Suha Arafat

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Hillary Clinton greeting Suha Arafat on November 11, 1999

Suha Arafat (Arabic: سهى عرفات‎; born Suha Daoud Tawil, Arabic: سهى داود الطويل‎) is the widow of former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Early life and education[edit]

Suha was born in Jerusalem on 17 July 1963 into an affluent Roman Catholic[1][2][3] family who lived in Nablus and then Ramallah (both cities under Jordanian rule at the time).[4][5] Suha's father Daoud Tawil, an Oxford-educated[6] banker,[7] was born in Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv). Daoud Tawil had business both in the West Bank and Jordan.[8] Suha's mother, Raymonda Hawa Tawil, born in Acre, is a member of the Hawa family of Acre, prominent property owners in the Haifa area.[8] She was a poet and writer. She became a politically active Palestinian militant after 1967 and was arrested several times by the Israelis, making her a media star.[8] She was also a high-profile Palestinian journalist.[9] Suha was raised Catholic.[9] Suha, growing up in Ramallah, was influenced by the political activism of her mother conducted in the 1970s from her PLO-influenced news bureau in East Jerusalem.[8]

Suha attended a convent school, Rosary Sisters' School, in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem. At age 18, she went to Paris to study, where she lived with her older sister, who was married to Ibrahim Souss, the PLO's then-ambassador to France.[8] As a student, Suha was a leader in the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) in France, where she organized demonstrations for the Palestinian cause.

Marriage to Arafat[edit]

Suha, with her mother and sisters, met Arafat for the first time in 1985.[10] When he visited France in 1989, she acted as an interpreter at the meetings with visitors and French government officials. It is argued that through her mother Suha met her husband.[9] However, it is also argued that Suha met Arafat in 1987 and 1988, and helped organize his visit to Paris in 1989.[8]

Soon after his departure from Paris, Arafat asked Suha to come and work with him in Tunisia (where the Palestinian Liberation Organization had set up a haven).[7] Suha converted to Islam and secretly married Arafat[8] on 17 July 1990, when she was aged 27 and he was 61. Their only child, daughter Zahwa, was born on 24 July 1995 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Zahwa was named after Arafat’s mother.[11]

During her marriage, she tried to leave Arafat on many occasions to escape the gossip aimed at her, but was not permitted to.[12] She has said she loved the Palestinian leader but views her marriage to Arafat as a mistake, due to her becoming a political target.[12]

In 2004, when Arafat was dying in a Paris hospital, she talked to him in an attempt to bring him out of his coma. Arafat died on 11 November 2004.[13]

After Arafat's death[edit]

Suha and Zahwa lived in Tunisia from 2004 to 2007. Suha had also lived in Tunisia before marrying Arafat. They obtained Tunisian citizenship in September 2006. Zahwa went to the American Cooperative School of Tunisia. From 1998 onward she lived in Tunisia and France on and off.[13]

On 7 August 2007, Tunisia, without warning Suha, revoked her citizenship but not her daughter's. Suha claimed her Tunisian property was also frozen.[14]

On 31 October 2011, the Tunis Court of First Instance issued an international arrest warrant for Suha, relating to corruption in a business deal that involved the former Tunisian first lady, Leila Ben Ali, in 2006. Initially, Suha proclaimed her complete cooperation with the Tunisian prosecutors.[15] But shortly thereafter she denounced the prosecution as a Tunisian scheme to defame her and the Palestinian cause.[16] She was, at the time, living in Malta. She also denied reports that she had any money or property belonging to the Palestinian national cause, and she said that she opposed normalization of relations with Israel.[17]

On 27 November 2012, at the behest of Suha, Arafat's body was exhumed in the West Bank, in order to have samples taken from his remains. The purpose of the exhumation, according to Suha, is to determine whether he was poisoned from Polonium. [18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]