Sanford S. Elberg Lecture: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Hanan Ashrawi


Founder and Secretary General of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy [MIFTAH]

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a compelling and influential voice in the contemporary theatre of Middle Eastern politics, has been a central player in the struggle for a Palestinian homeland. A tireless campaigner for human rights, she has distinguished herself in both the academic and political arenas. Her academic expertise has played a vital role in the development and recognition of Palestinian culture, while her longstanding political activism on behalf of the Palestinian people has contributed greatly to the establishment of an independent and self-governing Palestine.

Dr. Ashrawi received her Bachelor and Master's degrees in literature in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut. After earning her Ph.D. in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Dr. 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 and editing the Anthology of Palestinian Literature. In the field of literature, she is author of 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.

Dr. Ashrawi's political activism in Palestine 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.

In 1993, with the signing of the peace accords by Arafat and Rabin, Palestinian self-rule was established. Dr. Ashrawi headed the Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights in Jerusalem, and was the Founder and Commissioner General of that committee until 1995. From 1996 through 1998 she served as Minister of Higher Education and Research. In August of 1998 she founded the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, and has served as secretary general of that organization since that time. Dr. Ashrawi has also served since 1996 as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Jerusalem District.

Dr. Ashrawi is a member of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and of numerous international advisory boards including the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). In addition to the publications on literature cited above, Dr. Ashrawi's most recent writings include From Intifada to Independence and her autobiography, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account.

See the Interview with Hanan Ashrawi.

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