Poetry is simply Dareen, and Dareen is Poetry


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Interview by Jessica Rohan

The following interview with poet Dareen Tatour was Published in WARSCAPES in September 9, 2016. You can read the original interview in Arabic in Haifa Al-Hurah.

Editor’s note: Dareen Tatour’s trial scheduled for September 6th could not proceed due to the lack of an Arabic translator for Dareen’s testimony. Her trial resumes in November.

Jessica Rohan: Others accused in minor incidents of incitement via Facebook were allowed to remain under house arrest during trial, yet you were jailed for three months while the prosecution appeared to be appealing for a harsher ruling from the District Court. Why do you think your case was handled in this exceptional manner? Why do you think you were forced to serve your house arrest in another location?dareen-tatour-profile-digital-800px-wide

Dareen Tatour: I’m still trying to understand why they’re acting so aggressively in my case, unlike others facing charges similar to mine. The public prosecutor claims that I pose a danger and that having me under house arrest is dangerous. But what is this danger and against whom? I still don’t know until today and after all this time. They have detained me for three months and refused to let me go home to my family. They detained me away from my hometown and my environment. I still have no answer to your question, because their behavior is illogical. In fact, it’s self-contradictory. For one thing, they claim that I pose a danger to jews but then they sent me to a Jewish area. Then, they claimed that I pose a danger to my own family and community. How is it that I’m charged with inciting against the state and at the same time pose a threat to my own people? I ask these questions and can’t find any answers

JR: Your charges did not include a violent crime, yet you were arrested in a police raid on your home at 3am. Why do you think that law enforcement chose to arrest you in that manner?

DT: I don’t know what caused them to raid my house so violently. It surprised me when i was detained. They didn’t even have an arrest warrant. I think what happened is part of a systematic policy against Palestinians in general and against the Arab minority in Israel in particular. What happened with me is part of the occupation under which we Palestinians live, and part of the discrimination we face from all parties and political institutions of the state.

JR: You’ve stated that you feel unfairly targeted as a poet. Why do you think the Israeli state chose to act in the manner that they did?

DT: The fact that the poem was listed in the charge against me explains the crisis that Israel’s democracy is going through. The reality I’ve lived confirms that. In my opinion, the only explanation for detaining me as a poet is that democracy in this state applies only for a specific group, and is not a democracy for all. This is part of the discrimination against Arabs I spoke of earlier.

JR: Who were the volunteer guards who monitored you in Tel Aviv? How were they chosen?

DT: It is very saddening that my brother and his fiancé became my guards while I was under house arrest in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, away from home. The conditions were so harsh and restrictive that they were virtually detained with me.

JR: +972 reported that you requested to be returned to jail rather than remain in Kiryat Ono to await approval to continue house arrest in your family home. Why is that?

DT: I suffered greatly being under house arrest away from home. That’s what made me decide to go back to prison instead of going back to house arrest in Kiryat Ono even for one day. Under house arrest away from home, I was in solitary confinement for six months, which was beyond human tolerance. I had no way to get out of that but to go back to prison.

JR: The stated qualifications of the policeman who translated your poem into Hebrew was his study of literature in high school and a love for the Arabic language. He testified at the trial, where the prosecution and the judge essentially analyzed your poem to determine whether it constituted incitement. Why do you think that a more qualified translator was not used in court?

DT: Because this police officer serves and supports the position of the prosecutor’s office. To bring a real translator means proving my innocence of the charge of incitement in the poem.  Of course this is not what the prosecutor wants.

JR: The solidarity campaign on your behalf included a letter signed by hundreds of fellow writers and artists. Do you think that your status as a poet helped to generate the international backlash against the Israeli government in your case

DT: Of course. Being a poet helped publicize my case internationally and led to expressions of solidarity by hundreds of poets and writers. There are more than 400 Palestinian detainees held for charges related to freedom of expression. They have not found anyone to speak for them. I wish that each Palestinian detainee facing such charges would become an international cause. This is a humanitarian cause before it is a personal one for a poet like me.

JR: Do you think that the solidarity campaign could continue to influence the outcome of your case when the trial resumes on September 6th?

DT: Since my case has become internationally known and a case of public opinion on the freedom of expression, I learned from my lawyer that the prosecutor became very concerned about the wide-spread attention. I can say, and even confirm, that the solidarity campaign could affect the course of the upcoming trial, just like it did in the decision to place me under house arrest in my house in Reineh.

I could also say that my cause has become the cause of every Palestinian, which is protecting rights or an attempt to restore the rights of Palestinians violated by Israel, first of which is freedom of expression.

JR: Do you have a particular vision about what you hope to write or achieve as a poet in the future?

DT: The definite answer for me is that I will continue my work as an artist, writing poetry and doing photography, just as I did before detention. And I will never give up. Poetry is my whole life. Poetry is simply Dareen, and Dareen is poetry.

This translation of this interview from Arabic to English was facilitated by Lubna Hammad of Adalah-NY and Yoav Haifawi.

Dareen Tatour, imprisoned Palestinian poet, shares her story


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Exclusive interview with Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour from her home, where she remains under house arrest


(This interview was published in Salon.com on August 10, 2016)

Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested because of her posts on social media.

In October, police raided her home in the middle of the night. They handcuffed Tatour, a 35-year-old poet, and took her away.dareen_tatour

“You look like a terrorist,” an interrogator told her. The Israeli government accused Tatour of inciting violence with her poetry and Facebook posts.

She faces up to eight years in prison, if convicted on all charges. Her case is still pending, and the trial will resume on Sep. 6.

Tatour has already spent three months in Israeli prisons, and another six months under house arrest in an apartment near Tel Aviv, which her family was forced to pay for.

In late July, an Israeli judge ruled that she can continue her house arrest in her family’s home near Nazareth.

The judge’s decision came after more than 250 prominent writers, intellectuals and artists published an open letter calling for Tatour’s release. Among those who endorsed the letter were Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Dave Eggers, Claudia Rankine and 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, including renowned poet Alice Walker and journalist Kathryn Schulz.

Since then, more than 7,000 people have signed the letter, and activists have created an international solidarity campaign in support of Tatour.

Tatour’s story is one of many. From October 2015 to July 2016, the Israeli government arrested roughly 400 Palestinians for social media posts, according to local rights groups.

Yet her case has gotten particular international attention, given its chilling implications for civil rights for Palestinians in Israel, the U.S. government’s closest ally.

U.S. social justice group Jewish Voice for Peace recently published a video message featuring Tatour in her home in Reineh, an Israeli city near Nazareth, where she remains under house arrest.


Salon organized an interview with Tatour. The interview was conducted in person, in Arabic, and translated with the help of Yoav Haifawi.

Can you explain what has happened since your arrest and imprisonment?

I’m still detained and pending trial, since they burst in at 3:30 am on Oct. 11, 2015. A large police force raided our house, and asked my parents to call me, because they came to take me. They did not have an arrest warrant, violating the most basic laws.

After my interrogation they decided to put me on trial and to hold me in prison until the end of the trial. I can say that the interrogation and the trial are a farce and a shame for any system that claims to be democratic.

Initially I was jailed for three months, during which I was transferred between three prisons: Jalameh, Sharon and Damoun.

Later, the court put me under house arrest in the Tel Aviv area, and this meant I was in exile far away from my town. I stayed there for over six months, during which I was prevented from going out and from communicating over the internet at all times, day and night.

Then, in the wake of the mounting solidarity campaign protesting the undemocratic practices against me, I was transferred to the house arrest in my town, Reineh. Here, I’m not allowed to go out, except for just six hours per week, and they’re making me wear an unremovable electronic bracelet on my ankle to monitor my movements.

What were the conditions like in the prisons? Can you talk about your experience and the other Palestinian prisoners?

First, there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli jails, and among them women and children — in addition to administrative detainees, who are being held by Israel without charge, and of course without trial, for an unknown period, because, according to the emergency laws, administrative detention can be extended repeatedly with no limit.

When I was in prison I was with Palestinian women prisoners. I experienced the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners in all humanitarian aspects. I witnessed the neglect they suffer in Israeli jails, in terms of environmental and health conditions, and cruel treatment.

The prisoners in general, and especially women prisoners, are deprived of basic human rights, and I mean especially the right to receive proper medical treatment.

Israeli prisons are full of injustice; whatever I say will not be enough to describe the life of Palestinian prisoners there. I met there innocent women prisoners who didn’t commit any crime.

For example, I was arrested because of a poem, and I met a girl who was detained because she wrote a private letter to her sister about personal and family concerns, and because she said the word “suicide,” she was thrown in jail for three months.

Why do you think Israel is going after poets and other artists, and arresting Palestinians for social media posts?

The political persecution, detentions and restrictions on freedom of expression, in my opinion, are a symptom of the crisis of Israel. As the Zionist authorities intensify repression and step up their incitement campaigns against Palestinians, they feel more weakness and impotence.

On the one hand the Palestinians increasingly reject their colonial practices and racial oppression; on the other hand, as a response to the emerging culture of hatred at the popular level, an opposing anti-fascist stream is taking shape in Israeli society. This puts Israel in a dilemma, forcing it to step up its repression, thus exposing the Israeli regime as anti-democratic.

Is it hypocritical for Israel to insist it is a democracy while it arrests people who criticize it?

Of course it is. Israel is not a democratic state. To the extent that it is democratic, its democracy applies only to one category of people, of citizens — that is, it is only democracy for Jews. For this reason I call it sectarian democracy or fake or hypocritical democracy.

However, even this kind of democracy started collapsing recently, as I explained in the previous answer.

Do you know if the letter from the 250 literary figures helped improve your situation?

Yes, of course. The solidarity campaign, including the petition, which was signed by many artists, writers and people from all over the world, helped very much.

In the beginning the conditions of my detention were very harsh. I was detained for several months in a house near Tel Aviv, away from my family and the place where I used to live. I was completely isolated from people; I was prevented from leaving the house altogether. It was more like a detention in solitary isolation cell in exile. It continued like this for more than six months.

Before the escalation of the solidarity campaign, my lawyer filed a request to transfer my home detention from Tel Aviv to Reineh — my town — but the prosecution strongly objected, refusing even to let my request be heard in court.

However, after the publication of the petition, it changed its attitude to the request, and eventually approved. My return from Tel Aviv to house arrest in Reineh greatly alleviated the conditions of my detention.

Do you think that continuing public pressure may influence the final verdict in your case?

Yes, definitely, the public response to the call for solidarity in my case, and around the issue of freedom of expression in general, is the only effective pressure that may change this unfortunate situation.

I believe that public pressure may force the Israeli authorities to reconsider the persecution of Palestinian artists, writers and young activists just because they express their rejection of oppression.

What gives you hope?

Hope is the foundation of life. There is a saying that I used to repeat before my arrest, and I still say it: “We dream in order to continue living.” Here I compare dreams with hope, because without hope we are going to die even as we are alive, and only our bodies will remain.

Hope is the sense of life, of freedom, of safety. It is what gives meaning to everything experienced by humans; we breathe hope to live meaningful lives.

What can human rights activists in the U.S. and elsewhere do to help fight for your rights and the rights of other Palestinians?

The U.S. government is the world’s biggest supporter of Israel. Activists in American society can put pressure on Israel in order to shed light on the issue of freedom of expression and the harassment by the Israeli authorities against those who oppose their views.

Palestinian Arab people in Israel are facing campaign of racist incitement, on both official and popular levels. Attacks on them multiply just because they speak Arabic in public places. These are dangerous developments. In this regard, I believe human rights activists should sound the alarm before it is too late.

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.


Letter from Bilal Kayed:Freedom or Martyrdom


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Below is an English translation of a letter from Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed, on hunger strike for 48 days in a row, demanding the abolition of his administrative detention. Bilal Kayed is currently held in “Barzillai” hospital in Askelan due to the deterioration in his health. (Askelan is a Palestinian city north of Gaza. It was renamed after its occupation and ethnic cleansing in 1948 to Ashkelon.)Bilal's mother

Kayed, 34, has been on hunger strike since 15 June. Arrested in 2001, he completed his 14.5-year sentence in Israeli prison on 13 June. Instead of being released as scheduled to meet his family waiting for him at an Israeli occupation military checkpoint, he was ordered to an indefinitely-renewable six months in administrative detention without charge or trial. He launched his hunger strike to demand his immediate release from detention. Dozens of fellow Palestinian prisoners have joined an open hunger strike and a series of protests to demand Kayed’s freedom. His case represents a dangerous precedent for all Palestinian prisoners of indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial after the completion of lengthy sentences.

To the masses of our heroic people,

To all freedom loving people of the world in all corners of Earth,

I currently pass a difficult period on a personal level in a war that I declared against the attempts by the brutal occupation to subjugate me. The occupiers decided to liquidate me only because I was standing next to the prisoners of my people, an advocate for my and their right and the right of our families for minimal humane conditions and dignity. It is no surprise that I found myself with my people all gathering around me raising their voice and standing together in their tireless attempts to remove the injustices suffered by me and by prisoners of war like me.

This is in line with the patriotic consciousness that developed among you and among freedom loving people wherever they are, in the West Bank revolting in the face of oppression, between the Palestinians “Inside”, proud and deep-rooted and adhering to their identity, among our heroic people in victorious Gaza, and all over the world with all the people struggling for freedom from all nationalities and categories.

Today I announce here the end of the first phase in my struggle with this oppressive occupier, and announce the beginning of the second phase, which will focus on the unity with all prisoners from all categories and all parties, to become together the spearhead of the patriotic struggle inside the prisons and outside them.

After the decision came from the military court of occupation (as was expected), ignoring my right to freedom and dignified life, it is essential that there will be a response from me, befitting this brutal decision. For this reason, starting today, August 1, 2016, I will avoid dealing with any medical tests proposed to me by the doctors in the hospital and ask to return immediately to prison, despite the deterioration of my health. I will ask to stand in a row in the cells of the occupation prisons, along with all the prisoners rebelling and raising their voice.

Your decision will not pass easily, especially as the occupation’s decision to put me in administratively detention crossed another, more dangerous, red line. This policy aims to liquidate all the leaders and cadres of the prisoners’ movement, and those raising its banners, and the defenders of the right of prisoners to freedom and to live in dignity.

My heroic people, the hour of struggle has come. I’m full of hope, as I always promised you, that you will be our protecting wall and will support our struggle. What I hear about your struggles, demonstrations the protests gives me more resolve and determination to move forward until victory, either through freedom or martyrdom.Free Bilal Arabic English Bigger

We are inevitably victorious

Detainee Bilal Kayed

Barzillai hospital, “Askelan”

August 1, 2016

letter in Arabic

Dareen is back home – hard struggle still ahead


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After more than three months in jail and more than six months in house arrest on exile near Tel Aviv, after her unexpected detention yesterday (Monday, July 25, 2016), poet Dareen Tatour was allowed today to return to Reineh, still under house arrest and the same harsh conditions.

Celebrating in Reineh

Celebrating Dareen’s return to Reineh: with writer Kim Jensen

But it was only at about 20:30 that Tawfiq, Dareen’s father, collected her from the street near Damoun prison on Mount Carmel. It was another crazy day showing how the whole judiciary, police, prosecution and the prison department are doing everything to make life unbearable for the Palestinians (and many other ordinary residents).

Yesterday judge Hana Sabagh, at the Nazareth low court, decided to send Dareen to prison, in spite of the agreement by the prosecution to let her go back to Reineh, just because the private company that is responsible to the electronic surveillance didn’t yet submit a written report. The hearing today was set to 13:00, and the defense lawyers, Juana Far, had the missing paper ready with her, so we expected a smooth sail.

Hearing  Problems

This time we were not waiting with Dareen, as she was held in a prison cell in the basement of the building, after spending the night in Jelemeh detention center. At about 14:00 she was brought to the isolated deck in the court room, carefully watched by two guards, a man and a woman.

As the judge started the hearing, noting the agreement between the prosecution and the defense, the prosecution lawyer requested to speak. At the last moment she tried to tighten Dareen’s detention restrictions. Some three month ago, the court allowed Dareen a small “window” in her house arrest: On Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week she is allowed to get out of the house, still accompanied by one of her supervisors, for two hours (from 17:00 till 19:00). This is less than the time that regular prisoners are allowed to go to stretch their body in the prison yard. Now the prosecution wanted to abolish this small window as a price for their agreement to Dareen’s return to Reineh. Luckily the judge frowned at this new complication and made it clear that the conditions stay as they are.

But just as we expected the judge to order the release of Dareen and that we will be allowed to go together out of court, he found a new way to torture us. Even that the only reason for Dareen’s arrest yesterday was the missing paper, he ordered now that Dareen will be taken back to prison until the surveillance company will complete all the technical arrangement.

Bureaucratic Nightmare

We started a craze race against time to get all the paper work done. They wouldn’t give you the necessary forms in court to fill, so the lawyer had to go back to her office to find the right forms and come back to the court house to let Dareen sign them in her prison cell.

After the first bunch of papers was ready, the company asked for another couple of forms to be filled. It was already 15:40 and the gourds, officers of the “Nakhshon” prisoners’ transfer unit, said that if we can get all the papers right until 16:00 or 16:30 we may get Dareen with us from the court. Otherwise they will return her back to prison.

So lawyer Juana hurried back to her office. But the surveillance company insisted that the forms should be sent to them from the court’s fax and not from the lawyer’s office. In spite of the strike we found some nice clerk in the court’s office that agreed to get the faxes from Juana and send them to the company. It was exactly 16:30 when we receive the fax delivery confirmation from the court’s office. We warmly thanked the clerk, wished her victory in the strike and run down to “minus 3” were the prisoners are held.

The guards were still there holding Dareen, but the surveillance company said they didn’t get the fax yet. We called the lawyers and requested them to call the company and see what the hell is going on with them. At about 17:00 the people at the company admitted that they received the fax, but said that they want somebody from the court’s office to call them to make sure that it was really sent from the court. We run back to the court’s office but there was nobody there. In the meantime it became clear that the guards are also gone with Dareen – the brave ones simply spirited away without telling us, leaving us waiting at the door and ringing the bell in vain.

Unwanted Prisoner

The next chapter is what I heard from Dareen after she was released.

She was taken by the guards. Initially they said that they will take her to “Ha-Sharon” prison, near Kfar Saba, some 90 kilometers away. Then, for unknown reason, they changed their mind and decided to take her to Damoun, the last prison where she spent time in her three month imprisonment.

The “Nakhshonim” tried to submit her to the prison officers, but those checked in their computers and found that Dareen was released and refused to accept here. Hearing that, the Nakhshonim decided that they have already lost too much time on this lost cause and just drove away, leaving Dareen there, standing at the gates of the Damoun prison – an unwanted prisoner.

The prison officers let Dareen make a telephone call (her telephone was taken from her when she was arrested). Luckily she remembered the number of her brother, who called her father. For a long time she just stood there, near the mountain road, waiting for her father to come and take her home.


At night, when they finally reached the family house in Reineh, there were happy celebrations with many people coming to congratulate Dareen on her return home after an ordeal that lasted more than nine months. There were fireworks, food and oriental sweets.

Dareen at the celebrations - Mujadara

Vegan food in the celebrations of the home-coming of (vegetarian) Dareen – Mujadara

There was also music – it came out the Dareen is learning also to play the guitar – in addition to her love for poetry and photography. Holding her guitar she told us how the policemen that came to arrest her on October and confiscated her computer and smartphone asked about the guitar: Is it yours also? She replied: Will you take my guitar also?

As we left the house at half past midnight, the whole family was expecting a white night. The people from the surveillance company said they will come at around 02:00 to install the equipment. Despite judge Sabagh’s tireless effort, Dareen was left for many hours without active surveillance. And this time, in spite of all his efforts, he failed even to ruin our day.

Even as Dareen was celebrating her home-coming, we talked about the next phase of the trial.  If found “guilty” – which is what happens with about 99% of the people indicted in Israeli courts – she is expected to serve another prolonged period in prison. The struggle to #Free_Dareen_Tatour, like the bigger struggle for Palestinian human rights, has still a long way to go.

Dareen Tatour Returned… To Prison!


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How “security considerations” become means for torture…

(On Tuesday, July 26, at about 20:00, Dareen was finally allowed to go home. After more than 3 months in prison and more than 6 months in exile and house arrest, she will still be under strict house arrest at home, waiting a prolonged trial for one poem and two Facebook posts. If found “guilty” – which is what happens with about 99% of the people indicted in Israeli courts – she is expected to serve another prolonged period in prison. The struggle to #Free_Dareen_Tatour, like the bigger struggle for Palestinian human rights, has still a long way to go.)

We invited everybody to celebrate the return of poet Dareen Tatour to Reineh today, after more than three months in prison and more than six months in house arrest in exile in Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv (more than 100 km from her home). Yes, we knew that she will still be in house arrest under harsh restrictions: confined with volunteer guards to the house, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with an electronic device attached to her ankle monitoring all her movement and prevented from any access to the internet. But at least she will be at home, surrounded by family and friends.

Dareen in court July 25

Dareen Tatour during a break in the hearing today just before going back to prison

But after a prolonged drama in the Nazareth court the result was that Dareen was arrested and returned to prison. She will probably spend the night in the filthy cells of the Jelemeh detention center, where she spent the first month of her detention. Tomorrow we will have another hearing in court, but as things go we can’t be optimistic until we will see Dareen fully free.

This cruel attempt to break Dareen’s spirit just as she expected her situation to improve reminds me of the case of Bilal Kayed. Bilal, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was sentenced to 14 and half years in prison for resisting the occupation. On the day that he had to be released, June 13, 2016, he was transferred instead to administrative detention for another six months, a period that can be extended arbitrarily and indefinitely. Today Bilal is on the 40th day of hunger strike against his administrative detention, and there are many demonstrations in solidarity with him against the breaking of the few rules that were still respected in the relations between the occupation and political prisoners.

But what happened today in the Nazareth court?

Before our court hearing started, we were given a devastating evidence to the ground truth of the reality of occupation that is the real background to Dareen’s saga. Two young workers from the West Bank were brought before the judge on the accusation of crossing the walls illegally in search of work. He casually remanded their detention and sent them back to prison in less than 2 minutes, like somebody that eats a nut and throws the shell behind his back.

Delivering Injustice Slowly

The current request to alleviate Dareen’s detention conditions is almost three months old. It took a month to set a date and few more weeks to make the initial hearing, where the prosecution objected to the very hearing of the request. As an alternative they insisted that a special parole officer will examine the suitability of the proposed new guards to be with Dareen, which brought us up to last Monday, July 18.

In the meantime the international pressure to release Dareen mounted, with hundreds of poets and writers from all over the world signing a petition in her defense. The prosecution softened its position a bit, now agreeing to Dareen’s return to Reineh. But still another week was allocated for the adjustment of the electronic device to work in Dareen’s house in Reineh – and the hearing was postponed to today, Monday, July 25.

In the meantime Dareen’s lawyer prepared seven proposed volunteer guards – much more that the number usually required, as he had a long experience of the prosecution failing any proposal to alleviate the detention conditions. Judge Hana Sabagh, the vice president of Nazareth low court, agreed to hear only four custodians. They all passed the interrogation perfectly. But then the judge noticed that three of the four guards, Dareen’s father and two brothers, work, and only her mother will stay with her at daytime. And what will happen if her mother will have to get out? The next in line were Dareen’s sisters in law – but they also work outside the family house. In the end the judge agreed to accept as a fifth guard one sister in law that works part-time. I wonder about what “dangers to the public” the judge was thinking when he invested all this time to create a perfect shield around Dareen that is never applied to really dangerous criminals.

Crisis and Arrest

Then it came out that the approval from the operators of the electronic surveillance device was missing. First everybody thought that it was only a problem of communication. The court’s clerks are still on strike and they put off the fax machine where such documents are regularly sent. The judge even tried to show leadership and said that “we will find a way to get the approval without breaking the strike”.

But when the lawyer called the operator again it became clear that the approval is not ready. It is a private for-profit company that received the responsibility for operating electronic handcuffs from the government through a special contract. They were supposed to do their job within five work days – and that’s why the Judge postponed the hearing for a whole week. But they visited Dareen’s house only yesterday. And though the professional team that checked the place said that everything is OK, today on the phone they insisted that, according to their contract, they have another five days now to write their conclusions.

Abed, Dareen’s lawyer, suggested that Dareen will be allowed to go to Reineh anyway, until the final approval will come. After all, she was allowed to be with her family on Eid Al-Fitr (albeit only for one day), and once again when there were court hearings day after day. They Judge objected, saying that he couldn’t allow Dareen to go to Reineh for a few days least there will be a negative reply from the operators of the device and he will be forced to send her to prison…

Dareen told the court that there is no way that she will go back to Kiryat Ono. The Judge didn’t wait to hear why and ordered the guards to take her. But then everybody stood up and shouted, and the judge said he will set the next hearing for tomorrow, maybe the operator will make up his mind in the meantime.

Dareen’s lawyer tried to convince the judge that if there is only one night until the next hearing, he doesn’t have to be any braver than the previous judge that let Dareen spend one night at home before. But then the lawyer for the prosecution began to shout, saying there is no reason to allow this. She mentioned the fact that Dareen didn’t infringe in any way the conditions of her detention over the last half year as a proof that there is no problem with her staying more in Kiryat Ono. Judge Sabagh apparently decided that he’s more afraid from the prosecution’s fury and ended the hearing without any decision except for setting the next hearing for tomorrow at 13:00.

Dareen went out and inspected her options. After some time she went back to the judge with her family and lawyer and repeated her position that she simply can’t go back to Kiryat Ono. The judge ordered the court guards to arrest her and give her to the police. Now Dareen is in prison again for very good reasons: As the judge said, he wouldn’t want to arrest her if there will be a negative response from the operators… and as the prosecutor said, she never infringed the conditions that were imposed upon her… The State of Israel was spared another great threat to its sacred security!


Dareen Tatour Solidarity Gaining Momentum


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But will it make a difference?

It is more than 9 months since Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet from Reineh, was arrested and accused of inciting violence… all for one poem, two statuses and sharing thepoetry-not-a-crime-875x458 image of Israa Abed. She spent three months in three different prisons and is now confined to a small apartment in a suburb of Tel Aviv, more than a hundred kilometers away from her home and friends.

When I wrote the first article about Dareen’s detention (in Hebrew), published in “Siha Mekomit” (local call), on April 16, I concluded:

“The fact that a poet was arrested and tried under such baseless accusations is the result not only of the racist system (police, prosecution, judiciary), but also of the indifference of public opinion. Where are the poets and writers when we need them to protect the freedom of expression?”

To be honest, the response was more than anything I expected.Darin_and_TV

Through the last month, we had not only a hearing of Dareen’s request to alleviate the conditions of her detention on Monday 27/6, but also a demonstration in Yaffa (Saturday 25/6), a poetry night in Tel Aviv (also 27/6) and another in Haifa (Thursday 30/6) and high profile media cover.

And then was published an amazing petition calling for the release of Dareen, signed by many important poets and writers!

But let’s start with Dareen’s news…

No News from the Northern Front

Since her transfer from prison to house detention, Dareen is held in very harsh conditions. The prosecution waged guerilla warfare to prevent or delay her transfer and refuse any option that was proposed to the court, appealing against any decision that went a small step in Dareen’s way. The result was that Dareen is now closed 24 hours a day in a small apartment that her brother was forced to rent in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv. She wears an electronic device on her ankle that monitors all her movements. But her two volunteer guards are still obliged to stay with her 24 hours a day “to make sure she doesn’t connect to the internet”, or they will pay a high fine and Dareen will be returned to jail. They both have to work opposite shifts and had to stop their studies. The lives of three people came to a standstill for unlimited period.Dareen in court with friends

Dareen’s lawyer, Abed Fahoum, submitted a request to the Nazareth court, to transfer Dareen’s detention back to the family’s home in Reineh. As the prosecution refused, for different reasons, all proposed “guards”, the new request listed six possible new guards, in addition to Dareen’s parents. It took more than a month till the court set the date to study the request on June 27.

The prosecution position was very sharp. There is no reason to even hear the request, as there is nothing new in the case. After half a year of house detention the prosecution will typically agree for softening the conditions – but not in Dareen’s case. Judge Idris is already traumatized after the many hearings he already held about Dareen’s detention and after several of his decision were overturned on appeal. He clearly wanted the prosecution to soften its position, but as there was no sign of it he left Dareen under the same harsh conditions until a second hearing on July 18.Yaffa demo with Dareen

Dareen burst in tears in the court as she heard of the decision. She said before that if her conditions are not alleviated she may request to go back to prison. But now she will hold her breath until July 18.

The lawyer also requested to let Dareen to spend the Eid al-Fitr next week with her family. The prosecution lawyer requested to call his superiors, and then requested to answer that request in writing within two days. The written answer, apparently from the higher circles in the Nazareth prosecution, was sharp objection. In the end the judge decided to let Dareen stay with her family only a day and a half of the Eid’s three days…

From Yaffa’s clock square to Haaretz Editorial

The first vigil in solidarity with Dareen was help in Nazareth on April 13. It gave a great push to the media coverage of the case.Yaffa demo haaretz

A second vigil was initiated in Yaffa (Jaffa) by local Palestinian activists. It concentrated on Dareen’s case but raised also the issue of administrative detention of Palestinian activists. Some fifty activists took part with significant presence of the media, including Al-Jazeera and Haaretz.

On Sunday there were two articles in Haaretz: one by Vered Lee contained many interviews that she held in the vigil, including with Dareen’s father; the other about the planned poetry events. On Monday morning, the day of the hearing concerning Dareen’s detention conditions, Haaretz editorial in Hebrew and English called for Dareen’s release.

The Hebrew Poet’s Letter

As the case drags on in court, there was time enough for many poets to wake up and take a stand. At the initiative of poet Tal Nitzan, the following letter was written:

We, poets, writers and members of the academy, are shocked and appalled by the arrest of Dareen Tatour and the charges she is facing for publishing a poem online and status updates on Facebook. Dareen Tatour, an Israeli citizen, has been imprisoned for three months and is now under a severely limiting house arrest awaiting her trial,  for publishing a poem online.

This is a clear case of unjust silencing and a severe violation of freedom of speech and protest, a new and grave stage in the deterioration of human rights in Israel, and a shameful proceeding that is befitting a totalitarian state and is unacceptable in a so called democratic state.

This prosecution of an Arab poet is particularly disturbing considering the law enforcement authorities disregard for the violent, racist and much more extreme content posted by Jewish citizens daily. This is a practice of double standard and a biased oppression, intolerable in a state that presumes to practice equality before the law. http://bit.ly/1Jf17Sp

As writers, deeply committed to freedom of speech and human rights, we will not stand by. We demand freedom for Dareen Tatour and withdrawal of the charges against her.

Poetry Evening in Tel Aviv

Tal Nitzan also collaborated with colleagues in organizing two poetry events in Tel Aviv and in Haifa. The event in Tel Aviv was held in the “Sipur Pashut” (simple story) library in Neve Zedek. A long list of poets, writers and academics announced their participation. I copy it here for you from the event’s page on Facebook:


Poetry evening in “Sipur Pashut”

Dr. Ilana Hammerman

Tal Nitzan

Liat Kaplan

Yael Gluberman

Diti Ronen

Dr. Anat Matar

Alma Miriam Catz

Reading a poem for dareen

Reading a poem for Dareen (in Haifa)

Dana Amir

Noam Partom

Eli Hirsh

Sheikha Hilawi

Rachel Peretz

Esti G. Haim

Roy Chicky Arad

Raanan Ben Tovim

Meytal Nadler

Eitan Boloken

Maki Hacham Neeman

Hila Aharon Brik

Arlet Mincher

Stav Almagor

I succeeded to arrive there after the court hearing, and, though being completely tired, I was very impressed both with the dense presence – people literally climbed one above the other to find a place – and by the thoughtful selection of texts and special words that were prepared for the event.

At the end of the evening Tal Nitzan read a thank you letter from Dareen to all the people that support her in her hard experience.

If you know Hebrew you can read a detailed report about the event in a site called Mako that covers cultural activities.

Another Poetry Evening in Haifa

The first poetry event in solidarity with Dareen was actually held back in May 5, 2016, in Haifa Al-Ghad club, at the initiative of Herak Haifa. Five young Palestinian poets participated, reading theirs and Dareen’s poetry.

Haifa poetry night

Gathering in Al-Yakhour

But now the initiative came from Hebrew writing poets and they didn’t want it to be confined to Tel Aviv alone. We looked for a place that will be more identified with the Jewish society in Haifa and agreed with “Isha L’Isha” (Woman for Woman) feminist center to host the event. Later on the organizers received threats from right wing activists and we had to find a new place at short notice. We went back to Palestinian Haifa, where Al-Yakhour youth hostel was happy to host us and the right wing activists didn’t even bother to call.

Being in Haifa, there were Arab and Jew poets, all gathering in the open air entrance of Al-Yakhour for the event. Here is the list of the readers from the invitation:

Rasia Feru

Lee Mamman

participants in the Haifa Poetry night

Some of the participants in the Haifa event

Lilach Galil

Turkey ‘Amer

Sigal Ben Yair

Heiam Abu Zuluf

Meital Nissim

Sami Mhanna

Oren Agmon

Sabrina De Rita

Rajaa Zoabi Omari

Lilach Weber

Shira Cohen

Ali Mawassi

Yehya Atalla

Majd Sgheir

Some of them didn’t really show up – but the virtual participation meant making a democratic stance in support of Dareen and Free Speech.

Poet Lilach Weber even wrote a special poem called “The Right Side of History” about Dareen’s persecution for poetry, which she published in Ha-Oketz and read to us in that evening.

I had the honor to thank the participants in the name of the organizers. I emphasized that our solidarity with Dareen Tatour is not because her case is so special but mostly because her case is an example of the similar fate of hundreds of Palestinian youth that are persecuted for expressing their resistance to Israeli racism and occupation. I added that even the general repression of the right of expression and free speech is not the heart of the problem but more like a symptom. When you hold millions of people without basic human rights and no democratic way to control their lives or decide their future, resistance and repression are the natural results.

More Poetic Solidarity

The poetry world has its own ways to express solidarity.

A Hebrew poetry magazine named “Maayan” (spring) decided to give Dareen its prize for “Poet in Struggle” – with an attached check of 500 shekel.

A site named “Arab Literature (In English)” published a translation of the poem for which Dareen was indicted, and continues to publish translations of more of her poems. (Here and here).

Finally came also the heavy armory of literature, in the form of the following press release:

July 12, 2016
Contact: Naomi Dann | naomi@jvp.org | 845-377-5745

Nine Pulitzer-Winners among 150+ Literary Figures Calling for Israel to Free Palestinian Poet
Poetry is Not a Crime: Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Dave Eggers, Natasha Trethewey & hundreds of others join solidarity campaign for Dareen Tatour imprisoned for a poem.

What Next?

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 17, at 4:00 pm, there should be another of the main trial against Dareen, with more policemen coming to testify about the “confessions” that they extracted from her, from her computer and from her cellphone.


Israa Abed – shot by Israeli soldiers in Afula central bus station. Posting her picture is one of the indictment articles against Dareen Tatour

On Monday, July 18, at 9:00 am, judge Idris is expected to decide about Dareen request to go back to Reineh, even if under strict house detention.

We all hope that the public pressure so far (and some common sense) will be enough at least to let the court counter the prosecution’s pressure and allow Dareen to return home. Otherwise Dareen may prefer to go back to prison – at least her detention period in prison (unlike house detention) may be counted in case that she will be sentenced for more time in prison.

Later, in September, the court will start to hear the defense case. A lot is at stake there. The defense will state that Dareen’s poem and Facebook statuses are perfectly legitimate artistic and political expressions. Can you convince an Israeli judge to recognize this? Farther more, the defense will claim that the whole prosecution apparatus in Israel is systematically targeting Palestinians for legitimate expression of political opposition while it totally ignores severe incitement for violence by right wing Zionists against Arabs. It is a lot to prove – and there is plenty of evidence to support it – but will the court be ready to hear it?

If Dareen Tatour is finally convicted, which is a very possible result, the accusations against her can carry up to 8 years in prison. By the latest cases in Israeli courts sentences of around 1 year of imprisonment seem to be quite common.

We have a long and hard struggle for Dareen and for Democracy ahead.


Celebrating the Failure of the Turkish Coup


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We went to sleep with images of soldiers shooting people in the main streets of Istanbul… and awakened to the view of civilians celebrating their control of those streets from the top of liberated tanks. What an amazing piece of history!

The initial response

What do you do when you hear about a military coup?

Many of us will think hard whether to run for a cover or take out to the streets. It could be the difference between life and death – or between (relative) freedom and long years of dictatorship.Kerry on Turkey Coup

As I was following the news last night, US secretary of state John Kerry was also hedging his bets. For him the question, of course, was different… Supporting the coup or defending Turkish democracy? What he said at the time (as reported in the LA Times) was “We’ve heard reports that others have heard. I don’t have any details at this point in time. I hope there will be stability and peace and continuity within Turkey, but I have nothing to add on what has transpired at this moment.” If some of the coup plotters understood this as a green light from the US they couldn’t be blamed.Civilians try to stop a tank

I’ve also noticed that some Facebook friends were following the news about the coup with some hope… Apparently some people are so hostile to political Islam that they are ready to give up all the principles of democracy and human rights and didn’t learn anything from the disastrous experience of Al-Sisi in Egypt. So I wrote (in Arabic) “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر!” – “Down, down with Military Rule!” – this famous slogan of the Arab Spring – and went to sleep.

Victory to the People

The failure of the coup is a big victory for the people – first and foremost because it is the people that went out to the street at night, unarmed in the face of tanks and helicopter gunships, that won their freedom and democracy again, in the price of hundreds of martyrs and thousands wounded. Many soldiers defied orders from their superiors and joined the people, another victory for humanity over the system.Shaheed body in the street

It is also a victory for Turkey’s civil society, where all the political parties took a stand against the coup, and many members of Parliament hurried at night to occupy and defend it under the threat of tanks. This unity in defense of democracy is especially significant if we remember the sharp divisions within society and between the parties, not least Erdogan’s military oppression against the Kurds and his attempt to criminalize the HDP – the main party of the left.

The failure of the coup is an important optimistic note in the ongoing argument where does new technology, and especially new media, take us. On one side repressive regimes use intensively the new options for surveillance, intimidation and control. On the positive side, new media is giving new powers to the people to report, argue and publish at real time. After the coup plotters took control of the official media, Erdogan himself used social media to call the people to go out and take control of the streets.

We all learn by examples. The success of the Assad regime to cling to power by bombing his citizens and the success of the military coup in Egypt to topple the first democratically elected president are very dangerous precedents. Now the failure of the coup in Turkey will restrain the appetite of similar coup plotters elsewhere.

Who sent the army against the people?

The very fact that some foolish army officers dared to try a new coup is a symptom of the crisis that Turkey is going through.

Most people take a partisan view to the crisis, ignoring facts, contradictions and constant changes. Most people tend to be either “Pro Erdogan”, blaming everybody else with plotting against him, or “Anti Erdogan”, blaming him and his party for whatever they do or don’t do.

The biggest contradiction in modern Turkey is its forced control over the Kurdish people. Here comes a most overt example of Marx’s saying that people who oppress other people can’t be free.

For many decades the army that was deployed to fight the Kurdish “enemy within” was using its powers to terrorize Turkish society as a whole. The Islamists, as a popular current within society, were also defined as an enemy and oppressed. In his first ten years in power Erdogan knew that the main danger to his rule came from the dictatorial tendencies within the army.

At the same time Erdogan tried some limited steps toward peace with the Kurdish people, led by the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan even steered the PKK toward another program, putting democracy and pluralism for Turkey (and the region) as a whole at the center of the Kurd’s agenda instead of the quest for a fully independent Kurdistan.HDP against the coup

But recently, mostly after the success of the HDP in the parliamentary election limited his AK’s power, Erdogan seems to turn most of his fury against the Kurds, probably believing that the army was already tamed. By deploying the army to oppress Turkey’s citizens Erdogan put in danger the hard won democratic achievements of the last years.


On the other side, much of the western propaganda against Erdogan is pure racism and Islamophobia…

Turkey Military Coup

Turkish people take to the streets in Ankara, Turkey, late Friday, July 15, 2016. Turkey’s armed forces said it “fully seized control” of the country Friday and its president responded by calling on Turks to take to the streets in a show of support for the government. A loud explosion was heard in the capital, Ankara, fighter jets buzzed overhead, gunfire erupted outside military headquarters and vehicles blocked two major bridges in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

One example is the issue of the Gulenists – supporters of US based Islamist Fethullah Gulen. They constitute a right-wing secret religious organization embedded in the security forces and the judiciary. They were an essential help for Erdogan in his first years in power, helping to avert a military coup, sometimes using not-very-democratic tricks. But when they turned against Erdogan, and he tried to purge their power, the western media was full of cries about the danger to democracy. What is more democratic after all: An elected president or a secret society manipulating the state apparatus?

Comprehensive and balanced judgment is also required for other aspects of Turkey’s policy and crisis.

Erdogan is not a socialist, but his “nationalistic” capitalist policy to steer the economy away from servitude to the Western multi-nationals and toward more internal development and relations with 3rd world countries led to fast economic development.

Another hot and controversial issue is Erdogan’s new normalization of relations with Israel. While we call for complete boycott of the Apartheid state, there is still a lot of difference between Erdogan that tries to get some alleviation of the siege for the people of Gaza and others that take part and enhance the siege.Tanks and people

The biggest issue, of course, is Turkey’s position toward the Arab Spring in general and the civil war in Syria in particular. Each of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, absorb much more Syrian refugees, and is paying much higher price for the Syrian conflict, than all of rich Europe put together, without much less xenophobic uproar. Erdogan’s Islamic roots put him in a position to support the Syrian’s people struggle for freedom, but his enmity to the Kurdish people is an imminent obstacle.

While we celebrate the failure of the coup, we still have a hard struggle ahead to solve the underlying problems. The defense and enhancement of true democracy in Turkey and the region are not a one-night affair but a prolonged historic task. It requires every one of us to go beyond his religious (or secular), ethnic or political tribe and form a new type of pluralistic society.

Nine Pulitzer-Winners among 150+ Literary Figures Calling for Israel to Free Palestinian Poet


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Press release by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY, July 12, 2016

Poetry is Not a Crime: Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Dave Eggers, Natasha Trethewey & hundreds of others join solidarity campaign for Dareen Tatour imprisoned for a poem

July 12, 2016–Over 150 renowned writers, poets, translators, artists and literary figures signed an open letter in solidarity with Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Susan Abulhawa, Rae Armantrout, Carl Dennis, Dave Eggers, Carolyn Forché, Jorie Graham, Naomi Klein, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Claudia Rankine, Tracy K Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Ayelet Waldman, Alice Walker and Jacqueline Woodson were among the award-winning literary figures who joined the call for the immediate release of the Palestinian poet who was imprisoned for her poetry. (The full list of signers is available here).

Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is one of over 400 Palestinians arrested by Israel since last fall for political statements on social media. Tatour’s ordeal began in October 2015, when she was arrested in the middle of the night. She has been charged with incitement to violence and terrorism based on Facebook postings and a poem posted to YouTube called “Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum” (Resist my people, resist them). Tatour spent the first three months of her detention in three different prisons before being transferred to house arrest. The court has insisted that she be kept 40 km away from her home because of the ‘danger’ she posed to the public. Tatour’s brother was obliged to quit his job and his studies in order to fulfil his role as the court appointed ward in an apartment in Tel Aviv rented for that purpose for the duration of her legal proceedings. Tatour will appeal to be allowed to transfer to house arrest in her hometown at a hearing on July 18. Her hearings are scheduled to continue to until September, when she could be sentenced to additional time in prison if convicted.

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

The signers of the letter are some of the most respected and renowned individuals in the arts and literary worlds: including nine Pulitzer Prize winners, several National Book Award recipients and United States poet laureates, many Guggenheim Fellowship recipients, an NAACP Image Award winner, many Lambda Literary Award winners, and scores of recipients of the highest U.S. writing, poetry, translation, and arts honors: including Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, Obie Awards, PEN/Open Book Awards, National Book Critics Circle Awards, Kenyon Review Award, Pushcart Awards, LA Times Book Awards, and MLA Prizes.

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.”

Award-winning poet, songwriter, and novelist, Naomi Shihab Nye, referred to the way Tatour’s use of the word “resistance” has been criminalized: “The word “resist” – when it is resisting oppression and inequality – will always be a gleaming, beautiful, positive word.  In fact, it needs to be said more often.”

Stefanie Fox, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, noted, “It is heartening to see such luminaries of the literary world speak out against this blatant injustice. Writers and poets around the world know that poetry is not, and must not be, a crime. Israel has made it clear that it would rather imprison a Palestinian poet for a poem that is critical of governmental policies than change those policies. Israel has chosen to silence Palestinian cultural workers rather than heed their calls for freedom, justice, and equality. Tatour’s case is a powerful example of the need to continue fighting for fundamental change.

Mohammad Hamad from Adalah-NY commented, “The criminalization of Dareen Tatour’s poetry and political expression is, sadly, routine for Palestinian cultural workers, both for citizens of Israel and residents of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. We could name a dozen more examples. We are encouraged by the response from the literary community to Dareen’s case and hope it signifies to all people of good conscience that the time has come to stand on the side of justice for Palestinians.

Dareen Tatour recently told the Israeli daily Haaretz: “I never imagined that in a democratic country, I would not be allowed to write and publish….I cannot live without poetry. For me to be a poet without a pen and without feelings. But if I cannot mourn for my compatriots who are being killed, how will I be able to be a poet?”

The full list of signers of the open letter is available here and will be updated as new signatories join. A video of Dareen Tabour speaking about her case will also be available.


Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace  according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for  all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters,  over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an  Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S.  intellectuals and artists.

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel is a local, grassroots, non-hierarchical volunteer-only group of concerned individuals that advocates for justice, equality, and human rights for the Palestinian people. Adalah-NY organizes in support of the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society to maintain non-violent means of protest — including boycotts, divestment, and sanctions — until Israel respects Palestinians’ fundamental rights.


Poet Dareen Tatour thanks you for standing by her


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(On Monday, June 27, the court in Nazareth heard Dareen Tatour’s request to relieve the strict conditions imposed on her in her house detention, and, most important, to let her return to her home in Reineh, even if still under detention. As the prosecution firmly objected, the judge postponed his decision until July 18. In the meantime we had a chance to meet Dareen and she gave me the following letter to all of you who support her against persecution.)

One Who Does Not Thank People, Does Not Thank God

With these few words I open my letter to all of you who stood by me and my family in these difficult times and through this harsh experience.

I thank you with all my heart. Thanking you is perhaps the least I can do while I am in this detention and exile, far from everything I’d lived through before my imprisonment. In spite of all the difficulties I have experienced and still experience, your stand alongside me — and your voice, which has reached me — are like rays of light which give me the power for sumud.

My message to all of you, without exception, is the message of a loving woman, striving for peace and safety, and hoping that justice and equality will be shared by all human beings everywhere. A woman whose life has been condensed to a pen, a paper and an image… I dreamed one day about the existence of people like you, people looking for dreams amid all the nightmares that live around us and between us.

Yes, I thank you, and I put all the hopes of humanity in your hands — those hopes that you see, hear, and feel.

I love you

Dareen Tatour

June 27, 2016

(You can read the original text in Arabic or a Hebrew translation.)