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A Poet behind Israeli bars

Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet, playwright, and photographer from the Arab town Reineh between Nazareth and Qana in Galilee. Body and soul, she is an activist—her resistance to the occupation of Palestine is noticeable in everything she writes. Her texts are courageously demanding. They are witness from the inside to the violence, without avoiding the depths that exist within each human. However, she has paid a high price for her uncompromising voice.

In 2015 she was sentenced by an Israeli court to five months of imprisonment for her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them.” The charge: agitation and collaboration with a terrorist organisation. The imprisonment was followed by several years of house arrest.

This spring she publishes her novel My Threatening Poem in an English translation—a novel that deals with the judicial proceedings surrounding her sentence, and her time in prison.

Dareen Tatour is an important voice for Palestinian women, and she inspires courage among many to resist and rebel when the freedom of expression for poets and other cultural workers in Palestine is restricted. She is currently an ICORN writer in Sweden.

Malin Nord, Swedish writer

Credits Poem: Dareen Tatour Translation: Tariq al Haydar Introduction: Malin Nord Translation of Introduction: Christina Cullhed Foto: Elad Malka March 24 2021

A Poet Behind Bars

In prison, I met people
too numerous to count:

Killer and criminal,
thief and liar,
the honest and those who disbelieve,
the lost and confused,
the wretched and the hungry.

Then, the sick of my homeland,
born out of pain,
refused to go along with injustice
until they became children whose innocence was violated.

The world’s compulsion left them stunned.

They grew older.

No, their sadness grew,
strengthening with repression,
like roses in salted soil.

They embraced love without fear,
and were condemned for declaring,
“We love the land endlessly,”
oblivious to their deeds…

So their love freed them.

See, prison is for lovers.

I interrogated my soul
during moments of doubt and distraction:
“What of your crime?”

Its meaning escapes me now.

I said the thing and
revealed my thoughts;

I wrote about the current injustice,
wishes in ink,
a poem I wrote…

The charge has worn my body,
from my toes to the top of my head,
for I am a poet in prison,
a poet in the land of art.

I am accused of words,
my pen the instrument.

Ink— blood of the heart— bears witness
and reads the charges.

Listen, my destiny, my life,
to what the judge said:

A poem stands accused,
my poem morphs into a crime.

In the land of freedom,
the artist’s fate is prison.

Written on:

November 2, 2015

Jelemeh Prison

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