Palestinian teacher, scholar, and writer who is also an activist working on women’s issues, human rights, and for the independence of Palestine. Ashrawi founded and is currently a board member of MIFTAH (The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy), which monitors human rights abuses committed both by Palestinians and Israelis.

Hanan Ashrawi, born in Ramallah, Palestine, was educated at the Friends Girls School there and later received her B.A. from The American University of Beirut. After completing her Ph.D. in Medieval Literature at the University of Virginia, she moved back to Ramallah and became head of the Department of English of Birzeit University. Later, she served there as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

A distinguished teacher, scholar, writer, and poet, Hanan Ashrawi has also been a social activist, working on women’s issues, human rights, and for the independence of her homeland. Her 1995 memoir, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account, chronicles her many activities as a scholar/activist.

“. . . You cannot have peace without justice and you cannot deal with justice only as an abstraction but as an operative principle that would involve the recognition, the safeguarding, of all [human] rights,” Ashrawi says.

“. . . You cannot have peace without justice and you cannot deal with justice only as an abstraction but as an operative principle that would involve the recognition, the safeguarding, of all [human] rights.”

Ashrawi became heavily involved in Palestinian politics while teaching, an involvement that culminated in her role as official spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and at subsequent discussions in Washington, D.C. She was elected in 1996 to the Palestinian Legislative Council and was appointed Minister of Higher Education and Research. Always an independent thinker, she grew disenchanted with the direction the Palestinian Authority was taking under President Arafat and resigned as minister.

That same year, 1998, she founded and directed MIFTAH (The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy). Her flourishing organization has kept its independence as it has monitored human rights abuses committed both by Palestinians and Israelis. Its analysis of the current realities of the Palestine/Israel conflict has been widely read and trusted by the international community. 

For her work Ashrawi was awarded the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize, the 2005 UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Medal and several honorary degrees. She was recently elected as an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

To learn more about MIFTAH, please log onto www.miftah.org.