"We have changed the mentality of our people from the all-or-nothing equation. There are basic rights that no Palestinian will abandon. When they ask us to abandon these rights, they are asking us to negate not just our national rights but our legitimacy, our credibility." - Hanan Ashrawi







Circumstances Early Life School University    


After leaving the Friends Girls School, Hanan Ashrawi attended college at the American University of Beirut. While at first she hoped to become a doctor like her father, she was dissuaded and proceeded to change majors to physics and finally English, inspired partially by her father’s love of language. During the Six Day War, she was at the university, twenty years old, and an exile from her home. Her circumstances pushed her towards the Palestinian revolution. Hanan Ashrawi was born in October of 1946, just before the UN Partition Plan in 1947 which, combined with following events, created charged political atmosphere, encouraging action.



During the 1960s, rallies and programs organized by the PLO helped many young people become actively involved in Palestinian politics. This period was characterized by a spirit of vision and drive among Palestinian youth that affected Ashrawi; activism became a major part of her life. It was her first personal experience with political work, which became a defining force in her life. This work began in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, but quickly Ashrawi expanded to women’s rights when she encountered traditional patriarchal values accepted as common practice. She was part of several underground cells, and in the course of her activism met Yasser Arafat, a very important figure in her life.


Residents of Israel who were out of the country at the time of the 1967 War were declared “absentees.” Absentees had no legal rights and were unable to return to Israel. After finishing school in Beirut, she had nowhere to go, having neither the ability to go home because of the occupation there, nor the right to stay in Lebanon, lacking any kind of visa. Twenty years old and completely cut off from her family, she obtained a scholarship to study for a Ph. D in medieval and comparative literature at the University of Virginia. She easily fit into the American counterculture of the time; she became involved in the politically active atmosphere present in the 1970s. Her stay there brought to light the uncomfortable fact that many people perceived her as a terrorist simply because of her national identity as a Palestinian.

Finally in 1973, she returned to her homeland and the family from whom she had been separated for years.