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Sentenced to prison for his poetry

TEL AVIV: Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested and placed under house arrest by Israeli authorities in October 2015. Because of a poem. Well, she's out of house arrest. 3. March she comes to Oslo (at Vega, the salon).


She was arrested on 11. October 2015. A week before, she had written a poem and posted it on her Facebook page. Dareen Tatour writes in Arabic, but in the English translation of the poet Tariq al Haydar the poem is called "Resist, My People, Resist Them" and it contains lines like "I will not succumb to the 'peaceful solution' / Never lower my flags / Until I evict them from my land ».

"I have no idea why that particular poem was more dangerous than the many others I've written," she says when we meet at a cafe in Tel Aviv. Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian; she emphasizes this several times during our conversation. But she was born and raised in the village of Reineh, a little north of Nazareth, in today's Israel. As such, she also has Israeli citizenship and should have the same right to voice her opinions and consequent legal protection as the nation's Jewish citizens, but the poem itself is an indication that she certainly does not. The arrest led to a year and a half's house arrest, and by extension, last July, she was sentenced to five months in prison.

"People who come to our show meet a reality that is usually hidden."

The whole thing has made her an important symbol of how difficult it is for artists to express themselves freely in today's Israel. As she puts it herself, it is not every day that a writer gets imprisoned for her words, and that is one of the reasons why she will come to Oslo in early March, where Norwegian PEN will award her an award.

Political prisoners

She is with Einat Weizman when we meet. Einat is a Jewish Israeli, actor and theater director, and she fully shares Dareen's views. During the one-and-a-half-year house arrest, a mutual acquaintance made her aware of Dareen and her case, and when asked to arrange a solidarity evening for Dareen, she immediately jumped. "I was in house arrest and didn't see any people, so it was wonderful that somebody went to see me," smiles Dareen.

(Listen The Prisoners of the Occupation by Weizman here.)

However, in addition to the preparations for the evening of solidarity, their first meeting also led to fruitful cooperation. Dareen offered to help with a play on political prisoners that Einat worked on. It resulted in Prisoners of the Occupation, which has never been performed and thus has become another important symbol of the struggle against the repressive environment created by the right-wing nationalist government of Benjamin Netanyahu to shut the mouths of critical artists. «Prisoners of the Occupation was put on the program in Akka, ”says Einat, referring to a well-reputed annual theater festival in the city of northern Israel. “But then the management banned the piece for political reasons. They looked at my Facebook and saw that I support political prisoners, so they decided to ban it. "

As a result, the other artists withdrew their contributions, causing the entire festival to collapse. Einat notes that this in an absurd way gave her whole project something of a boost. The case received a lot of press coverage, so many people who would not normally be interested in political art of that type suddenly got an insight into this world. “Among other things, it led to a big debate about whether we should call them security prisoners or political prisoners, so to some extent I have achieved my goal. The scene got a lot bigger, ”she says.


Dareen has seen her world change in the same way since the day just over three years ago when she was arrested. She and her case have become known in a different way, and that is one of the messages in a piece that the two have written together. It's called I, Dareen T, and will also be listed in connection with their visit to Norway in March.

"I have been greeted by a racism that I had never imagined."

While we are talking, a woman comes to our table. She has recognized Dareen and just wants to express her admiration. Dareen smiles. But she quickly adds that the negative effect of fame is far greater than the positive one. 'Yes, I'm free. I'm out of jail and I'm moving around, but the question is how. There have been changes and the question is whether I am free or not? ” she says with serious mine.

When she regained her physical freedom of movement, she went directly to Tel Aviv, where she expected to find refuge. Israel's liberal intellectual life resides in the city, which also stands out by being more left-leaning than the national average. But even this is not a sure path to acceptance. "I have a hard time walking the streets, even here in Tel Aviv. Just as I get stopped and appreciated, I also get glances as if I am a dangerous person. I hear people whispering that I am a terrorist, and it happens everywhere, "she says.

Dareen is studying photography and therefore needs to find a place to live in the city. But after three months of active hunting, it is clear to her that this is an almost impossible task. “Every time I am told that they are looking for a tenant who does not cause problems. I do not know what problems I should be able to cause? I can not find work either. It is because I am Palestinian, but also because of what I have been through, ”she says. "Even here in Tel Aviv, I have been greeted by a racism I had never imagined."

Photo: Truls Lie
Photo: Truls Lie

Einat experiences something of the same. Previously, she was widely used as a TV actress, but is no longer considered for auditions, and even the school where she teaches acting has received calls to dismiss her because of her support for the political prisoners. “On social media, I get threatened with murder and rape,” she explains. “In that way, it may seem a bit cynical to say that the affair in Akka benefited my case. It did, yes, but at the same time I'm getting harder and harder to find work. What I am exposed to, however, are small things in relation to what Dareen experiences. It is a good example of what happens to an Israeli who resists and a Palestinian who does exactly the same thing. Dareen pays a much more expensive price for having the same attitudes. Because she is Palestinian, her status is more fragile than mine. "

Fight for narratives

But what is it that you hope to achieve? “We’re fighting a battle over narratives,” Einat says after a pause for thought. “The battlefield is the debate that takes place around education, in the media and certainly also in the artistic expression. That it is an important struggle is only emphasized by the fact that (Minister of Culture) Miri Regev has become such a prominent person. She tries to shut up the artists, and for me it is an emphasis on the important role of art in this debate. I do not know if it can fundamentally change the big picture, but people who come to our show hear many things for the first time. They encounter a reality that is usually hidden. It's a small show, but I believe it has an important role to play. "

It's something of the same that keeps Dareen going. She has been writing since she was seven or eight years old, and as soon as she could get to it, she started publishing. She posts loads of texts on her blog and she keeps going even though she knows the consequences. "My family is completely incomprehensible," she says. "While I was under house arrest, they put a lot of pressure on me, and when I came out of prison, they asked me if I had not come to my senses soon. But no, this is my way of expressing myself, and I do not bend as long as I have to go and feel foreign in my own country. "

She already has a publisher who is ready to publish a selection of her poems. She wanted them to come in Hebrew or, even better, in English, because in doing so she reaches a wider audience. But she will also be happy with an Arabic version. And yet she hesitates. It is as if she knows that a book release will increase her fame, and thus also her problems. “As one of the first things the publisher asked about the poem that led to the arrest is still included,” she says. "It is, and I have not removed it from the web. I will not accept that. "

To arrest letters

It was a day
they stopped me
took on handcuffs
bound my body, my soul
all on me
they order: Let her
we find a terrorist inside
they turned my heart
eyes too
searched all my emotions
took from the eyes a pulsating inspiration
from the heart the opportunity to outline opinions
then they said: Keep it
she hides her weapons deep in her pockets
dig out explosives
yes, they searched me
Finally, the accusers said:
We found nothing
in the pockets other than letters
nothing but a poem.

Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

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