Arab Poet Can See Neither Rhyme nor Reason for Her Indictment

Charged with incitement to violence for her online poetry, Dareen Tatour remains under house arrest, pending trial in September.

Dareen Tatour in Nazareth District Court.
Rami Shllush

As Dareen Tatour wandered around the Nazareth courthouse on Sunday, no one there – including the security guards and police officers – would have considered her a threat.

Wearing a shirt more appropriate for a teenage girl, Tatour walked excitedly around with friends and acquaintances, all of whom had come to support her.

No one could have imagined that this smiling woman had been deemed dangerous by the state, and that the only difference between her and the other people was the electronic leg cuff around her ankle.

Tatour, 35, is from the village of Reine, near Nazareth. Seven months ago, she was indicted for incitement to violence and supporting a terrorist organization. The prosecution asked the court to remand her until the end of legal proceedings against her, saying her charge sheet showed how dangerous she is.

She spent three months behind bars and was eventually released after a long legal battle, but with restrictions: For example, she was placed under house arrest in an apartment her brother rented for her in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv.

Tatour smiles and says that if she really is such a danger, why was she allowed to go to Kiryat Ono?

On October 11, 2016, a week or so after the latest wave of violence broke out in the West Bank and Jerusalem, police came to her parents’ home in Reine and arrested her without any explanation. She was taken to the local police station in Nazareth for questioning.

“At the beginning, they called me things like a terrorist, and I didn’t understand what all the hubbub was about,” she recalls. “I also didn’t think I would be detained – I thought it would be a matter of a few hours and then I’d return home.”

Some three weeks after her arrest, though, she was indicted due to postings on Facebook and YouTube. She posted a number of videos on the latter, including reciting poems (in Arabic) she had written. The prosecution said the poems called for committing acts of violence and terrorism, as well as encouraging, praising and identifying with violent acts and terrorism.

Supporters of Dareen Tatour outside the courthouse in Nazareth, May 8, 2016.
Rami Shllush

The indictment quoted one of her poems, titled “Resist, My People, Resist Them”:

“Resist, my people, resist them. In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows / And carried the soul in my palm.

“For an Arab Palestine, I will not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution’ / Never lower my flags / Until I evict them from my land / I cast them aside for a coming time

“Resist the colonialist’s onslaught / Pay no mind to his agents among us / Who chain us with the peaceful illusion.”

In a Facebook post, alongside a photograph of a woman from Nazareth who was shot in Afula bus station while waving a knife, Tatour wrote, “I am the next shahid [martyr].”

On Sunday, some 30 people gathered outside the Nazareth court to show their support, including the three Knesset members from the Balad party (part of the Joint Arab List faction).

Tatour doesn’t deny writing the posts and poems, but denies that she intended to incite violence.

“I wrote in a very difficult atmosphere – mostly after the murder of the Dawabsheh family [in July 2015] and Mohammed Abu Khdeir [the Palestinian youth murdered by Jewish extremists in July 2014], and I asked who will be the next shahid, who else would pay with their life? I have written poems from a very young age, and in 2010 published a book. I never imagined that poetry and writing would lead to my arrest and such serious charges,” she said.

Tatour’s case was postponed until September. Until then, she will remain under house arrest in Kiryat Ono.