Khader, Asma (1952–)

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Khader, Asma

Asma Khader (Khadr) is a Palestinian Jordanian lawyer and human rights activist who has sought to expand the rights of women and children, particularly within Arab and Islamic cultures. She has established a number of prominent organizations and worked with many commissions, international legal groups, and human rights organizations.


Khader was born in 1952 to a Palestinian Christian family in the northern West Bank village of Zababida, then under Jordanian control. She graduated from the University of Damascus in Syria with a law degree in 1977. Prior to attending law school, Khader taught secondary school in Amman and worked as a journalist for the Jordanian News Journal.

Since 1984 Khader has maintained her own private legal practice in Amman, Jordan. She has specialized in human rights areas, focusing on women's and children's rights issues. She has been active in legal unions, served two terms as president of the Jordanian Women's Union, and also has been active with the Jordanian and Arab Lawyers' Unions.

Beyond her legal work, Khader is well known as a human rights advocate. She founded Mizan Law Group for Human Rights in Jordan, the Jordanian branch of the International Commission of Jurists, in 1998, and she serves on the executive committee of the International Commission of Jurists. She has worked on many international commissions and civil rights organizations; she was a founding member of the Arab Association for Human Rights, a member of the Royal Jordanian Committee for Human Rights,; and president of the Jordanian Women's Union from 1992 until 1996. In 1998 she founded Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan, an international organization to help women in the Muslim world learn technology and access information.

In October 2003, she was appointed minister without portfolio and spokesperson for the Jordanian government. Khader served as minister in 2003 and 2004, then as minister of culture in 2004 and 2005. Her tenure as government spokesperson lasted from 2003 to 2005.


Khader's interest in human rights within Arab cultures has led her to become involved in a wide variety of causes and issues in Jordan and internationally. In 1984, she helped set up human rights education workshops in Jordan, as well as a program to integrate human rights education within the national school curriculum. She has monitored trials and served on human rights fact-finding missions on various occasions.

Her particular concern for the rights of women has led her to play an instrumental role in developing a legal literacy and legal assistance program for Jordanian women, as well as establishing the Jordanian Children's Parliament. Khader is founder and reporter of the National Network for Poverty Alleviation. Sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Poverty Strategy Initiative and the Families Development Association, Khader established the network in October 2000.

Khader become a member of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division. She founded al-Ata Women's Cooperative in 1991, and served as its president until 2000. Inside Jordanian courtrooms, Khader also has fought for longer sentences for males accused of abusing women and children. Khader also was elected to the Permanent Arab Court on Violence against Women in 1995 and served as a judge in the court's public hearings in Lebanon in 1997.

Khader also is an author. She has written works such as Questions and Answers about Women's Rights in Jordanian Law (1996) and Law and the Future of Palestinian Women (1998).

In 1999, Khader served as legal counsel to the Jordanian National Campaign Committee to Eliminate So-Called Crimes of Honor in Jordan, an area of concern to Jordan's Queen NOOR AL-HUSSEIN as well. Crimes of honor, explicitly recognized by the Jordanian Penal Code, involve the punishment of women for acts of impurity if deemed to have disgraced the family. The penal code provision provided for the lessening or elimination of penalties to men enforcing this custom. When Khader and other Jordanian human rights advocates received the support of the Jordanian Crown and government to abolish or amend the provision for Crimes of Honor, the effort met stiff resistance and the practice is still recognized under Jordan's Penal Code. The majority of Jordanians support the provision and feel that its repeal would lead to the moral corruption of the society.


Name: Asma Khader (Khadr)

Birth: 1952, Zababida, Jordanian-controlled West Bank

Family: Married; four children

Nationality: Palestinian (Jordanian citizenship)

Education: Law degree, University of Damascus, 1977


  • 1984: Establishes legal practice specializing in human rights issues in Amman
  • 1991: Establishes al-Ata Women's Cooperative
  • 1995: Elected to Permanent Arab Court on Violence against Women
  • 1996: Founds Sisterhood Is Global/Jordan
  • 1998: Legal counsel to the Jordanian National Campaign Committee to Eliminate So-Called Crimes of Honor; establishes National Network for Poverty Alleviation
  • 2003: Appointed minister without portfolio in Jordanian cabinet and government spokesperson
  • 2004: Becomes minister of culture in Jordanian cabinet


In 1990, Khader received an Award of Honor from Human Rights Watch. Jordan bestowed upon her the Jordanian Independence Medal in 1991, and in 2003 Khader received the UNDP's Poverty Eradication Award in the Arab states.


Khader will be remembered as a prominent human rights lawyer and advocate in Jordan, as well as for her legal and developmental work among women and children. She has challenged many of the presuppositions of the male-dominated Arab and Islamic cultures, beginning the process of extending additional rights to women and children. Her work has helped to spark a global conversation regarding the treatment of women and children within Jordan and Islamic cultures.


Feldner, Yotam. "Honor Murders—Why the Perps Get Off Easy." Middle East Quarterly (December 2000). Available from

MacAdam, Sian. "Asma Discusses Her Recent Work on Women's Rights in the Middle East." Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace. Updated 21 October 2002. Available from

                                        Michael R. Fischbach