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Ashrawi, Hanan Daouda (1949–)

ASHRAWI, HANAN DAOUDA (1949–)

Palestinian academic and political figure. Hanan Ashrawi was born in 1949 in Ramallah. After studying at the American University in Beirut and completing a Ph.D. in the United States, she became a professor of English literature and dean of the Faculty of Letters of Birzeit University (West Bank). In 1970 she founded a support group for Palestinians faced with difficulties with the Israeli administration. Her name became widely known in April 1988, after she participated in a televised debate on the situation in the occupied territories. Because of her opinions and her supposed affiliation with al-Fatah, Ashrawi was questioned several times by Israeli authorities. On 8 May 1991, she and Faysal al-Husayni met with Douglas Hurd, British secretary of the Foreign Office. The following September she became spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the peace process, specifically in charge of relations with Israel. In this capacity, she participated in the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid, and in the negotiations that followed. On 8 August 1993, along with Faysal al-Husayni and Saib Erekat—who were also opposed to Yasir Arafat's strategy—she threatened to quit her position on the Palestinian delegation. In September, after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP), she carried out her threat and pledged to devote herself to the defense of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

In May 1994 Ashrawi declined Arafat's offer to join the Palestinian Authority (PA). The following month she founded the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (PICCR). On 20 January 1996, with the first universal-suffrage Palestinian elections in the autonomous territories, she won a seat as Jerusalem representative on the new Palestinian Legislative Council, where she became president of the Political Committee. The following June, she accepted the portfolio of higher education on the PA. That October, she petitioned European countries to assume a more active role in the peace process in the Middle East. In February 1997, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded her the Palestine-Hamshari Prize for her book Palestine Israel: Peace Seen from Inside. On 6 August 1998, after being named minister of tourism and archeology despite her wish to keep the portfolio of higher education, she quit the PA. Before resigning, she presided over the Bethlehem 2000 Committee.

In 1999, after having retaken her seat on the Palestinian Legislative Council, she started a campaign for "institutional, structural, and political" reform. In parallel, she created a platform designed to promote dialogue between Palestinians and the international community (MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy). In July 2001, at the request of Amr Musa, the secretary general of the League of Arab States, Ashwari accepted the post of information counselor to the organization, one of the new positions created by the League to be held by influential Arab figures.

SEE ALSO Erekat, Saib Muhammad; Husayni, Faysal al-; League of Arab States; Palestinian Authority.

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