Who is Hanan Ashrawi?
Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator and human rights activist, who was inspired as a child by the nationalist contributions made by her father, Daoud. A religious Christian, Daoud, always believed that women are capable of playing an active role in politics. This belief was instilled in Hanan from a tender age, motivating her to join the 'General Union of Palestinian Students', in Lebanon, when she was just twenty. This political activist and scholar, earned a PhD in Literature, and served as a faculty at the ‘Birzeit University’ in West Bank. Passionate about the cause of Palestinian independence, this activist led the 'Intifada Political Committee' till 1993, when her homeland finally gained its freedom. Since then she has been involved in the politics of Palestine, as a member of the 'Third Way Party'. She was appointed several times to the 'Palestinian Legislative Council', and was also made the 'Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research'. She protested against the fraudulent activities of political leader Arafat by resigning from her post, and went on to form the 'MIFTAH—the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy', to promote world peace. Many human rights organizations have felicitated her with prestigious honours, in recognition of her contribution towards global understanding.
Childhood & Early Life
Hanan Daoud Khalil Ashrawi was born to Daoud Mikhail and his wife Wadi’a Ass’ad Mikhail, on October 8, 1946, at Nablus, a city in present West Bank near Jordan. Daoud, who founded the 'Palestine Liberation Organization', was a Christian doctor, while Wadi’a was employed as a nurse.
When the 'Palestine War' took place in 1948, resulting in the victory of Israel, Hanan's family took refuge in Amman, Jordan along with numerous other Palestinians. Daoud initially stayed back, but was later forced to unite with his wife and five daughters because of the mass-exile known as 'Nakba'.
For two years, Daoud served as a health inspector for the Jordanian government, before settling down in the Ramallah city of West Bank. Here, Ashrawi was sent to 'Ramallah Friends Girls School', after which she pursued her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in literature from the 'American University of Beirut’.
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During the 'Third Arab-Israel War' in 1967, Ashrawi was in Lebanon, and thus was not permitted to enter West Bank by the Israel government on the grounds of being absent. Around the same time, she served as a representative of the 'General Union of Palestinian Students', aiming to involve women in active politics.
She pursued her doctoral programme from the 'University of Virginia' in Medieval and Comparative Literature, during her exile from West Bank.
In 1973, the young woman came back to the West Bank to reunite with her family, and became the founder-Chairperson of the English Department at ‘Birzeit University’. The next year she established the ‘Birzeit University Legal Aid Committee’ as well as the ‘Human Rights Action Project’.
Hanan was appointed the Dean of the ‘Faculty of Arts’ at the ‘Birzeit University’ in 1986. Two years later she became a member of the ‘Intifada Political Committee’, an organization that fought for Palestine’s freedom from the rule of Israel.
In 1991, Ashrawi began representing the 'Palestinian Delegation', at the Middle East peace negotiations, serving as their prolocutor for the next two years. She also served on the delegation's 'Executive Committee' and 'Leadership/Guidance Committee'.
The ‘Oslo Accord’ was signed between Yasser Arafat, Chairman of Palestine liberation Organization, and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, in 1993. That year, Palestine was granted independence, and Hanan was appointed as the head of the 'Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights' in Jerusalem.
Till 1995, the Palestinian politician continued to teach at the 'Birzeit University', publishing several of her literary works.
The next year, in 1996, she was appointed as one of the representatives of Jerusalem Governorate's 'Palestinian Legislative Council'. The same year, this statesman started serving as 'Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research'.
In 1998, Hanan resigned from the post of Education Minister, opposing political leader Arafat's peace negotiations and the corrupted government. The same year she established an organization that would fight for democracy, and human rights. The association was known as 'MIFTAH—the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy'.
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The 'University of San Diego' invited the popular political activist to deliver a presentation at the 'Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series' in November, 2004. Ashrawi presented a speech titled 'Concept, Context and Process in Peacemaking: The Palestinian-Israeli Experience', which was quite well-received by the audience.
Hanan was once again invited to the ‘Palestine Center’ in Washington, DC, to deliver her lecture, 'Palestine & Peace: The Challenges Ahead', in April, 2007.
In 2011, July, this Palestinian legislator invited John Baird, the Foreign Minister of Canada, to visit Palestine.
Presently Ashrawi is a member of the Advisory Board for organizations like the 'United Nations Research Institute for Social Development', 'International Human Rights Council' and the branches of 'World Bank' in Middle East and North Africa.
This political activist is also a scholar having publications like 'Anthology of Palestinian Literature', 'Contemporary Palestinian Literature under Occupation', 'The Modern Palestinian Short Story: An Introduction to Practical Criticism' and 'This Side of Peace: A Personal Account' to her credit.
This humanitarian political activist is famous for her contribution towards the liberation of Palestine from the Israel government, particularly focussing on the active participation of women in the movement.
Awards & Achievements
In 2003, Ashrawi was honoured with the 'Sydney Peace Prize' for her valuable contribution to global peace. Though this choice was condemned by many Jewish organizations in Australia, several eminent personalities including Israeli statesman Yael Dayan, considered it the right decision.
She has also received peace and human rights felicitations like the 'Olof Palme Prize', and 'Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation', among several others.
The legislator has been awarded honorary degrees by esteemed institutions like the 'American University' of Beirut, 'Earlham College', Indiana and 'Smith College', Northampton, Massachusetts.
Personal Life & Legacy
As a student of Literature in Beirut, Ashrawi dated Peter Jennings, Canadian-American news presenter of 'World News Tonight'.
In 1975, August, Anglican-Christian Hanan got married to Emil Ashrawi, a photographer and director of plays, with whom she has two daughters, Amal and Zeina.
This Palestinian legislator is the first woman to have been a member of the ‘Palestinian National Council’, which is the legislative body of the ‘Palestine Liberation Organization’.