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Samiha Al-Khalil: A Profile from the Archives

[Samiha Al-Khalil. Image from the archives of Assafir newspaper.] [Samiha Al-Khalil. Image from the archives of Assafir newspaper.]

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a new series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa.]

Name: Samiha

Known as: Al-Khalil

Name of father: Yousif Al-Qubuj

Name of mother: Halima Tukan

Place of birth: Anabta

Date of birth: 1923

Date of death: 1999

Name of husband: Salam Khalil

Sons: Khalil, Saji, Saed, Sameer, Samih

Nationality: Palestinian

Specialization: Arabic Literature

Category: Politics

Profession: Member of the Palestinian National Assembly

Samiha Al-Khalil

  • Palestinian
  • Her full name is: Samiha Yousif Al-Qabaj
  • Born in 1923 in Anabta in Tulkarem
  • Her father, Yousif Al-Qabaj, was the chairman of the municipality of Anabta for thirty-six years. Her mother is Halima Tukan.
  • She married Salama Khalil from Al-Teeba village in 1940. She gave birth to Khalil, Saji, Saed, Sameer, and Saeh.
  • She was enrolled in a private school in the city of Nablus when she was seven years old. She studied until the second grade of elementary school. In the early thirties, she joined a school in Tul Karem and studied until seventh grade, and then she joined "The Friends" School in Ramallah and studied until second grade in high school. She continued her studies of the Arabic language until her third year in Beirut Arab University but could not finish her studies because she was banned from travelling by the Israeli occupation.
  • She earned her high school degree twenty-five years after she got married.
  • Her son, Saji, was arrested after being charged for joining the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and was exiled outside of Palestine.
  • She is considered one of the pioneers in social and women's action in the West Bank.
  • She was called the "The Oak Tree" of Palestine.
  • She established the "The Society for Arab Women Unity" in Al-Bira in 1955.
  • She became the secretary general of the Public Union of Palestinian Women upon its establishment in Jerusalem in July 1965.
  • She was a member in the leadership of the "National Front in the West Bank" in 1970, a political coalition of Palestinian organizations and social, union, and partisan figures.
  • In 1978, she was chosen to be a member in the "The National Committee of Guidance," the supreme leading bureau of the Palestinian people inside Palestine. She was the only woman in that committee.
  • She established, and later became president of, the "Society of Reviving the Family" for thirty consecutive years. This society was one of the most prominent national societies to stand up against the occupation of the West Bank after 5 June 1967.
  • She was a member of the Young Christian Women.
  • She was a member of the administrative bureau of the Union of Charities in Jerusalem.
  • She was the chairman of the Union of Volunteer Women Societies, which includes fifty-five societies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • She was a member of the administrative committee of the branches of the Charities Union in Jerusalem, Al-Khalil, and Nablus.
  • She was the treasurer of the Illiteracy and Senior Teaching Committee.
  • She was a member of Al-Maqasid Charity.
  • She was an honorary member of the Arab Lawyers Union.
  • She was arrested and jailed six times by the Israeli occupation with the charge of inciting violence, having ties with the Palestinian National Front, and taking part in several demonstrations and sit-in strikes denouncing the occupation. She was sentenced to house arrest between 1980 and 1983 and was banned from travelling between 1967 and 1973, and then between 1982 and 1991.
  • She refused to use the Israeli currency (Lira and later Shekel), and refused to wear head cover because she believed that character is more important than appearance.
  • She was a member of the first Palestinian National Assembly in 1964, which produced the PLO.
  • She ran for President of the Palestinian Authority, the first woman to run for the post and the only opponent to Yasir Arafat in 1996. She received twelve percent of the votes. She realized that her position sends a message to the Palestinian woman and to Arafat himself, saying that the Palestinians are looking for a modern democratic political system that is not based on religious compulsion or political singularity and that the Palestinian woman is capable of competing for all political posts, including the presidency.
  • She died on 26 February 1999.
  • "She struggled for the freedom and Independence of the Palestinian people" was engraved on her gravestone.
  • Samiha Khalil High School in Al-Bira was named after her.
  • She wrote a poetry book entitled Uprising to Statehood.

Medals and Prizes:

  • Medal of Jerusalem for culture and literature-1991
  • Medal from the Public Union of the Students of Palestine-1992
  • Medal from the Cultural Sports Center, Baka Al-Gharbiya
  • Medal from the Arab American Society, Ramallah-1993
  • Medal from the American Union, Ramallah-1993
  • Medal from the Palestinian Society of Mathematical Sciences-1993
  • Medal from the Palestinian Ministry of Culture-1995
  • Medal of "For you, Jerusalem" Conference-1995
  • Medal from Al-Bira municipality, Palestine-1995

[This article was translated from the Arabic by Ali Adeeb AlnaemiClick here for the Arabic text.]

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