Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Daud Turki, Palestinian poetry and Israeli prisons

Silencing the Sea - cover

I’ve just – finally, after the long haul which can be the price of enthusiasm – finished writing a review for Electronic Intifada of Khaled Furani’s Silencing the Sea. There were plenty of out-takes, things which with a tight wordcount were too tangential to the main point of the book to justifiably include in the review.

One of these was Furani’s encounter with Daud Turki, a Palestinian born in 1929 to a family from al-Maghar, near Tabariyyeh, and living until his death in 2009 in Haifa. Furani interviewed Turki because he wrote classical-style poetry which was published in Palestinian-Arabic newspapers. Turki, however, refused to call himself a poet, focusing on the political motivation behind his actions and attachment to the heroes of classical Arabic literature, notably those who were also oppressed, such as ‘Antara bin Shaddad and Tarafah bin al-‘Abd. As Furani recounts, Turki spent 13 years (of a 17 year sentence) in Israeli jails for his part in leading an armed cell composed of both Arabs and Jews to fight against the State of Israel in the late 1960s. He had been a Communist and trade union activist and one of the founders of the revolutionary socialist party Matzpen. Another member of his later armed group, Udi Adiv, is interviewed about their trial in Arthur Neslen‘s excellent book Occupied Minds: A Journey through the Israeli Psyche. Eulogies to Turki and biographical information can be found here and here.

Daid Turki 1973

In his description of one of their conversations, Furani describes how he felt too shy to ask why Turki had had both of his feet amputated and was confined to a wheelchair. When I met Turki in 2004, along with a group of students from Al-Quds University, one of the boys with me was less reticent. As well as a number of other questions about Turki’s life and political activities (and I have notes somewhere, probably in an attic in Manchester), he asked what had happened to his feet (he was a below-knee amputee; I don’t know whether he had previously used prostheses but given up in old age, or whether he had always used a wheelchair). According to Turki, his feet had been the victim of the harsh conditions in the Israeli prisons he had been held in. One particularly cold winter he had been denied shoes, developed frostbite and eventually had to have both feet cut off. He didn’t, as far as I can remember, go into further detail about conditions, but Udi Adiv also noted in his Neslen interview that he had been denied underpants, and that they had been poorly fed.

There is also, btw, an excellent interview with Furani on Jadaliyya here.

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