Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hanan Ashrawi (born 8 October 1946) is a Palestinian scholar who is well-known as a Palestinian spokesperson. In both her scholarly work as well as her political activism, she was a protege and later colleague and close friend of Edward Said.
Ashrawi received her Bachelor and Master's degrees in literature in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut. She obtained a Ph.D. in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Ashrawi returned to her homeland in 1973 to establish the Department of English at Birzeit University on the West Bank, just as the university was transforming itself from a two-year college to a four-year institution of higher learning. She served as Chair of that department from 1973 to 1978, and again from 1981 through 1984; and from 1986-1990 she served the university as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. She remained a faculty member at Birzeit University until 1995, publishing numerous poems, short stories, and papers and articles on Palestinian culture, literature, and politics including Anthology of Palestinian Literature (ed). The Modern Palestinian Short Story: An Introduction to Practical Criticism, Contemporary Palestinian Literature under Occupation, Contemporary Palestinian Poetry and Fiction, and Literary Translation: Theory and Practice.
Ashrawi's political activism in the Palestinian Territories began almost as early as her academic career at Birzeit. In 1974, while the university was suffering intermittent closures by the Israeli military, she founded the Birzeit University Legal Aid Committee/Human Rights Action Project. Her political work took a greater leap in 1988 during the Intifada uprising, when she joined the Intifada Political Committee, serving as well on its Diplomatic Committee until 1993. From 1991 through 1993 she served as the official spokesperson of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace process and a member of the Leadership/Guidance Committee and executive committee of the delegation.
From 1993 to 1995, with the signing of the peace accords by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Palestinian self-rule was established, and Ashrawi headed the Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights in Jerusalem. Ashrawi has also served since 1996 as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Jerusalem District.
In 1996 Ashrawi was appointed the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research, but she resigned the post in 1998 in protest against political corruption, specifically Arafat's handling of peace talks.
In 1998, Ashrawi founded MIFTAH -- the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, an itiative which works towards respect for human rights, democracy and peace. MIFTAH reflects Ashrawi's wish to end the Israeli occupation on humanitarian, rather than historical or ideological, grounds.
In 2003 Ashrawi was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, although creating controversy in the process amongst conservative Israelis, who decried the selection of Ashrawi, claiming she was a mouthpiece for terrorists.
In 1995, Ashrawi published a memoir, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account (ISBN 0684802945)
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