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Translating for Freedom – International Translation Day 2016

Saturday 1 October 2016 - 11:05am

dareen_tatourOn 30 September the Assembly Delegates of PEN, gathering for the 82nd International Congress, marked International Translation Day by translating and reading work by the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, currently under house arrest in Israel.

Tatour was arrested at her home in Reineh, a small town near Nazareth, on 11 October 2015 amid a wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens, and a corresponding crackdown by the Israeli authorities. She is facing charges of ‘support for a terrorist organisation’ and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity.

Tatour has argued that the entire case against her centres on a mistranslation of her poem ‘Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them),’ which she regards as a legitimate protest against crimes committed by Israeli settlers and soldiers occupying Palestinian land. The prosecution has reportedly petitioned the court not to allow Tatour’s defence team to present an alternative translation of the poem from Arabic into Hebrew. Her next hearing is due to take place in November 2016. PEN International is calling for he immediate and unconditional release.

Translation and translators are fundamental part of PEN’s freedom of expression and literary work. PEN’s Girona Manifesto specifically underlines the importance of translation in protecting and advancing freedom of expression and linguistic rights.

PEN Centres from around the world translated Tatour’s poem, A Poet Behind Bars, the day she received her indictment. You can read the English translation below.

A Poet Behind Bars
By Dareen Tatour

Translated by Tariq al Haydar

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
The day I received the indictment

Read this poem in ArabicKurdish, Dutch, Italian (by Trieste PEN), Italian (by Italian PEN), GeorgianTamazight, Catalan, Spanish, HungarianAfrikaans, Basque, Portuguese, Romanian, Finnish.


Israel: All charges against poet Dareen Tatour must be dropped