Palästina: Issam Abdul-Hadi

Despite Arab women’s many achievements in political, cultural and social fields, a lot of work is still ahead of them if they want to participate in building up their communities as equal partners.

— Issam Abdul-Hadi

Issam Abdul-Hadi was born in Nablus in 1928. She attended the first Palestinian National Council (PNC), which formed the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) in 1965. In 1969, Israeli authorities imprisoned Issam and deported her to Amman when she called for a sit-in and hunger strike at the gates of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to protest against Israel’s killing of women in Gaza. From Amman Issam continued her struggle against the Israeli occupation as a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) member and founded the Save Jerusalem Committee in Amman.

Issam Abdul-Hadi was married at the age of nineteen. She has four children – two boys and two girls – and twelve grandchildren, all of whom, in their own individual way, are immersed in the legacy of a distinguished woman, caring mother and kindhearted grandmother. The awarding panel of the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought aptly described Issam as a "political activist" and "realist feminist" when she won the prize in 2000 . Press coverage of the event extolled her as an individual with "clever remarks, eloquent speeches, rational thinking and a refined sense of humor that captivates and fascinates the audience." Educated in the city of Nablus and later at the Ramallah Friends School, Issam Abdul-Hadi developed a solid personality: lovable, kind, independent, assertive and eloquently capable of expressing herself in both Arabic and English. These qualities, among others, have earned Issam regional and international recognition. Her strength and courage have won her the respect of all Palestinian factions. She is highly accredited for her full potential of pooling efforts together for a common aim – the end of the belligerent Israeli occupation of Palestine and the support of women’s rights throughout the world. Most significantly, she has been a source of inspiration to Palestinian and Arab women who are struggling with the definition of their newly emerging identity as Arab (Muslim or Christian) women in a contemporary, conflict-ridden and constantly changing globalized world.

General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW)