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Samaa Abdulhadi: Activists call for release of ‘Palestinian techno queen’

File photo showing Palestinian DJ Samaa Abdulhadi in Paris (7 December 2017)

image copyrightAFP

Activists and human rights groups are calling on the Palestinian Authority to release Samaa Abdulhadi, a DJ known as the “Palestinian techno queen”.

Abdulhadi was detained on Sunday after she organised an event at Nabi Musa in the West Bank, where an Islamic shrine, a mosque and a hostel are located.

She said she had the necessary permits from the ministry of tourism to shoot a film that included techno party scenes.

But some religious Palestinian Muslims said the event was “disrespectful”.

Nabi Musa is considered by them to be the burial place of the Prophet Moses.

Aerial photograph of the Nabi Musa site in the West Bank

image copyrightAFP

The incident stirred social tensions that were reflected on social media.

Some people wrote online that they found it “offensive” that techno music was played at a religious site despite the fact that Ms Abdulhadi had the required permits. Others called for more freedoms and expressed hope for more diversity within the Palestinian population.

Activists calling for Ms Abdulhadi’s release started an online petition that was signed by tens of thousands of people.

Critics of the DJ’s actions meanwhile held prayers near the Nabi Musa mosque. Videos were also posted to social media that showed people smashing and burning hostel furniture.

Palestinian Muslims pray at the Nabi Musa site in the West Bank on 27 December 2020

image copyrightAnadolu Agency

The director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, Ammar Dweik, said Ms Abdulhadi had told him that using Nabi Musa for filming was suggested to her by the tourism ministry. She had also confirmed that she had “no intention to harm the feelings of any religious group”, he told the BBC.

Mr Dweik said he considered Ms Abdulhadi’s detention a “mistake” that should be reversed.

Shawan Jabarin, general director of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, also condemned the arrest in a statement published on the organisation’s Facebook page.

He said the authorities should “categorise and define touristic places”.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, who attended a ceremony at Nabi Musa last year following the completion of EU-funded renovations, formed a committee to investigate the incident.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority rejected Ms Abdulhadi’s request for bail and extended her detention for 15 days.

Ms Abdulhadi’s family told the BBC that they hoped the investigative committee would release its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

Since March, the Palestinian Authority has been renewing a 30-day state of emergency in the West Bank that was declared to curb the coronavirus outbreak there.

Critics have expressed concern at the restrictions imposed on freedom of expression under the emergency law.

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