Activists call for release of Palestinian techno DJ arrested after gig at Muslim shrine

Activists call for release of Palestinian techno DJ arrested after gig at Muslim shrine
A petition calling for the release of Sama Abdulhadi, dubbed Palestine's techno queen, has amassed nearly 6,000 signatures.
3 min read
29 December, 2020
Authorities have extended the detention of Sama Abulhadi by 15 days [Twitter[

Activists and musicians are calling on the Palestinian Authority to immediately release a prominent female Palestinian DJ, who was arrested at a religious site in the West Bank over the weekend.

A petition to release Sama Abdulhadi has gained nearly 6,000 signatures at the time of publication, with Twitter users describing her detention as an attack on artistic and creative freedom.

It comes after it emerged that the PA had granted the electronic musician a permit to hold a gig at the Nabi Musa shrine, according to reports.

Muslims believe Prophet Moses is buried at the site and it remains a place of historic pilgrimage.

Hadi Shalan, a lawyer representing Abdulhadi, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language edition that Jericho's Magistrates Court had extended her detention by 15 days to allow authorities to continue to question her.

The PA's public prosecutor has accused Abduladi of violating article 275 of the penal code, which criminalises the "desecration" of religious sites and symbols carried out with the aim of hurting the sensibilities of a particular group, her lawyer said.

The punishment includes a prison sentence of up to two years. 

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity AMAN, the Palestinian arm of Berlin-based anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, said it was monitoring the events with "great concern".

"Disregarding questions of whether the site, as a place of historic, religious importance, is appropriate for such activities, AMAN holds officials within the tourist's agency squarely responsible for what has happened and reject any blame directed at citizens," said the organisation in a press release seen by The New Arab.

AMAN said officials within the tourism and religious affairs ministry had a duty to identify activities which could inflame religious sensitivities and to protect Palestinians against any vigilante behaviour.

Religious conservatives, who on social media described the techno gig as an "assault" on the holy site, shared a video which showed armed men storming the party and demanding that attendees leave.

One woman in the video responds to the unknown assailants leading the action, saying: "Welcome, welcome. Habibi, don't get angry." 

The following morning a group reportedly set fire to furniture at a nearby hostel after breaking into rooms, The New Arab reported.

Nearly a thousand Palestinians performed prayers at the site on Monday evening after calls from Palestinian political factions - including the Hamas Islamist party - to gather in a symbolic defence of the site's sacredness.

Read also: Palestine in 2020: Reflections on a turbulent year

Abdulhadi's family have released a statement appealing for her release. They maintain that she had acquired the necessary legal permits required to hold the event and upheld all rules pertaining to use of the space.

The family said the gig aimed at broadcasting live electronic music from a historic Palestinian site via online platforms and was viewed by millions around the world.

Only 30 people were allowed to attend the gig, who were all family and friends of Abdulhadi.

"Her passion for music won her fame as a representative of Palestine," he family said.

"Millions know her and follow her, this had just been her latest project in her efforts to ensure the Palestinian cause leaves its mark on the international stage, doing so via a style of music she loves and has mastered."

PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh has expressed desire to punish those involved in organising the party and called for a commission of inquiry.

When reached for comment by The New Arab, the PA's ministry of endowment and religious affairs denied they had granted permission for any event to be held at the shrine.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected