Al-Reineh, where her family lives.

The court also refused to ease her draconian sentence and allow her to return from Kiryat Ono — where she was sent to house arrest — to her family home.

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).

Tatour spoke with +972’s Hebrew sister-site, Local Call, on Thursday morning, and described how she must walk around with an ankle monitor, cannot use the internet, and is under constant supervision at all hours of the day. “I still have not processed everything that is happening, what happened to me and what is yet to come,” Tatour said. “I am not a terrorist! How can it be that my poem turned into an indictment?”

“I am surprised by the state. I am surprised by the fact that it is acting this way with a poet. A poet who wrote her opinion just like everybody else. So many people write so many different things — Arabs, Jews, Christians — but none of them pay the price I am paying. I know there are imprisoned poets in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia — but here?”

Tatour also spoke about the relief she felt as she returned home: “I feel much better now that I am in my home with my parents. Maybe I am nearing the end of the nightmare. Now I can have guests — I would be happy to meet the people who supported me.”

Tatour arrived at Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Monday after the prosecution agreed to allow her back into Al-Reineh, pending approval by both her probation officer and the ankle monitor company. The company, however, has yet to provide an official report to the court, which was requested by Judge Hana Sabag, who asked to delay making a decision over whether Tatour would be able to move from Kiryat Ono back to her village. Tatour told the court that she is no longer willing to stay in Kiryat Ono, and that she prefers to be sent to jail. The court accepted her request and ordered her to be jailed until the end of bureaucratic proceedings, before transferring her over to house arrest in her family home.

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. 

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