Crime in Ramallah
Artist: Abbad Yahya
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: Middle East
Confronting Bodies: Palestinian Attorney General
Description of Artwork: Crime in Ramallah is the fourth book by novelist Abbad Yahya. It follows the lives of three young Palestinian men, one of whom is gay, caught up in the murder of a young woman in the city of Ramallah.
The Incident: The novel's inclusion of sex, masturbation and homosexuality made it controversial. The Palestinian Attorney General banned the book, moving to prosecute writer Abbad Yahya, banning his novel and accusing him of threatening morality and public decency, is a gross violation of his right to freedom of expression.
Since the launch of the AG’s investigation, Yahya has been the victim of a hate campaign on social media, receiving death threats; copies of his novel were reportedly burnt in the Gaza strip.
Results of Incident: Abbad Yahya remained in Qatar following the confiscation of his book, as he feared that he would be arrested if he returned home. English PEN released a statement supporting the author, pointing out the problematic censoring actions of the Palestinian government. In addition to this statement, The department of culture and information of the Palestine Liberation Organization also condemned the actions of the Attorney General's office, saying that it "opens the door for an endless censorship, which violates freedom of expression and right to creative writing."
A book club in the West Bank city of Nablus canceled a public discussion on Crime in Ramallah after its members received anonymous death threats.
Hamas also condemned the novel, and the head of the Palestinian writers' union criticized it. However, prominent Palestinian intellectuals have demanded that the ban be rescinded.
Palestine: Abbad Yahya under investigation for ‘threatening morality’ and has books banned, English PEN Statement
Palestinian authorities ban 'Crime in Ramallah' novel over 'indecency', The New Arab, 2/8/2017
Palestinian Authority Bans Novel for ‘Threatening Morality and Public Decency’, Global Voices,14 February 2017
Facing Death Threats And A Ban On His Novel, A Palestinian Author Flees, NPR, April 1, 2017
An excerpt from Crime in Ramallah: Noor’s Story, Words Without Borders Magazine, July 2017 issue