Citation
Interview with Samira Salah

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Samira Salah
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Alternate Title:
مقابلة مع سميرة صلاح
Creator:
Salah, Samira ( Interviewee )
صلاح ، سميرة ( contributor )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Beirut, Lebanon
Publication Date:
Language:
Arabic

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Lebanon. Personal Status Laws ( UW-MEWA )
لبنان. قوانين الأحوال الشخصية ( UW-MEWA )
Women's activism ( UW-MEWA )
Women -- Political activity ( LCSH )
Jabhah al-Shaʻbīyah li-Taḥrīr Filasṭīn ( LCSH )
الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين حزب فلسطيني ( UW-MEWA )
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ( WKP )
Intifada (1987-1993) ( LCSH )
Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-) ( LCSH )
الانتفاضة الفلسطينية الثانية ( UW-MEWA )
האינתיפאדה השנייה ( UW-MEWA )
Persian Gulf War (1991) ( LCSH )
حرب الخليج الثانية ( UW-MEWA )
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East ( LCSH )
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East ( LCSH )
وكالة الأمم المتحدة لإغاثة وتشغيل اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في الشرق الأدنى وكالة غوث وتنمية بشرية ( UW-MEWA )
حركة امل‏ ( UW-MEWA )
Syria ( LCSH )
Refugees ( LCSH )
Ain al-Hilweh (Refugee camp) ( UW-MEWA )
عين الحلوة (مخيم اللاجئين) ( UW-MEWA )
Cedar Revolution (Lebanon : 2005) ( UW-MEWA )
ثورة الأرز (لبنان : 2005) ( UW-MEWA )
Ḥarirī, Rafīq Bahā (1944-2005) -- Assassination ( LCSH )
الحريري ، رفيق ، 1994-2005 -- اغتيال ( EGAXA )
Tamarod movement ( UW-MEWA )
تـمـرد ( UW-MEWA )
Democracy ( LCSH )
Arab Spring (2010-) ( LCSH )
الربيع العربي (2010-) ( UW-MEWA )
Lebanese Civil War (Lebanon : 1975-1990) ( LCSH )
Islamic fundamentalism ( LCSH )
Women's empowerment ( UW-MEWA )
Women's rights ( LCSH )
General Union of Palestinian Women ( UW-MEWA )
Ittihad al-'Amm li-al-Mar'ah al-Filastiniyyah ( J9U )
الاتحاد العام للمراة الفلسطينية ( WKP )
Ikhwān al-Muslimūn ( LCSH )
Arab Nationalist Movement ( UW-MEWA )
Ḥarakat al-Qawmīyīn al-ʻArab ( LCSH )
حركة القوميين العرب‏ ( UW-MEWA )
CEDAW ( UW-MEWA )
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979 December 18) ( LCSH )
ﺍﺗﻔﺎﻗﻴﺔ ﺍﻟﻘﻀﺎﺀ ﻋﻠﻰ ﲨﻴﻊ ﺃﺷﻜﺎﻝ ﺍﻟﺘﻤﻴﻴﺰ ﺿﺪ ﺍﳌﺮﺃﺓ (1979 ديسمبر 18) ( UW-MEWA )
Fatḥ (Organization) ( LCSH )
فتح (منظمة) ( J9U )
Lebanon War (1982) ( UW-MEWA )
حرب لبنان 1982 ( UW-MEWA )
מלחמת לבנון הראשונה ( UW-MEWA )
Siege of Beirut (1982) ( UW-MEWA )
حصار بيروت (1982) ( UW-MEWA )
Lebanon War (2006) ( LCSH )
Israel-Arab War (1967) ( LCSH )
Nasser, Gamal Abdel, 1918-1970 ( LCSH )
عبد الناصر، جمال،‏ 1918-1970 ( UW-MEWA )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Lebanon -- Beirut Governate -- Beirut
Coordinates:
33.886944 x 35.513056

Notes

Abstract:
Samira Salah was born in Tiberias, Palestine in 1944. Her father worked for a British oil refinery in Haifa and her mother was a homemaker. In 1948, Samira and her family fled to Jordan and then to Syria and she grew up in Homs and Damascus. She worked as a teacher in Saudi Arabia for four years. From 1961 she was involved with the Arab Nationalist Movement, which after 1967 became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) She has served on the central committee of the PFLP and on the Palestinian National Council and continues to be a PFLP member. In 1970 she married and moved to Lebanon, living in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp and then in Beirut. She studied business administration at the Beirut Arab University (distance learning) Whilst living in Ain al-Hilweh, she was responsible in the PFLP for mobilizing women in the south of Lebanon. During the civil war, she was involved with the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) in humanitarian and relief work and providing hot meals for the Palestinian fighters and was a member of the GUPW secretariat. Samira worked for the PFLP as the Director of the Bureau for Palestinian Refugee Affairs in Lebanon. She is retired but continues her political work and is serving as the PFLP representative on the Committee for the Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, which includes civil society organizations, UNWRA and other agencies concerned with advocating for the right of Palestinian refugees to work in Lebanon. She has 4 children with her husband, who is also a member of the PFLP and of the Palestinian National Council. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 22 October 2013
General Note:
Duration: 2 hours, 21 minutes, 4 seconds
General Note:
Language of interview: Arabic
General Note:
Audio transcription and translation by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan , info@captivatearabia.com.
General Note:
آسيا -- لبنان -- بيروت -- بيروت
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2013 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

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Full Text
Interview with Samira Salah
2013
TAPE 1
Interviewer (later 1.): To start things off, I would like to ask you about your place and
date of birth.
Interviewee (later 2.): I was born in Tiberias, Palestine in 1944. I later moved to Haifa
with my family, because my father worked there at a British company called the
Refinery. We lived in Haifa for two years, then moved back to Tiberias and from there
we went to Irbid, then Damascus and finally to Homs in Syria
1. So you spent your childhood in Syria?
2. I spent all my school years in Homs and during that time, we moved to Damascus but
then returned to Homs again. We did that twice, because of father's work. Then I came
to Lebanon to attend the Beirut Arab University. I worked in Saudi Arabia for four years
as a teacher. It was an experience that I was excited about, because the country felt
mysterious to me. I wanted to learn about how people there think. They're wonderful
people and so we must make a distinction between the government and the people.
The people are very kind, giving and simple.
1. During which years was this?
2. From 1965 till 1969. First I worked with an organization called the Arab Nationalist
Movement, whose founders were George Habash and Wadie Haddad. Other founders
included member from other countries such as Ahmad Al-Khatib from Kuwait and some
from the Yemeni Democratic Party, because it's called the Arab Nationalist Movement
and not the Palestinian Nationalist Movement. I worked at that organization as a
volunteer from 1961, when the United Arab Republic collapsed, till the founding the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1967. After that I went on to work with
the PFLP. I went from working in teaching to working at the Palestinian Research Center
and later I worked in unions and in women's right movements. The work I most enjoyed


doing was when I was working with the people. I worked as the director of bureau for
Palestinian refugee affairs in Lebanon, which was part of the PFLP. I lived through that
period working with people in the camps and the popular committees. You can say, I
worked in diverse fields; women's rights movement, unions and with popular
committees in the refugee camps. Now after I've retired from my job, I work on a
voluntary basis - usually my political work was all voluntary. I didn't get paid for it - as a
member of the Palestinian National Council. I have four children with my husband, who
is also a member of the Palestinian National Council. That's us! We had high hopes of
returning and we still do, and we're working towards that goal. Now I'm working on the
issue of the right of Palestinians to employment and ownership in Lebanon. The
committee for the right to employment includes members from the Ministry of Labor,
UNRWA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, civil society organizations, both Palestinian and
Lebanese. These committees deal with human rights issues such as the right to
employment and the right to ownership. I am the PLFP representative in the committee
for the rights of Palestinian refugees to employment in Lebanon. That's all I can say
about... I'm from a family that... In the beginning, my father worked at the refinery and
then after we moved to Syria as refugees, he worked at the IBC, which was a British
company in Homs, which is why we moved between Homs and Damascus and then
settled in Damascus after he retired. My father was always fighting for the rights of
workers - you cannot say that he was bourgeois at all. He was a worker at the beginning
who got promoted in the line of his work.
Aren't there any others? Okay.
That's about it, I guess. I have four brothers and seven sisters. I'm the second eldest of
my sisters.
1. When did you start becoming politically active?
2. Actually I started - and this might surprise you... Our family has always been patriotic
and when the Egyptian revolution took place in 1953, I didn't fully understand the
situation, because I was still young, but my father used to always talk to my siblings and
me about the political situation and about the different political systems, such as


monarchies and republics and what the differences were between them. So, when the
revolution happened in 1953, it was the time we were just starting to be aware of the
political situation and then when the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt took place in
1956, we were a bit more mature by then. I held my first speech at that time; I was in
fifth grade. My teacher, Ms. Enaya Wafa'i, at the time at my school in Bab El-Sbaa'a -
which is an area that has been in the news often lately, was very patriotic, asked me to
say a few words. I was excited about the idea, but of course a bit intimidated about
standing in front of my fellow students in the school yard and making a speech. My
father encouraged me and told me to write something and that he would read it and
help me with it. So I wrote about one page and then my father corrected the syntax for
me. The next day I went to school and stood there, I was feeling anxious and excited,
and I started reading my speech. I felt that I had achieved something great at that
moment. It was something great for my age. It was also an important time because it
was during the aggression against Egypt and after the Egyptian Revolution people were
very fond of Gamal Abdel-Nasser. After that in 1958, when the United Arab Republic
was founded, Abdel-Nasser was coming to Homs to see the armed forces in Homs and
we, as Palestinians in Homs, wanted to stand out and so we made special maritime-
inspired costumes... Before that the Syrian hero, the naval officer Jules Jammal, had
sunk - I think it was a British battleship. Syria had helped Egypt during the Tripartite
aggression, and Jules Jammal was a celebrated hero at the time, so I thought that
maritime-inspired costumes would befit the occasion. I remember I made white and
navy blue hats, and with a marker I wrote 'Palestine' on my hat. The others said: "Why
did you do this? We wanted everyone to look the same." And I said: "Because I want
Abdel-Nasser to know that I am Palestinian." I stepped out on to the balcony of the
town hall and I shook hands with President Abdel-Nasser. It was a moment I will never
forget. This of course motivated me towards political activism and journalism, so when
Salah Salah - who is now my husband - came to Homs to organize the Arab Nationalist
Movement... Of course, I was too young at the time to be part of anything, but he asked
me if I knew anyone of if I had and teachers who Nasserists. I used to invite some to


come to our house and my father used to invite some of the workers. Afterwards I
became a member of the Arab Nationalist Movement and I took part in every
demonstration and every event. I remember when the former Tunisian president,
Bourgiba, proposed a division of Palestine; we organized a demonstration to protest his
proposal. It was the first time I took a beating from the Syrian intelligence. They didn't
want any demonstrations to take place at that time, because the situation was very
tense at the time, but we did it anyway. There were two different opinions at that time
- the way it always is - so that's why they didn't allow us to demonstrate and because
Bourgiba was still in Syria. It was a matter diplomacy that we didn't understand and we
wanted to be heard. After that, as a committed member of the ANM, I held many posts
within the movement. I was in charge of the women's branch of the movement in Homs
and then I became in a representative of the Palestinian territories at the regional
directorate in Damascus. After that I joined the PFLP and I was appointed as a member
of the central committee. The last PFLP conference I attended was in 1993. I felt it was
only appropriate for me to move on after 20 years on the committee and to make way
for other women. You know, some don't realize how important it is to have female
representation in these committees and the quotas are always very low, so if I had
stayed, there wouldn't have been room for new female members on the central
committee. I'm still a member till today, but in Lebanon and not as part of the central
PFLP committee. I'm also a member of the Palestinian National Council and I am active
in many different committees. This is just a summary of what I've done. I still haven't
gotten into detail about the fear and the worrying about intelligence agencies and being
afraid of attending the meetings. My father, who had always been supportive of my
activism, began asking me to step away because it was getting dangerous, but of course
we laughed in the face of danger at that time. I think this would be a good time to talk
about 1967. In 1967, when the war against Syria and Egypt started, we worked as
volunteers to help the injured and the women who were displaced from the Golan and
Quneitra. I had just come back to Syria from Saudi Arabia when the war started, so I
volunteered during that summer to help out. It was, of course, a very strong blow for all


Arabs, because they didn't expect this outcome. We all had such high hopes for Abdel-
Nasser and his nationalism, but it was a huge disappointment and it led to Abdel-Nasser
to resign, but the people didn't accept his resignation - I'm sure you've read about this.
I was one of the people who were against his resignation; because the situation in the
country was too difficult for its strong leader to just resign. Were there betrayals? Yes,
of course, there were betrayals everywhere; whether in the Golan Heights, in Egypt
within the first two days and what happened with the planes. This created a reaction
among the Palestinians and at the same time they felt that they could return to their
homeland soon, especially after his victory in 1956. There's something historic about
1956, but that hasn't been documented, in the literal sense of the word, which is the
heroism of the people of Gaza in 1965. There was a Palestinian liberation army and
popular Palestinian forces that fought alongside the Egyptians who were killed in the
field of battle. They acted as a sort of protector of the cities that were on the banks of
the Suez Canal. Many Palestinians fought bravely and were killed in that war, and those
forces - which were called the Popular Liberation Forces at the time - were the
beginnings of the Liberation Army and the Fedayeen movement in Gaza, of which the
Gazan hero nicknamed "the Gazan Guevara", was a part of after the Latin American
hero. This is a point that is not mentioned often in historical accounts. I'm not sure why
this is, but the Palestinians did play in important role in that war. Even in Syria, the
factions of the Fedayeen and the Palestinian Liberation Army there were many that
were killed in battle, defending the Syrian territories, because defending Egypt or Syria
is part of defending Palestine. Every victory brings us one step closer to returning. The
1967 was very difficult for all Arab nations and the Israelis achieved a great triumph
against us. Of course, during this time - I just want to say a bit about our role - we as
Palestinian women in the PFLP believed that men and women must stand side by side in
this war of liberation. From the very beginning it was our belief that Palestine couldn't
be liberated just by the men, but that all the Palestinian people, men and women, must
fight this battle together. This was the slogan of the PFLP: "Men and women, side by
side, in the war of liberation" and this slogan was the basis for our work in the PFLP. It


must be noted that throughout all the stages of the Palestinian struggle that women
were active in all the political parties and organizations and were also leaders in all
fields: in the field, within civil society, in law, education, health services - women had a
huge role in all of these. Unfortunately the recognition that women received for their
contributions did not correspond to their efforts. It's this sort of thing that is hurtful,
that even the leftist parties that proposed slogans such as "Men and women, side by
side, in the war of liberation" were depreciating the value of the services rendered by
women. So in the top leadership positions of all political parties, even the self-
proclaimed political ones, the highest percentage of women in the top positions was
15%. This goes to show that idea that women aren't capable of being in leadership
positions is still very much alive in the minds of people in the Arab world. Despite all of
women's sacrifices and feats whether as mothers, fighters, social activists, politicians,
lawyers, teachers or health care professionals - after the immigration whole families
were carries on the shoulders of women. The women worked to send their brothers to
university - these sacrifices weren't translated into positions in neither political parties
nor in the Palestinian Authority. Their role was later marginalized the way it has been in
all nations. We consider ourselves far luckier than the women who were part of the
Algerian revolution, where the women fought side by side with the men, but later had a
negligible role in the successive governments despite the fact that they fought with the
men for a 100 years. When it comes to laws, you can see that there is some progress in
terms of women's rights in the Personal Status Law, labor laws and health care laws, but
you can't say... Maybe because we're still a young country and a young government, nor
is it fully independent. It's still in its beginnings. But at least they were able to pass laws,
even if only on paper that will take a lot of effort to implement, that are to an extent
acceptable. After the defeat of Syria and Egypt in 1967, who were the main two players
- Jordan was more of a secondary party. It only took the Israeli army 5 minutes to invade
and capture the West Bank. There were heroin moments on the Jordanian side, but they
are attributed more to individuals rather than to the government - Sadat came along
and the settlement projects were being proposed, to which Sadat was being receptive.


This is not to say that we were against peace, but it had to be fair peace. A peace that
can give you... It's like saying: I'm going to divide this cake between us, although you
have no right to it, but just because you're here with me, so I can share this with you.
The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel wasn't just, nor were the peace treaties
between Jordan and Israel and Syria and Israel, although it has to be said that Syria
hasn't signed the treaty. The least fair and just peace was the one between the
Palestinian and the Israelis. They tricked the Palestinians into agreeing by telling them
Hafez Assad had signed the treaty and that if they didn't sign now they'll lose
everything. All of this was possible, because there were many whose political agendas
matched this course of action, and they were the ones that pushed for the treaties and
accords, whether in Camp David and Sadat visiting the Knesset, which he viewed as a
triumph and I personally see as a defeat and recognition of the enemy state. He viewed
it as a sign of strength, but I see it as a sign of weakness from the Egyptian regime,
headed by Sadat. They should've been the ones going to Egypt. Why was he the one
that went to them? So, the battle wasn't equal, its results weren't equal and the
fictitious peace that was built on it was unjust. Israel wanted to get rid of Sinai, because
Sinai is known for its dangers and its tribes, and the Israeli army could have been
vanquished in Sinai. The same is true for Gaza; the Israelis saved themselves by letting
go of Gaza. The Israelis are smarter than we are and know exactly what they want from
now till the end of time. We don't even know what we want tomorrow and that's our
biggest mistake. Israel knew what it was doing, even when it dragged the Arabs to the
peace processes, it knew it would be more of a humiliation than a peace for the Arabs,
because they see that they are at a position of power. Some might argue that the 1973
war was planned not by Sadat, but that plans for it were already in place during Abdel-
Nasser's rule. If this war had happened under the leadership of Abdel-Nasser we
wouldn't have had this feeble peace. They know that the Arabs killed Abdel-Nasser to
make way for Sadat and they knew Sadat was softer than his predecessor and is more
likely to agree to anything. The 1973 war was a stroke of luck for him; he was like a bad
student who gets the right answer by chance. It was a great war and a great triumph for


the Egyptians but its benefits were reaped by the wrong man and it is known plans for it
were already in place before 1973. Sadat's fault was that he tarnished this great victory
by agreeing to sign the peace treaty. He should've waited to see how things would
develop - he might have found himself at a stronger position. I'm not against peace and
I do support peace fully, but it must be a fair and just peace. What peace is this while
12.000 political prisoners were still in Israeli jails? What peace is this, that Israel attacks
our territories and kills our people every day? I'm sure you have been to the West Bank
and have seen for yourself that at the end of every street in the West Bank there's an
Israeli checkpoint. This is not peace. This is subjugation of the Palestinian people and
bullying of the weak Palestinian authority, which has been weak whether during the
leadership of Abu Ammar or now under the leadership of Abbas. Abu Ammar recognized
his mistakes and tried to turn things around but couldn't and then they killed him. He
might have even been killed by a Palestinian - I don't know! Israel might have sent the
poison, but who administered it? We also have traitors among us, who have given us or
forsaken the Palestinian cause. Some have made fortunes and are comfortably sitting in
their villas somewhere; they don't care about who gets to go back to their homes in
Palestine or whether people can visit their families that are still living there. This is what
has led to the disintegration of the cause. If the Palestinian Cause is lost, then it because
of the traitors, the ones who surrendered and forsake the cause and the ones who built
their lands on the shoulders of the mighty Palestinian people. There are people who
fought and others who hid away in their palaces and that is what needs to be rectified.
Let's imagine they took he lands that were decided upon by the UN and established a
state with Jerusalem as its capital, but the enemy doesn't want that. The enemy will
only accept its sole existence. They will always want more than they are allowed in
order to feel safe, not to mention the building of settlement and other things which
went on after the treaties. That's why Syria hasn't agreed to a treaty, because it saw
what happened to the others who did. It is a nationalist stand that shows the others
that they were wrong to rush into the unjust peace process. What we are seeing in Syria
today is a result of their stubbornness about the Golan Heights and they have the right


to say that they want the Golan Heights back. It is their right because it is Syrian land.
Whether Assad will fight with us in the future is unknown, but it is his prerogative as a
person who sees himself as a patriot to keep demanding the return of the Golan
Heights. He'll only sign an agreement if it involves the return of the Golan Heights to
Syria. It was the recklessness of the other and the recklessness of the Israelis in rushing
into the peace treaties that made Syria freeze any negotiations. I don't know what more
I can add about this subject. I think up to the nineties was the golden age for
Palestinians in Lebanon and if they could've kept it that way and not acted the way they
did in Lebanon they would've still been strong and wouldn't have had to leave. The 1982
war in Lebanon weakened both the Palestinians and the Lebanese, which paved the way
for Sharon to enter Beirut, because the Lebanese wanted the Palestinians out; all the
Lebanese, even the nationalists. There were Lebanese forces that were trained by Israel,
who would carry out its bidding. History will show that in the war of 1982 there was
conspiring by the Lebanese Phalanges and other Lebanese groups. Later there was
national Lebanese resistance that the Palestinians backed while staying in shadows, but
there was a lot conspiring from the Lebanese Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces. They
had trained them and armed then and got Bachir Gemayel to power and later killed him.
Bachir Gemayel thought he could fool the Israelis.
TAPE 2
Samira: the Israelis are no fools. Bachir Gemayel thought they would help him get rid of
the PLO, then he would become president and then he needn't worry about them as
they were on the outside. But this wasn't what they had in mind, they wanted to
weaken Lebanon as a whole so that they could take over it, because Israel wants to have
a monopoly on tourism, if they destroyed Lebanon so that it became weak and shaken
and no tourists would go there, then after all the treats all the tourists would pour into
Palestine, for us it is Palestine but they call it Israel, so people would go there. Israel had
two goals behind the war, the first was to establish a Christian state in Lebanon, to


displace all Muslims and to kick the Palestinians out of course, the other goal was that it
would be a weak state and they would be the strong state in the Middle East that
controls everything. But that didn't work out as they planned, the resistance was
stronger than they thought... we can say that during that time before the peace treaties
and black September there were consecutive phases one after another that led up to
Black September and then the Lebanese civil war and finally the invasion of Lebanon. If
they entered Jordan it wouldn't be a problem as it was a small area and they would be
on the borders with Syria, but if they came to Lebanon, they considered it in the bag,
but if they went to Jordan... they want to keep the king there as he was their ally. So,
they came into Lebanon to kick the Palestinians out but when Bachir knew about their
plan he said: "No, we had an agreement to kick the PLO out of Lebanon, and you have
violated that agreement". Of course they wanted to conquer Lebanon even if for a short
period of time. Entering Beirut and what happened in Black September in Jordan and
here in Lebanon on September 16th when the massacres took place, that created a rift
between Israel and the Kataeb party because they violated the agreement, so they
asked Bachir Gemayel to go to them and he refused, so they sent someone to kill him.
So, they don't want anyone to... wait, you're from Warwick University? I visited it. I just
read that, sorry... so, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was the result of breaking all the
barriers, by string the resistance in Jordan, in Lebanon and the Lebanese resistance, all
that gave them easier access to Lebanon. There were also mistakes made by the
Palestinians which we can't deny, at first, South Lebanon was a haven for the Palestinian
resistance, but then South Lebanon was being harmed by the presence of the
Palestinian resistance so it stopped being a haven, they weren't welcome there
anymore. There was a rift, which was partially our fault, with the daily strikes by Israel,
they destroyed their fields and lands, so we became a burden to the South. And there
has become control and all the things we should've stayed away from, we shouldn't
have been carried away with those things, but we had a leadership who wanted to
control South Lebanon and Lebanon and to make their own decisions, which was a big
mistake. We were guests and we should've respected that. Hence, all these things


together brought us misery. As I said, between 1967 and 1990 there was progress and
resistance, even progress on the Palestinian side, even on the inside, there was the first
Intifada (Palestinian uprising) and then the second Intifada. The first and second
intifadas were planning to hit the occupation not to reach an agreement with it, but the
result was an agreement with Israel, that was the main problem. Let's move on to 1991,
when the invasion of Iraq happened, the main reason behid the invasion of Iraq was the
invasion of Kuwait in the first place in 1990, which had an impact, and that was a
mistake as the Iraqi regime could have urge the people of Kuwait to rise against... there
were solutions other than occupying Kuwait. We are against the Israeli occupation, how
much more difficult is it to have an Arab occupation, that's an enemy, but you are Arabs
and you are occupying an Arab land. So, during that period I was against that, the
Popular Front was against it too for sure, and Saddam Hussein made mistakes during
that period. That was the mistake that led to all the other mistakes he's done. The
mistake he had done before was attacking Iran. The Gulf countries played a role in that
too, as they supported him with money and encouraged him by giving him the idea that
he was protecting them from Iran. That made him attack Iran, although he didn't attack
Iran on the days of the Shah, why did you attack Iran when there was a revolution in
Iran? There was something wrong, you should've used Iran a an ally against the
oppression in Saudi Arabia and against Israel, so how could you do that? So his big
mistake was that he fought against the Iranian revolution. Everything could've been
solved through treaties, was he afraid of a Shiite invasion? No. Shiite wouldn't have
invaded him they didn't start the war, he did. So, there could've been treaties and
agreements between neighbors as in all the Arab countries and as in Europe. Why?
What's the difference? As Arabs we have more reasons to unite, in Europe they speak
different languages, Spanish and Italian and English and French, and there's East Europe,
yet they are in agreement, how much more should we be united when we all speak one
language that is Arabic? We are supposed to be united, I'm happy with the European
unity but... (chatter)


So, we can say that Saddam made a mistake, and he did so by the support of the
surrounding Gulf countries who were afraid of Iran, so they were supporting him against
Iran to protect themselves. And when he invaded Kuwait, they all turned against him.
So, that was the main mistake. I am against the invasion of Kuwait and against attacking
Iran, and that was what inflicted the misery on Iraq, they destroyed Iraq as a strong
country rich with scholars and scientists, and it was proved that there weren't any
chemical weapons, but there was scientists, there were intellectuals they wanted to kill
and to force to migrate. Until now 200 scientists were killed during the war on Iraq, so
it's become obvious what that was about. Hereby I say that, there have been many
mistakes during this era, whether by Iraq, the Gulf countries especially KSA, KSA is the
axis of evil in the Gulf, because it wants to become a power and doesn't know how. If
Iraq, Syria and Egypt became powerful countries KSA would have no role to play, so they
want to become a powerful country by hook or by crook, they want to rise over the
ruins of others, and that what became obvious later on through their support of radicals
and Al-Qaeda, it was obvious how they worked, their support of the Americans to
invade Afghanistan, everywhere there is a revolution they provide support against it.
They are against peoples' revolutions. So, they were the main reason behind that. KSA is
the root of evil here and it's controlled by the USA. If we're going to talk about the
period between 1990 and 2001... there was a large growth of NGO's, and NGO's had a
huge role during all states wars, but they are not being appreciated as they should be or
given the role they should be given. After the Lebanese war in 1982, NGO's played a
major role in refugee camps, the resistance forces left and the PLO left, nobody was able
to move, and people were threatened even by the Lebanese army, so the Ngo's were
working within the Palestinian commun9ity and they had a major role in that, their role
was represented by supporting people on the ground. But, sadly, that role wasn't given
a big significance. Until now, NGO's have a role to play during wars and they lose some
of their own people, they receive a lot of support and they use it to help Palestinian
refugee camps, in the interest of youth, women, children... and we are proud of that
role. I work at NGO's and I know how much our women and men work in that field, this


invisible field. When a politician gives a speech people see him, but we work on the
ground with women and with refugee camps were our role isn't visible to people, it's
the role they try to hide. When a politician gives a speech he appears in the media, but
all this struggle and hard work among the people in the camps isn't shown in the media.
But people know that the NGO's in Lebanon, both the Palestinian and the Lebanese
ones, contributed greatly to the relief of the refugee camps. UNRWA has a role in this
of course because they are one of the results of the occupation, so it's only natural, the
world was behind this occupation and they should be responsible for the Palestinian
people, but what's the extent of that role? I can't really say. It's a limited role because it
depends on the support they get. Sometimes they have programs that are irrelevant to
the situation, they could be useful in the future, they are not a priority. I also want to
say that the constant attacks on refugee camps compel us to have an emergency
program at all times. Emergency programs are made at the expense of regular
programs, that's why neither are successful, neither the emergency nor the regular
programs, there's always a shortage. I don't know if you want me to proceed like this.
There have been laws that were issued from 1990 to 2001. We talked about Palestinians
in Lebanon in a previous interview. Between 1990 and 2001 a number of laws were
issued, the most important of which was the no ownership law. All the Palestinians who
owned properties, who are not a lot but not few at the same time, were harmed by that
decision. Those who died couldn't bequeath their properties to their children, and if the
children inherited the property they couldn't sell it or live in the real estate they
inherited. And many Palestinians had bought houses they couldn't register. They
registered them under someone else's name and they lost them. I'm one of those
people, this house is registered under the name of a Lebanese man and I'm in the
middle of a lawsuit now, I lost the house. So, it's discriminatory law, a country like
Lebanon who abides by Human rights in their constitution should not do that. They
might say it's to prevent Palestinians from settling in Lebanon, it's ridiculous, would I not
go back to Palestine because I bought a house in Lebanon? I had houses in Palestine and
I left it. So, it's not really like that, the thing is that they want Palestinians to be


restricted to camps ad prevented from having a decent social status. So, between 1990
and 2001 there was a number of laws that... for example, the camps, there was an
agreement in Al-Taef to discuss the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon and improve it.
We worked on several issues with the Lebanese government and we presented several
petitions but until now none of these petitions were fulfilled, whether by the political
leadership or the popular committees or the civil society organizations, one of that was
achieved. Even if you want to establish an organization, % of the members must be
Lebanese and the remaining quarter Palestinians, or two thirds Lebanese and one third
Palestinians, and the president must be Lebanese and the general secretary Lebanese as
well as the treasurer, these are the simplest of issues. That was a very difficult period
and things are still difficult, we can't say things are easier now, but what I want to say
now is that, first there is a siege over all refugee camps, the army is surrounding the
camps and at the same time they say that transgressors are going into the camp. Who
lets them in? There must be someone in the army or mercenaries who can provide
access to the camp, but it's not the Palestinians who let transgressors go into the camp,
because the camp is surrounded by guards, how could they get in? They must have
crossed the army barrier, so either the army is loosening the restrictions on going in and
out of the camp, but we do not see such a thing, or there is a conspiracy going on. There
are several ways to enter the camp, I know a man who used to go into the occupied
territory, so he certainly can go into the camp, but for the most part, the army is
surrounding the camp with a fence from all sides, not only at one point, and where
there is no fence they have barb wire, I don't know if you've seen it, there is barb wire
around the camp, especially Ain A-Hilweh camp. So, before we talk about that, from
2001 to 2011...
We can talk about the invasion of Iraq. We talked about how the leadership in Iraq
followed a wrong approach in the wars against Iran and Kuwait, which weakened it. It's
not the army that was weakened but rather the decision makers, so it became a tool in
the hands of KSA or... we have to admit that it became a tool in someone's hand. I have
never been to Iraq but I wasn't comfortable with the leadership approach in Iraq. I used


to hear from people that there is dictatorship and whatnot, Iraqi people would tell us
what was going on. But it has never occurred to me that those same people who carried
out revolutions and formed communist parties would collaborate with the Americans in
the invasion of Iraq. They've always been against imperialism, who represents
imperialism? The Americans. And now they cut a deal with the Americans to destroy
their own country! I don't know if they made them promises to depose Saddam and
then... but that was basically wrong, the principle is wrong. When we start to
collaborate with Busch or America, that means we became subject to America. Because
America wants to conquer the world in any way possible. They could start things
gradually but once they have a firm grip on things...
We as Arabs haven't done this right. All the parties in Iraq didn't do that in a a way that
would preserve their dignity. They could've united among themselves to overthrow the
regime. What happen? They might be killed, but that's better than bringing the armies
of the world to their country. That's what happened in Iraq, in order to get rid of
Saddam Hussein and his regime they brought everyone in and the result so far was that,
since 1990 or 1991 until now in Iraq, the invasion was in 2009? The 9th of April, I'm not
sure... until now Iraq hasn't seen peace or stability, and people now are saying that it
would've been better if Saddam stayed. That what happens, a dictator is a dictator, they
know his limits, but there are no booby trapped cars and dozens or even hundreds of
people dying every day, people are dying on the streets, women, children and men. The
purpose of that is either to convince us that we should stay ruled by a dictator, because
this is the alternative, death and destruction, or they didn't do that right, Neither the
Americans nor the Iraqi National Movement and now the Syrian National Movement,
the Syrian opposition, they didn't do things right. So, that what made the Arab countries
lose their compass. The Palestinian Cause is falling behind because there are no strong
leaders. When Iraq is gone and Syria is under attack, when Egypt is in the midst of the
power game between Muslim Brotherhood and others, who would lead the way? Saudi
Arabia who's controlled by America would take the lead. So, they want Saudi Arabia to
lead the way, is Saudi Arabia qualified to lead the Arab people while they still ban


women from driving? When women their could become leaders, MP's and Ministers,
and when they get rid of what's blinding them, they could say that they would lead the
Arab people, but under the current circumstances, can they lead the Arabs? No they
can't. Nobody would accept that. So, as for these revolutions of the Arab Spring, where
is the Cedar Revolution standing now? Rafiq Al-Hariri was killed so that we would reach
this. Rafiq Al-Hariri wasn't killed by Syrians, he was killed by radicals with American
hands, and the future will show that the radicals who were condemned to death
belonged to the group that killed Al-Hariri. How could someone kill Al-Hariri when his
car isn't known to anyone other than the Germans? Only the Germans knowthe secret
behind his car explosion. There's something in the cases that makes you conclude that
this person was killed in order to destroy Lebanon, and so that the Syrian army would
leave Lebanon to Syria in order to overthrow the regime in Syria. That was the plan. It
didn't work back then, but during these past two years they've been trying to reach
their goal. What Israel and the American both want isn't establishing democracy,
because if they wanted to establish democracy in the Middle East they wouldn't support
the radicals and give them weapons, they would bring scientists and scholars,
democratic people and progressive parties, they wouldn't bring radicals and support
them to take over power. So, here starts the game which aims to take full control of the
Middle East by America and Israel, this is their ultimate goal. I don't know if the peoples
are taking part in that game too, but nobody can keep their eyes shut forever, but in the
future, there will be change for sure, we live by the hope for change, real change, not
the change that happened in Tunisia and put the radicals in power, or the change that
happened in Egypt and put the MB in power, the change they wanted in Syria and
resulted in giving power to the radicals who murder people. This isn't the change we
want, it's the change wanted by those with an agenda to destroy the Arab people, nit
the governments, because if the radicals mingled with the people and took control of
them then it's over. It would only be about performing religious duties and we would be
back to living in tents, no progress, tents and camels. While if Arab people kept their
awareness, that awareness would lay the foundations for a new phase. We hope that


this awareness will live on, they want to take women back to... you know about this
attire where nothing shows except the woman's eyes? That was originally worn by the
women in a zealous Jewish community, this isn't an Islamic attire. It was worn by the
women in a zealous Jewish community, you can look it up on the internet, we found it
there. So, you can see how they want us to go backwards and shut our minds. They
don't want us to make any progress, Arabs must not grow bigger than this and be under
everyone's control, Israel, America, France, England, they must remain under control.
This is the thing whose ramifications we fear in the future. The Arab revolutions were
based on the efforts of the motivated and active youth, like "Tamarrud" movement in
Egypt, but there is someone controlling them from above who's invisible to ordinary
people. People rose against the ruling regimes spontaneously, but there is an invisible
force controlling things from a distance and that is a very dangerous force, who want to
send people to the gutters. This is my opinion, when you support radical religious
movements this is what happens. America started doing that during the war on
Afghanistan, and before that, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, America mobilized
all the people to fight, and those were the seeds, then they spread them all over the
world, such as Ben Laden and Az-Zawahri, these were seeds planted by America. And
now America and Israel will reap what they sowed, because those radicals don't tolerate
open societies. And we're seeing the results now although they are slow results in
Europe and America, but they have to be warned. How many times did they talk about
this in England? They are still busting terrorist cells. The West must take heed of that
because it's not in the best interest of their people, it might be in the interest of the
president, but not the people. And the peoples who prevented the strike against Syria
are the same peoples who has to prevent anyone from controlling them in the future.
The Arab people are qualified just like any other people, they hate injustice and
oppression. There are other ways to solve that, other than the military solution. In Syria
for example if they had taken the democratic approach, even if it would mean that
some people would go to jail... I talked to people from the Syrian opposition and said:
what's the problem if some of you were imprisoned or murdered? In Palestine many


people were killed but we rose up and waged the Intifada, we fought against Israel who
is bigger than the Syrian regime, why are you afraid of jail or death? If you kept making
demands and stuck with your agenda, because the opposition must have an agenda,
they should present their agenda and fight for it. But they didn't do that, because it's all
conspiracies, people conspiring against others. The Coalition is conspiring against the
fair opposition, and the Islamists are conspiring against both. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are
conspiring against both, you think Saudi Arabia and Qatar want me to have a democracy
with opposition while they don't have that in their countries? A man was sentenced to
15 years in jail for writing a comment on a picture of Hamad. Where is the democracy
you're preaching to us while you yourselves are not democratic? So, all the peoples
must be aware of that. This is what makes the future looks scary, so many women
wearing hijab, my mother has never talked about religion, now if she comments on the
way people dress. I tell her that it has always been like this. So, even the older
generation who were progressive and modern are changing because of the media who
promotes that
TAPE 3
Samira: these things that I consider against religion, because religion means tolerance,
but these are not being tolerant, they are killing people. So, you can see how much
we're moving backwards and that is what we fear. If I want to talk about popular
movements, elections, reforms and civil wars which we talked about a lot, but we can
say that there are popular movements who are honest, has integrity and are patriotic,
we can't deny that. And there are popular movements that are patriotic but they are
being controlled by other powers. They consider themselves patriotic, they got rid of
Sadat, Hosni Mubarak and Mursi, they are patriotic, but at the same time we have to be
aware of what's behind them. For example, how does Saudi Arabia approve Sisi in Egypt
right away? This makes you think. I don't want to doubt Sisi because I think he had led a
great campaign, but why Saudi Arabia? America hasn't approved him yet while Saudi


Arabia approved him right away. I can interpret this by saying that Saudi Arabia is
against the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical Islamist movement, but what are the
dimensions? I'm afraid of the dimensions, as Egypt now is going through an economic
crisis and they need money, so the fear is that Saudi Arabia would try to intervene in
order to control the decision making. This is what one might fear, but I'm not afraid
because the Egyptians are aware of that and that they don't want anything from
anyone, they told Qatar to take back their deposit, Qatar wanted to rent the Suez Canal,
which means that Suez canal will be a passage for Israeli ships and the ships of Arabs'
enemies. So, look how far things have gone, Suez Canal was once nationalized and now
Mursi wanted to rent it to Qatar, that's unbelievable, that's too much political
manipulation. As I said, the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon was just a big
show, and there were big plans behind it but they didn't work, they didn't work at the
time, but they gave way to what happened in Syria later on, and whoever sees the
tunnels and the preparations will know that all this was arranged when they didn't
succeed in their plan to overthrow the Syrian regime by the Syrian army that had
withdrawn from Lebanon, so they started using other tools by letting mercenaries n,
Chechnyans, Caucasian, Afghanis and others, they pumped Islamists in to fight on the
opposition's side. That was the end of the Coalition, because there was a good
opposition that refused the war against their country, like Haitham Manna'a in Paris,
like Qadri Jameel, these are people who put their country first, this is the real
opposition, they have a political agenda, they know what they want, while the others
came with a different approach connected to the West, to Saudi Arabia, Israel and
America. That's my take on that issue. We can talk about women empowerment,
actually we only hear about women empowerment, every year we hear that the UN has
put together a program to empower women, we see bits and pieces of it reach women
but the biggest part goes for the administrations, the project manager takes 5 thousand
dollars - of he's a foreigner- to run that project. Where does he get it from? From the
money dedicated to empower women. Okay, then we call for a comprehensive meeting
to discuss the main ways to empower women. Do women need daily seminars? Or do


they need to be qualified in order to be able to work and be empowered? And creating
job opportunities for those without jobs. The way we understand women
empowerment, political empowerment depends on economic empowerment. We used
to ay and we still say that if women get liberated economically they would be liberated
politically and socially. Working women have the ability to say no to things. This is what
leads to women empowerment. Believe me, we've been talking about women
empowerment since 1967, but we need to look into the practical ways of empowering
women. For example, there's a project by the EU now that aims to empower women by
teaching them embroidery, and help them to promote their products in Europe, in a
way that suits Europeans. But we've been working for 50 years and Europeans buy our
products. The money that would be paid for the trainer and the training could be
spared, why would we need 350 thousand dollars for this? I implemented a women
empowerment program for 5 thousand dollars and women graduated from it into the
labor market, I taught them how to make leather products like belts and whatnot, I
taught them how to coordinate flowers for party, you need to observe the needs of
society, and women started to work, I taught them how to shoot videos at women
parties, they don't like to let a man do that job. That's it, it's a simple skill, but instead of
paying a salary for the coordinator I buy cameras for women to work with. There are
people, I don't know who they are but I liked what they did, they held sewing courses
for women, and by the end of the course they gave each woman a sewing machine. So,
if she had to fix or mend any clothes she would do it herself, instead of paying someone
else to do it. If her neighbor needed something she could do it for her and charge her
for it, this is women empowerment, but to keep pumping money to administrators
saying it's for women empowerment, I find this really alarming, or to bring people from
Norway to give me their experience for money, to take 100 thousand dollars from
Canada or Norway to empower women, why? I could use the money to create a project
for women, it's better than brining trainers. Besides, this doesn't suit my situation as a
Palestinian. I want to empower the women in the camps, create cooperatives for them.
You know, the project I liked the most was a project done by UNICEF, where they give


loans, it was run by the Palestinian Women's Federation, I don't know if you've met
Amna Jibreel
Intreviewer: I will, inshallah
Samira: Let her tell you about this project. This project was run by the Palestinian
Women's Federation, it gives each woman a certain amount of money to do her own
project, and two months later she starts to repay the loan in small payments, and then
they tell the five women who took loans to do a project together, take a bigger amount
of money and work with it, which will make them grow, and they did, and women are
the most likely to pay off these loans. The Palestinian Women's Federation raised the
cap on the loans, it started to give 5 thousands, 7 thousands, 3 thousands, not just 500
or 1000 or 200 dollars. And their projects were successful. Such projects empower
women and make them productive. Besides, they look into the things required to
increase the productivity of a factory for example, and they give them the money need
for that to improve it, because this factory provides jobs for 40 women, I have 40 or 50
women sometimes, I have an embroidery factory, sometimes when I have a delivery to
America I hire those women with no qualifications, I teach them and make them
qualified through my friends who show them how to mix colors and do the designs. This
doesn't require money, why should I use 2000 dollars from my capital for that and work
only with 3000? No, I want to work with all the 5 thousand dollars. And I call for women
to come work with me and I pay them per piece, if they ask for 7000 Liras I give them
8000, I don't want to be unfair with you, take 8000 and give me something good. That is
what we're working on. We've held 2 courses with the World Labor Organization last
year, 2 courses, one in the North in Nahr Al-Bared and Ain Al-Hilweh, and they were
great, 33 ladies attended the courses, and when the rest knew about the course they
wanted to come, so we told them we'd hold another one. It didn't cost us anything. So,
let's take that approach in our work, to lower the administrative expenses and pump it
into the production process, that's how you empower women, you provide them with
work. There's also the issue of selling your products, if you want to keep working you
need to sell what you produce. So, this needs cooperation with committees outside. I


know people in America who buy my products and they ask me to provide them with
those products. We've just sent a delivery today, and there were others before it.
Women call me and tell me they want work because they have no work. So, this is the
good thing that empowers women economically and at the same time they develop
their skills. But I can't pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project that doesn't
empower women, and then each of them would go work on her own or find a job at
some factory. That's what we discuss with global organizations, and it has been
discussed more than once at the ESQUA???? (minute 12:10), Rabei' Bashour, head of
that department at ESQUA, we've discussed these issues with him several times, and he
would write his recommendations but we need someone to come up with an idea so
that they could support it. They find a lot of organizations to work with them, but I don't
agree to do any work that wouldn't empower women, but there are people who find
organizations to work with them and they see it as an opportunity when the
organization is provided with funds. How much this woman would benefit, I don't know,
all I care about is that the woman benefit from this. I want this project to succeed and
carry on not because of the project itself, but rather to spread our heritage and develop
it and so that women could benefit from it, because they support their families and
children. So, I think there is a lot of negligence towards women empowerment. Listen,
I'll tell you something. In Syria, before all these things happened, the Syrian Women's
Federation was spread over the entire Syrian countryside. There were cooperatives
inside the Syrian countryside, they had a pioneering experience, I don't know how
people change 180 degrees all of a sudden. They had a pioneering experience among
women. For example, a woman farmer starts a cooperative, she grows crops in her land
and they buy the produce. They give her the money. They had great experiences in the
Syrian countryside, but war is brutal, nobody knows what other agonies it will inflict on
people. All international organizations now are preparing themselves to go into Syria
and start their work. They are waiting, they stopped pumping money into Lebanon,
waiting for what will happen in Syria. If those won, I don't like to call them opposition
because opposition must be democratic and progressive, but if these armed forces won


who would support them? CIA bodies will ome to work with them in order to keep them
on their feet. That's how I imagine it in case the regime failed, I'm not saying the regime
will achieve democracy, no regime can achieve democracy to all people, no regime in
the world can do that, even in America, no regime can achieve democracy to all people,
there will always be people who are abused, any political opponent will be persecuted,
everywhere. So, if the regime stayed they need to bring in the people who do real and
proper social work, not those using social work as a cover, there's a difference here. But
there are many people who would take social work as a cover, and that what becomes
difficult afterwards, like when they tried to go into Egypt, now Egypt has limited their
access. After the Muslim Brotherhood, many European and American organizations
came into Egypt. I don't know if you have any other question that we didn't talk about.
Interviewer: Yes, I have questions. If we could we go back in time, when did you come to
Lebanon?
Samira: in 1970 when I got married, I used to live in Syria before that. I came to Lebanon
in 1970,1 got married and lived in Ain Al-Hilweh camp.
Interviewer: After that, did you go to university?
Samira: No, I didn't go to university, I studied by affiliation with the Arab University of
Beirut, but I didn't go to it, I just went to do the exams. I came back to study in 1970
after stopping for a while. I stopped for a while.
Interviewer: Why?
Samira: Because it was hard to go into Lebanon.
Interviewer: what did you study at university?
Samira: Business administration. Before enrolling in the Arab University I was enrolled in
the Lebanese university, and then I stopped for a while, I couldn't enter Lebanon, I
didn't get a permission to enter it. After I got married I came here and I enrolled in the
Arab university, my house was close to Sabra. I lived in Saida at first, in Ain Al-Hilweh, in
1971 I moved to Beirut and I started to attend, and I would come to do the exams. I
didn't attend regular classes.
Interviewer: So you were here during the war?


Samira: Yes, I came to Lebanon in 1970, the uprising of the camps was still on, which
started in 1969. I used to hear about what was going on, newspapers were banned,
people were banned from gathering in coffee houses, we weren't allowed to read
newspapers at cafes, we took them home, the internal security forces were taking over
the camps as well as the intelligence forces which were called Division 2. At the gates of
every camp there was an intelligence office. The security forces didn't carry weapons,
only clubs, but those clubs were effective deterrents. When I came to the camp there
was the 1969 uprising, and the camp was run by the PLO. First the confederations run it
and then in 1971 it was run by the PLO, after the events in Jordan. So, there were
improvements. People were allowed only to build roofs of tin, you know tin? It's a kind
of metal, they weren't allowed to use it to build roofs. After 1969/1970 up until the
1980's there was a golden chance, everyone built houses in the camps. Those houses
you see in the camps are all new. Between 1948 and 1969 they weren't allowed to build
full houses, they could build walls but the roofs were only allowed to be made of tin,
and because of all that there was an uprising against the Lebanese government, and the
security forces and intelligent forces were kicked out of the camps. They weren't
allowed to move between camps, I don't know if they told you that, but they had to take
permission to move from one camp to another within Beirut, if they wanted to visit
family, from 1948 to 1967. If they wanted to go to a camp in Tripoli they would need an
intelligence clearance, where they'd ask about the reason of the visit, it could be a
funeral or a wedding or just a visit, you needed permission for that. This is how things
were in Lebanon until 1969. So, Palestinians in Lebanon were very relieved when the
resistance came to Lebanon, when the PLO entered Lebanon and there was an official
Palestinian representation, before that all parties were secret, the Arab Nationalist
Movement was secret. The Syrian Social Nationalist party was secret, Ba'ath party was
secret. All those were secret parties, and if anyone was known to belong to a party, they
would be arrested. My husband, before we got married, was arrested many times, then
he fled from Lebanon to Syria and lived in Syria. He went back to Lebanon sometime
between 1969 and 1970


Interviewer: During that time, were you working in Ain Al-Hilweh?
Samira: Yes, when I came to Lebanon? Yes, I loved in Ain Al-Hilweh camp, I lived there
for 2 years, from 1970 to 1972, I moved to Beirut because of our work but I worked in
Ain Al-Hilweh, and honestly, my first work in Lebanon was in Ain Al-Hilweh, I was in
charge of women in the Popular Front, in Ain Al-Hilweh, Sur, Saida and all these areas. I
felt there was a lot of awareness here among women, more than now. I don't know,
people before had more awareness, they knew who the enemy was, there wasn't as
much religious estremism, now we have religious organizations and religious parties,
and they shut the women in, now we have women who are too liberated, other who are
too shut-in, and very few women who are moderate. My daughters and I as well as
other 3 women in the family are the only ones not wearing a headscarf, and we are a big
family, everyone wears a headscarf, but I'll tell you, if it's out of faith, if they are doing it
out of their belief that it's a religious duty then it's okay, but they wear it as a fad, they
wear make-up and everything but they wear a headscarf, so that sight in itself is
alarming; it's easy to lure these girls who are as young as 17 or 18 into becoming
extremists. They tried a lot, for example, in the area were my husband's family still lives
in Ain Al-Hilweh, and where I have a house too, we weren't used to seeing a lot of
r4adical practices, but now they are on the rise... That's my son, the youngest one, we
still call him the baby.
Interviewer: Did you continue to work during the war or was it difficult?
Samira: Of course. It's difficult with all the shelling and bombing, but you can't stop, you
should be a role model for the people, during the consecutive wars, like the civil war, we
worked a lot, we were with the people and the relief missions all the time. I know Amna
from the relief missions, the Women's federation had a major role, I was a member in
the general secretariat of the federation and now I'm a member of the conference of
the federation. I really love the federation because through it I worked with diverse
women, not only women from the Popular Front, and thus I formed a wide range of
relations which were carried on, even political views didn't affect the human
relationships between women, and that's very important. The women's Federation


worked a lot during wars in humanitarian aid and relief, there was even a fighting squad
of women, they were trained to protect the areas, especially in 1982, it took a lot of
guards to prevent the enemy from infiltrating us, the enemy could dress in any way and
gain access, there wasn't an army to protect the country. So, we used to make hot meals
for the fighters, and we would bring it to their locations, during all wars, the war in the
south, the 1982 war, the civil war, women were the fuel for all these, women did so
much work to be proud of. In the 2006 war I volunteered with the Norwegians, I was in
charge of the relief boxes, because I had no role to play in my organization because it
wasn't a relief organization, so I told them I wanted to volunteer with them and I was
assigned with the packing, I had around 100 young men and women who were packing
the boxes to help the people, so I feel that I have made a contribution by doing that. My
children too were helping the people in Sanaye' area. The first relief convoy was led by
my son to the South. It carried provisions and whatnot and it was driven by my son and
his friends to the south. People would say: how could your son go? I'd say: well, I went
there myself before. I was in the base and I would go anywhere. My husband's mother
was a very kind woman, she would offer to take care of the children so that I can go
wherever I wanted, so she raised my children, technically. So, I was very active because
there was someone to take care of my kids. So, I can't forget those days, long before
1982, even during the civil war we would go to the South and take hot meals to the
fighters there, because they couldn't cook, they would eat sardines and falafel and
whatnot, they couldn't cook, so each weak we would go to one place and we would
sleep over there and then come back, we were a group of women. We would cook,
bring the meals to them, sleep in the base and then come back the next day. There was
a memorable intimate relation and everyone still knows me to this day because of that
intimate relation. So, I can say that, thanks to God, I did something with my life. I was
here during all the wars that came over Lebanon, I didn't leave. After 1982, my husband
was arrested and then he was banished to Tunisia. I didn't leave, but later on when he
moved from Tunisia to Syria we lived there for a year in 1985 and I came back here in


1986. I couldn't stay there, although I was raised in Syria and I love it, but most of the
people I know are here,.
Interviewer: Regarding your work with women, do you use laws such as those of the UN,
CIDAW...
Samira: Yes, you mean the civil status law? By the way, we hold a session each month to
take about a certain subject. Such as discrimination against women, women rights, even
divorced women who are raising their children, everyone. We also hold sessions to raise
health awareness, and sometimes we train them on new things. Because, people do not
just come to attend a seminar anymore, or to hear a speech, they like to come to work
and learn through that work. Learning through work. So, we give them embroidery work
to do ad at the same time we hold meetings for them to raise awareness among
women, and this is the best thing to do, you can't bring them just to attend a seminar,
we found that to be futile. It could be beneficial for a while but then they start asking:
what now? There is now a campaign against discrimination against women and another
one against the government called "My nationality is my right and my children's right".
We participate in that too because we are subject to the Lebanese law, so anything that
happens benefits us. If a foreign woman married a Palestinian they don't register her
Interviewer: Is there coordination with the organizations?
Samira: With the Lebanese? Yes. There is constant coordination; we attend the meeting
with them all the time. I'm a member with them and I attend the extensive meetings
where they discuss issues of activism. We coordinate with a well-known body such as
the Women's Rights Board, the Lebanese Women's Council sometimes - if they invite us-
, the committee for women's affairs, seldom with the government. The committee for
women's affairs where there's that woman, Sharaffddin, what was her first name?
Interviewer: Fahmiyya?
Samira: Yes, Fahmiyya. I forgot her name because I know Fatima and Najat... Yes,
Fahmiyyah Sharaffeddin. We coordinate with them in many issues, even the issues of
labor rights, we coordinate that with them. So, there is cooperation, we started to do
that during the wars, that's why I'm telling you you should meet Jumana Mare'i


Interviewer: I did
Samira: Really?
TAPE 4
Samira: during all wars, we used to coordinate and work together as a group of women,
so this relationship carried on, a lasting and growing relationship. Jumana is a great lady.
Jamana Mar'ie is an open-minded woman and she sympathizes with Palestinians a lot.
She understands everything. I'm glad that you met her, this is someone you should
meet, you should meet Amna too, she lived under siege in Shatella once. Amna
Suleiman from the women federation, she was caught under siege in Shatella when the
war broke out in Shatella camp, Amna was there, that's another kind of women
struggle. There are many struggling women, not necessarily involved in political work,
but they built families, raised and educated their children, and these are mothers one
should be proud of as they raised their children to become doctors, engineers, lawyers
and whatnot. These mothers should be honored, as well as the mothers of martyrs.
These things are very important, you can't just focus on those involved in political or
social work, some people weren't involved in any kind of work but they built great
families in the society, these are too women who deserve our respect.
Interviewer: I met some people who left political parties after the PLO pulled out of
Lebanon. You stayed in the Popular Front?
Samira: Yes, I stayed, I'm still with them. In 1993 I wasn't nominated for the central
committee but I remained a member. Political work gives us awareness in order to tell
the difference, so that when an NGO comes from America or Canada for example you
should be aware as to know who are these people, what they want, what's their
purpose, if you don't have awareness you will be carried away without realizing it. Did
they come all the way from Canada to support us for purely social reasons? No, there
must be other motives. Awareness is very important and it is not formed outside
political parties but rather inside them. The more political awareness you have, the


more successful you can be in your social work. Social work is very useful, this is a very
important point, because many people feel disappointed by political parties for not
achieving anything, so they establish a small organization which turns eventually into a
religious institute, they get pulled towards religious issues spontaneously. In Palestine,
especially in the West Bank, after the first and the second Intifadas many women
leaders left the political parties. I think this is wrong, even if you just go there once a
month to see where they stand, that gives you awareness, and not at the expense of...
look, some people left the parties for certain reasons, such as being managers of
institutions or something like that, that doesn't last for a long time. Or if there is a
conflict of interest between the party and the institution so they choose the institution,
one of those is Riyad Al-Maliki, he was in the Popular Front, there was a conflict of
interest between him and the party so he chose to be with Abbas, he's now one of
Mahmoud Abbas's men. Maybe he considers himself a leader now, but he was a leader
under occupation, not in the light. He was a leader under occupation, now in the light
everyone can show up, it's normal, but all the secrecy and the work and the main
struggle, all of that is in the shade when you are working secretly, you work without
being recognized. When that is done publicly you find that those who become leaders
are the opportunists, you know what that means? Someone who wants to climb their
way to a certain position. They offer him a position so he gives everything up for that
position. While in secret work, people who are really firm and solid are the ones who
last. We faced a lot of problems like this, many people left our party and joined the
authority, even in the Popular Front, this is no secret. There was a conflict of interest
between them and the party so they chose to be with the authority. They left the party,
many young men, some of them are professors in sociology and whatnot. And this is... I
don't know. They hold esteemed positions now but everyone knows they left the
Popular Front for the authority. So they know, even FATAH and the authority knows, so
they know they have them in the bag. In the first phase when the men went into
Ramallah, the Front was against running for the elections, but there were people who
wanted to run for the elections, there were two different opinions and that is quite


natural in all parties, confederations and countries, there were two different opinions,
but when the party made its decision, one should stand by the party's decision; because
it's a collective decision, they know more than we know as individuals. That doesn't
wipe out my personality, I'll keep in mind that you took a wrong decision, but I don't
leave the party. Leaving the party means you're going somewhere else. They'd say they
didn't leave and that they are still with the national approach, you are with the national
approach but when you elect someone or vote for someone it will be in favor of the
other side. So, there were some issues here. When there's a conflict of interest between
the party's interests and personal interests, one always chooses their own interests over
the party's, and that is a person, I don't want to describe them as giving priority to their
own interests over everything else, but... someone might say they are tired and they
want to find a job and settle down, many people are like that, it's their right, I might say
now that I'm tired and I want to stay home, it's my right, but I don't side with the
opponents. But the men who left didn't take the opponent side, they said they had an
opinion and the Front didn't understand it and hence was the disagreement. Most of
them are decent people with a struggle record, we can't say about someone who spent
30 years of their life in the struggle that they are not strugglers just because of one year.
I don't accept that, but many people left the parties, men and women, not only women.
Besides, when there's hostility towards women, it's difficult, I'm like you, we're doing
the same work, why would you stand against me? Why would you want to replace me
with someone with less awareness just because he is a man? This hurts too. So, parties
did women injustice. There are a lot of mistakes, but that doesn't mean I have to leave,
no. Because it's a long struggle, social struggle is good, being among people, and the
political struggle too, if you're a politician working among people you get to convey
good messages to people. I was told that I could be murdered by Islamists, but this
approach doesn't lead to the liberation of Palestine. I'm convinced that the approach
taken by the Ismlamist organization doesn't lead to the liberation of Palestine. I'm
convinced with that, and it was shown, if we take Hamas and Fatah for example, Hamas
ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood, not with the Palestinian national resolution.


Your interest in Egypt and Syria is to be a resistance movement, their internal affairs in
none of your business, but they took one side over the other, they sided with Muslim
Brotherhood as a party, which means they are part of the Muslim Brotherhood now,
they didn't set themselves apart from the MB. They adopted their opinion. So, these
parties look like so strong but with time they are exposed to people, people used to
think that Hamas was going to liberate Palestine with the operations and everything,
but now they are wondering where Hamas is, they are in Qaradawy's bag. You know
Qaradawy? He's the leader of the MB around the world, and he's sponsored by Qatar.
Hamas is now with Qaradawy. So, this will not liberate Palestine, Qaradawy will not
liberate Palestine. So, there are things that are just self-evident, and one must be aware
of them. Hoshomino in Vietnam said that religion is the opium of the masses, and we
are seeing now that religion is destroying nations. It's destroying the land, the people,
the civilization, they don't want civilization, they want to go back to tents and camels
and to controlling people like sheep. This makes me sad. Islamic conquests reached
Spain, to Tareq Ben Ziyad mountain that was called after him, Muslims back then
weren't extremists like the ones we have now who are made by CIA and Israel, they
bring people to teach them religion like they want them to learn it, and then spread
them around the world, and this is harmful for all the world, not only Arabs, it is harmful
for Arabs and none-Arabs. Ad we will see the results of that, not now, later on. Those
are who were called by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Al-Khawarej, those who went
outside the path of religion. We Arabs are Muslims by nature, even Muslims and
Christians, we embrace religion as a faith, as a legislative vision, but not as reason to kill
people, this is not a vision, it's a deviation from religion, killing Christians just because
they are Christians? You're not God. We don't have such things in the Quran, if you read
the Holy Quran, I don't know if you have an English version of the Quran but if you read
it you will not find this in religion, we don't have that. What they are doing to religion is
like what they do in politics, they are manipulating it so that they could control people.
It poses a future problem for women, because men still didn't get rid of these thoughts
and it's easy for them to come back and to become extremists, extremism happens so


fast for us, it happens faster than progress. That's why Hoshomino said religion is the
opium of the masses. A sheikh might bring all the people on his side, but if a Marxist
spoke they might call him an infidel, so that's why Hoshomino was secular, religion is for
God and the country is for all the people. What else would you like to ask?
Interviewer: May I ask about your best memories? on the personal or professional level
Samira: On the level of my cause, the best thing about my life is that I got involved in
political work so that I would understand everything, because now when I see people
who do not understand everything I think that I could've been like them had I not
worked, joined the revolution, joined a party, married Salah Salah, gave birth to these
children who are all like me and like their father, thank God. They are all educated and
they were great in their different positions. That's the best thing about my life, on the
personal level. On the professional level the best memory I have is when I was in the
municipality hall in Homs and I greeted President Jamal Abdul Nasser in person. This is
something I will never forget. I greeted many presidents in person after that, Ali Nasser,
Ben Bella, Abu Ammar who liked me a lot, George Habash, and Wadee' Haddad... but
that was my best memory. I consider that ever since that day I chose this as my path. I
imagine that this is what pushed me to always work with the people and for my cause.
There are many other things, but I can say that these are the most important things.
There's also another thing I never forget, which is my teacher at school, she might be
dead now, I don't know anything about her, her name was Enaya Wafa'ei, she taught
me how to learn the Arabic language, how to read, she told me that even if I found a
paper on the street I should pick it up and read it. She told that to all the girls, not to me
in particular. So, she taught me to persevere in reading and commitment, she was a
Nasserist too, and she made me give my first speech, so I'm proud of that teacher. I'm
also proud of my family, my father, my mother, my mother in law, they are all people
who contributed to the development of my personality, each of them in their own way.
If I married and couldn't keep up with my work I would've been an ordinary woman
now, cooking and cleaning, but this main contribution gave me encouragement. I also


have many friends, we love each other and we had nice memories together, mostly in
Syria, I have friends in Homs who I always ask about and follow their news.
Interviewer: are you worried about them?
Samira: Well, they are out of the danger zone right now, I was worried about them in
the beginning for sure. I had a wish to see Palestine. I got a permission to go there on
three occasions, but I couldn't, I don't know why. I didn't go, I stopped in the last
minute. One of those times I couldn't go for reasons out of my hands, it was the
Women's conference, I could have been a member in the general secretariat of the
federation but since I didn't attend they couldn't elect someone who was absent. The
other two times were the meetings of the national council. I don't regret not attending
these events but I regret not going to Palestine, I might not be able to go now. You
know. When I was a baby in Haifa I was wounded here and I still have the scar, an Israeli
man tried to kill my father and the bullet hit me, but since it was fired from a long
distance, it was a minor injury, I still have the scar, you can feel it here... it was in Haifa,
so my parents thought one of the children hit me, I as putting my hand here, I was two
years old, they asked who had hit me, so I removed my hand and my teeth fell out with
the bullet, but since it was fired from a long distance, it didn't do much harm. They took
me to the hospital in Haifa and got it stitched right away. So, I wrote these down, I'm
writing them down. My father told me that when he was moving back and forth
between Tiberias and Haifa, he always had some guns or ammunition to deliver to
someone, and since I was a baby he used to hide them between my clothes, because
they didn't inspect babies, so I'm writing these things now, so that I don't forget them,
because I'm not getting any younger and one might forget. Go on while I finish this.
Interviewer: What are your worst memories?
Samira: There are a lot of bad things, that's why there are a few good ones. Many bad
things happened in our life as a Palestinian people. The worst phase or the worst thing
was Abdul Nasser's death who was like a dream for the Arab people, because we knew
it was a conspiracy, the other worst thing was... there are personal things, like the death
of my father, but in general life, the invasion of Beirut in 1982. That was the worst thing


we've ever witnessed. What can I say? Once, we were in a house in Al-Manara,
someone gave us its key to stay there. We went there because there was water and we
wanted to take baths. While we were there, the Israeli warships started to fire. My sister
in law ran out of the bathroom naked with fear. There were fireballs falling from the sky
I front of us, big fireballs blazing in front of us, we could've all died, we were around 12
people in the house. We could've all died under the shelling. And the last time, Al-
Fakihany strike, it's well-known historically, Israel struck with its planes the area where
the Palestinian leadership was, my sister and I were home alone, we went downstairs
with the neighbors. When that big missiles hit, we saw the fire coming out of it. So, we
embraced each other, closed our eyes and waited for death. When we opened our eyes,
we saw that the missile didn't hit a building, it was a building under construction, it hit a
square opening where they were preparing shelters, the water rose up 20 meters in the
air, with dust and everything, if that missile had hit the street it would've killed
thousands of people, I'm not exaggerating, this is a residential area. We survived these
two incidents, I think we survived because we all still had time to live. Another incident
was when they tried to kill my husband, twice, with no success. There are many things
that happen in one's life and it's hard to talk about all of them because they are too
many. In 2006, there was an incident where I felt that we were victorious, even since
then I felt that were victorious. There was a Lebanese group of people who would cheer
each time Israeli missiles hit the Dahieh. But one time on that day when Hassan
Nasrallah was giving a speech and said "Now, our valiant fighters are hitting the Israeli
warship in Lebanese territorial waters" and it was hit, we saw it on TV. I was deeply
moved by someone who stood on his porch and screamed "Allahu Akbar! Wake up
people! We hit the Israeli warship". That warship was firing on people and children and
women. You wouldn't believe that how much that had moved me, it moved me so
deeply, because I felt that despite all this tyranny we achieved a victory. I didn't see
beyond that, but at the moment, they were firing bombs and missiles at people in
Dahieh and Beirut. This bridge was susceptible, we had left the house. But at that
moment I felt that I was victorious over the whole world. I cannot forget that moment


as long as I shall live, because they think they are strong by firing at us from afar, they
can't encounter us face to face, they only fire at us from a distance, and we don't have
the artillery to do the same to them, nobody provided us with such weapons. Only Israel
had those weapons, I mean, what would a Gazan missile do? What's the most damage it
could inflict? Destroying a wall? I'm against killing, but it wouldn't even kill a family,
while entire families were wiped out here. The Anna strike were large numbers of
people and international forces were killed. They are wiping out entire populations, not
individuals. So, that for me felt like a great victory. Of course, there were many horrible
tragedies like the murder of Ali Mustafa by a direct missile that hit his office, the murder
of many young people like Tasneem Abu Ammar, there are many things, Palestinians
could keep talking about their tragedies for 100 years and they wouldn't finish. We
cannot forget that. You want Palestine? Let's make a democratic state where there are
Jews, Christians and Muslims, where we could all live in peace, and believe me, we
would conquer the world. Believe me, because the Palestinian people are full of life, and
they can't give them up. They wouldn't. You say you want a Palestine for you and I want
a Palestine for me, then let's make a democratic state, why have two states? why would
you take my land and give me a small fraction of it and tell me to have two states, what
are the basic elements of this state? It doesn't have borders, there are Israeli soldiers
along its borders with Jordan, and there is no road to link between Gaza and Jericho.
They have a purpose behind that, they surrendered Gaza anyway because they didn't
want it, they wanted to get rid of it, they didn't give it up to form a state in Gaza and the
West Bank, and they created problems in order to separate them again, but Gaza in
particular was surrendered by Israel to get rid of it, and then in the future it would be
under the Egyptian jurisdiction and whoever rules Egypt would control the corssings. So,
that's it. It's hard. It's very hard. My children had visited Palestine, my daughter has a
foreign passport and the other married a foreigner so they managed to enter Palestine
and they went to our house in Tiberias. How come that I'm kicked out of my house
that's been there for thousands of years and then an American, Russian, or French Jew
would reside in it? They weren't in Palestine, they immigrated to Palestine. The Eastern


Jews were living with us. My aunt visited Tiberias 10 or 12 years ago, through the Red
Cross. Her neighbors told her: "we wish you stayed here, those were the days! Now
Easter Jews have no power, we work as porters, we wash dishes and collect waste, we
have no power, the European Jews who immigrated to Palestine have all the power. We
wish that you stayed here and we remained like the old days smoking argeelah
together" - My aunt smoked argeelah and they used to smoke it with her- "We wish that
things had remained the same". So, they gathered Jews from all over the world to
establish a state, but these people will finally go back to their countries if they didn't
find the basics of the state, with wars all the time, Israel went to war against everyone,
in the end these people will say for example: "We're French, we'll go back to our
country. We are Jews, that's right, but we are French Jews. If you want to build a state
then you and your children can defend it." You will find that the Eastern people are the
ones who will stay, and the Eastern Jews - as we hope- will stay with us to build a state
where Jews, Christians and Muslims are equal citizens. So, this is what we hope, it'sa
dream of course, but someone once told me when I was at university - I didn't know he
was Israeli- he was an intelligence agent
TAPE 5
Interviewee (later 2.): ... in the West Bank and he's retired, [inaudible] was sitting at the
same table as me, but he wasn't wearing his badge, so I didn't know who he was. I was
also not wearing my badge and next to me was a Frenchman who was speaking Arabic.
So we were all talking about the book that my daughter had wrote, which was being
published in Tiberias. She had written it in French. So, he says to me: "Don't even dream
of it!" So I said: "You can't stop the dream." I asked him who he was and he told me
some name. Then the person next to me told me that that man used to be the head of
intelligence in the West Bank. So I looked at him and said: "So you're the murderer of
nations?" I told him that I thought that intelligence to be the worst evil in the world and
that he had no business being here at a humanitarian conference. After saying that of


course, I was very upset and I couldn't contain myself. A man sitting next to him was
translating to him what I was saying, because his Arabic wasn't too good. Or maybe he
just didn't want to speak Arabic. To be honest, my English isn't that good either, so we
didn't speak for long. The person next to him was a Briton, who was married to a
Palestinian woman from Beit Jala. He said: "My wife is Palestinian." So I immediately
answered: "So, this means there is a Palestine." Palestine lives and they're the ones
trying to wipe it away. Palestine exists and is a recognized country. He might not, but
there are many that do. After that, a waiter came to the table to serve the food and
asked if we were Arab and I said yes. He told us that he was Palestinian - he was about
20 years old. So, I said to that guy - I think his name was Shlomo - that young man is 20
years old, which means he was born after 1948. He wasn't even born there; he was born
in Kuwait, but he identifies himself as Palestinian. So long as there's a nation that
identifies as Palestinian, we will get our Palestine back. Our conversation ended after
that, as Tony Blair was starting to give his speech and others. Next morning, he found
me sitting at a table with some people at breakfast - I didn't know them all, but we
were a group of Arabs sitting together and some non-Arabs. I asked a Syrian sitting next
to me: "Who is this sitting next to you?" He said it was a Syrian Jew, but that he had
emigrated from Syria. Shlomo, who was sitting at the other end of the dining hall came
over and said to me: "I hope you slept well." And I replied: "At least, I didn't see you in
my dreams." He gave me an angry look. I said to him: "Do you know how this whole
predicament will be solved?" "How?" he asked. I said: "This man here is a Syrian Jew
and he can go back to Syria. You're from Turkey and you'll go back there. This man is
from Saffuriya and he'll go back to Saffuriya. I'm a Palestinian from Tiberias and I'll go
back to Tiberias. That's how we should do it. We don't want you to go on killing us and
we don't want to go on killing you. We should all go back where we came from." He just
turned around and walked away. I guess he didn't like what I had to say. He was a
Turkish Jew, the other and Syrian Jew and the third a French Jew and so on. All coming
together to control the Middle East, with their different nationalities and their Zionism.
We can't help the fact that they have different nationalities, but with the Zionism - It


doesn't work. That day was the first time I've ever spoken to an Israeli. I found it really
upsetting. I couldn't believe that he was there, sitting right in front of me. Next to me
sat a girl called Dalal Salameh. Have you met her? I think she lives in the Balata Camp.
She was a member in the legislative council.
Interviewer (later .1): I've met Dalal, but her last name wasn't Salameh.
2. Not Salameh? What was it then? Was the Dalal you met a member of the legislative
council?
1. She was a lawyer.
2. That's a different Dalal, then. So Dalal Salameh says to me: "Why did you let it bother
you? In Ramallah, we have to see them every day, and fight them every day." I told her
that we had never seen them. When they came into Beirut we didn't see them or go to
the areas they were at. I had only passed one checkpoint at that time and after that I
didn't leave the house. We were hiding.
1. Is there anything that I haven't asked about that you would like to add? Something
you feel is important?
2. No. Would you like to ask about anything else? I have nothing else to add. I hope we
meet again. Maybe we'll meet in Palestine; you never know what the future will bring. I
really want to go to Haifa, to the house where I was conceived (?) It's on Nasreh Street,
so if you're ever there, you should go there. I think it's still called Nasreh Street. We
used to live there in a big house - according to my father - at the top of a small hill. I
don't know if it's still there. In Tiberias, our house in the Arab quarter is behind the
mosque - There is only one mosque in Tiberias. It's my grandfather's house.


Full Text
Interview with Samira Salah
2013

TAPE 1

Interviewer (later 1.): To start things off, I would like to ask you about your place and date of birth.
Interviewee (later 2.): I was born in Tiberias, Palestine in 1944. I later moved to Haifa with my family, because my father worked there at a British company called the Refinery. We lived in Haifa for two years, then moved back to Tiberias and from there we went to Irbid, then Damascus and finally to Homs in Syria
1. So you spent your childhood in Syria?
2. I spent all my school years in Homs and during that time, we moved to Damascus but then returned to Homs again. We did that twice, because of father’s work. Then I came to Lebanon to attend the Beirut Arab University. I worked in Saudi Arabia for four years as a teacher. It was an experience that I was excited about, because the country felt mysterious to me. I wanted to learn about how people there think. They’re wonderful people and so we must make a distinction between the government and the people. The people are very kind, giving and simple.
1. During which years was this?
2. From 1965 till 1969. First I worked with an organization called the Arab Nationalist Movement, whose founders were George Habash and Wadie Haddad. Other founders included member from other countries such as Ahmad Al-Khatib from Kuwait and some from the Yemeni Democratic Party, because it’s called the Arab Nationalist Movement and not the Palestinian Nationalist Movement. I worked at that organization as a volunteer from 1961, when the United Arab Republic collapsed, till the founding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1967. After that I went on to work with the PFLP. I went from working in teaching to working at the Palestinian Research Center and later I worked in unions and in women’s right movements. The work I most enjoyed doing was when I was working with the people. I worked as the director of bureau for Palestinian refugee affairs in Lebanon, which was part of the PFLP. I lived through that period working with people in the camps and the popular committees. You can say, I worked in diverse fields; women’s rights movement, unions and with popular committees in the refugee camps. Now after I’ve retired from my job, I work on a voluntary basis – usually my political work was all voluntary. I didn’t get paid for it – as a member of the Palestinian National Council. I have four children with my husband, who is also a member of the Palestinian National Council. That’s us! We had high hopes of returning and we still do, and we’re working towards that goal. Now I’m working on the issue of the right of Palestinians to employment and ownership in Lebanon. The committee for the right to employment includes members from the Ministry of Labor, UNRWA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, civil society organizations, both Palestinian and Lebanese. These committees deal with human rights issues such as the right to employment and the right to ownership. I am the PLFP representative in the committee for the rights of Palestinian refugees to employment in Lebanon. That’s all I can say about… I’m from a family that… In the beginning, my father worked at the refinery and then after we moved to Syria as refugees, he worked at the IBC, which was a British company in Homs, which is why we moved between Homs and Damascus and then settled in Damascus after he retired. My father was always fighting for the rights of workers – you cannot say that he was bourgeois at all. He was a worker at the beginning who got promoted in the line of his work.
Aren’t there any others? Okay.
That’s about it, I guess. I have four brothers and seven sisters. I’m the second eldest of my sisters.
1. When did you start becoming politically active?
2. Actually I started – and this might surprise you… Our family has always been patriotic and when the Egyptian revolution took place in 1953, I didn’t fully understand the situation, because I was still young, but my father used to always talk to my siblings and me about the political situation and about the different political systems, such as monarchies and republics and what the differences were between them. So, when the revolution happened in 1953, it was the time we were just starting to be aware of the political situation and then when the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt took place in 1956, we were a bit more mature by then. I held my first speech at that time; I was in fifth grade. My teacher, Ms. Enaya Wafa’i, at the time at my school in Bab El-Sbaa’a – which is an area that has been in the news often lately, was very patriotic, asked me to say a few words. I was excited about the idea, but of course a bit intimidated about standing in front of my fellow students in the school yard and making a speech. My father encouraged me and told me to write something and that he would read it and help me with it. So I wrote about one page and then my father corrected the syntax for me. The next day I went to school and stood there, I was feeling anxious and excited, and I started reading my speech. I felt that I had achieved something great at that moment. It was something great for my age. It was also an important time because it was during the aggression against Egypt and after the Egyptian Revolution people were very fond of Gamal Abdel-Nasser. After that in 1958, when the United Arab Republic was founded, Abdel-Nasser was coming to Homs to see the armed forces in Homs and we, as Palestinians in Homs, wanted to stand out and so we made special maritime-inspired costumes… Before that the Syrian hero, the naval officer Jules Jammal, had sunk – I think it was a British battleship. Syria had helped Egypt during the Tripartite aggression, and Jules Jammal was a celebrated hero at the time, so I thought that maritime-inspired costumes would befit the occasion. I remember I made white and navy blue hats, and with a marker I wrote ‘Palestine’ on my hat. The others said: “Why did you do this? We wanted everyone to look the same.” And I said: “Because I want Abdel-Nasser to know that I am Palestinian.” I stepped out on to the balcony of the town hall and I shook hands with President Abdel-Nasser. It was a moment I will never forget. This of course motivated me towards political activism and journalism, so when Salah Salah – who is now my husband – came to Homs to organize the Arab Nationalist Movement… Of course, I was too young at the time to be part of anything, but he asked me if I knew anyone of if I had and teachers who Nasserists. I used to invite some to come to our house and my father used to invite some of the workers. Afterwards I became a member of the Arab Nationalist Movement and I took part in every demonstration and every event. I remember when the former Tunisian president, Bourgiba, proposed a division of Palestine; we organized a demonstration to protest his proposal. It was the first time I took a beating from the Syrian intelligence. They didn’t want any demonstrations to take place at that time, because the situation was very tense at the time, but we did it anyway. There were two different opinions at that time – the way it always is – so that’s why they didn’t allow us to demonstrate and because Bourgiba was still in Syria. It was a matter diplomacy that we didn’t understand and we wanted to be heard. After that, as a committed member of the ANM, I held many posts within the movement. I was in charge of the women’s branch of the movement in Homs and then I became in a representative of the Palestinian territories at the regional directorate in Damascus. After that I joined the PFLP and I was appointed as a member of the central committee. The last PFLP conference I attended was in 1993. I felt it was only appropriate for me to move on after 20 years on the committee and to make way for other women. You know, some don’t realize how important it is to have female representation in these committees and the quotas are always very low, so if I had stayed, there wouldn’t have been room for new female members on the central committee. I’m still a member till today, but in Lebanon and not as part of the central PFLP committee. I’m also a member of the Palestinian National Council and I am active in many different committees. This is just a summary of what I’ve done. I still haven’t gotten into detail about the fear and the worrying about intelligence agencies and being afraid of attending the meetings. My father, who had always been supportive of my activism, began asking me to step away because it was getting dangerous, but of course we laughed in the face of danger at that time. I think this would be a good time to talk about 1967. In 1967, when the war against Syria and Egypt started, we worked as volunteers to help the injured and the women who were displaced from the Golan and Quneitra. I had just come back to Syria from Saudi Arabia when the war started, so I volunteered during that summer to help out. It was, of course, a very strong blow for all Arabs, because they didn’t expect this outcome. We all had such high hopes for Abdel-Nasser and his nationalism, but it was a huge disappointment and it led to Abdel-Nasser to resign, but the people didn’t accept his resignation – I’m sure you’ve read about this. I was one of the people who were against his resignation; because the situation in the country was too difficult for its strong leader to just resign. Were there betrayals? Yes, of course, there were betrayals everywhere; whether in the Golan Heights, in Egypt within the first two days and what happened with the planes. This created a reaction among the Palestinians and at the same time they felt that they could return to their homeland soon, especially after his victory in 1956. There’s something historic about 1956, but that hasn’t been documented, in the literal sense of the word, which is the heroism of the people of Gaza in 1965. There was a Palestinian liberation army and popular Palestinian forces that fought alongside the Egyptians who were killed in the field of battle. They acted as a sort of protector of the cities that were on the banks of the Suez Canal. Many Palestinians fought bravely and were killed in that war, and those forces - which were called the Popular Liberation Forces at the time - were the beginnings of the Liberation Army and the Fedayeen movement in Gaza, of which the Gazan hero nicknamed “the Gazan Guevara”, was a part of after the Latin American hero. This is a point that is not mentioned often in historical accounts. I’m not sure why this is, but the Palestinians did play in important role in that war. Even in Syria, the factions of the Fedayeen and the Palestinian Liberation Army there were many that were killed in battle, defending the Syrian territories, because defending Egypt or Syria is part of defending Palestine. Every victory brings us one step closer to returning. The 1967 was very difficult for all Arab nations and the Israelis achieved a great triumph against us. Of course, during this time – I just want to say a bit about our role – we as Palestinian women in the PFLP believed that men and women must stand side by side in this war of liberation. From the very beginning it was our belief that Palestine couldn’t be liberated just by the men, but that all the Palestinian people, men and women, must fight this battle together. This was the slogan of the PFLP: “Men and women, side by side, in the war of liberation” and this slogan was the basis for our work in the PFLP. It must be noted that throughout all the stages of the Palestinian struggle that women were active in all the political parties and organizations and were also leaders in all fields: in the field, within civil society, in law, education, health services – women had a huge role in all of these. Unfortunately the recognition that women received for their contributions did not correspond to their efforts. It’s this sort of thing that is hurtful, that even the leftist parties that proposed slogans such as “Men and women, side by side, in the war of liberation” were depreciating the value of the services rendered by women. So in the top leadership positions of all political parties, even the self-proclaimed political ones, the highest percentage of women in the top positions was 15%. This goes to show that idea that women aren’t capable of being in leadership positions is still very much alive in the minds of people in the Arab world. Despite all of women’s sacrifices and feats whether as mothers, fighters, social activists, politicians, lawyers, teachers or health care professionals – after the immigration whole families were carries on the shoulders of women. The women worked to send their brothers to university – these sacrifices weren’t translated into positions in neither political parties nor in the Palestinian Authority. Their role was later marginalized the way it has been in all nations. We consider ourselves far luckier than the women who were part of the Algerian revolution, where the women fought side by side with the men, but later had a negligible role in the successive governments despite the fact that they fought with the men for a 100 years. When it comes to laws, you can see that there is some progress in terms of women’s rights in the Personal Status Law, labor laws and health care laws, but you can’t say… Maybe because we’re still a young country and a young government, nor is it fully independent. It’s still in its beginnings. But at least they were able to pass laws, even if only on paper that will take a lot of effort to implement, that are to an extent acceptable. After the defeat of Syria and Egypt in 1967, who were the main two players - Jordan was more of a secondary party. It only took the Israeli army 5 minutes to invade and capture the West Bank. There were heroin moments on the Jordanian side, but they are attributed more to individuals rather than to the government – Sadat came along and the settlement projects were being proposed, to which Sadat was being receptive. This is not to say that we were against peace, but it had to be fair peace. A peace that can give you… It’s like saying: I’m going to divide this cake between us, although you have no right to it, but just because you’re here with me, so I can share this with you. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel wasn’t just, nor were the peace treaties between Jordan and Israel and Syria and Israel, although it has to be said that Syria hasn’t signed the treaty. The least fair and just peace was the one between the Palestinian and the Israelis. They tricked the Palestinians into agreeing by telling them Hafez Assad had signed the treaty and that if they didn’t sign now they’ll lose everything. All of this was possible, because there were many whose political agendas matched this course of action, and they were the ones that pushed for the treaties and accords, whether in Camp David and Sadat visiting the Knesset, which he viewed as a triumph and I personally see as a defeat and recognition of the enemy state. He viewed it as a sign of strength, but I see it as a sign of weakness from the Egyptian regime, headed by Sadat. They should’ve been the ones going to Egypt. Why was he the one that went to them? So, the battle wasn’t equal, its results weren’t equal and the fictitious peace that was built on it was unjust. Israel wanted to get rid of Sinai, because Sinai is known for its dangers and its tribes, and the Israeli army could have been vanquished in Sinai. The same is true for Gaza; the Israelis saved themselves by letting go of Gaza. The Israelis are smarter than we are and know exactly what they want from now till the end of time. We don’t even know what we want tomorrow and that’s our biggest mistake. Israel knew what it was doing, even when it dragged the Arabs to the peace processes, it knew it would be more of a humiliation than a peace for the Arabs, because they see that they are at a position of power. Some might argue that the 1973 war was planned not by Sadat, but that plans for it were already in place during Abdel-Nasser’s rule. If this war had happened under the leadership of Abdel-Nasser we wouldn’t have had this feeble peace. They know that the Arabs killed Abdel-Nasser to make way for Sadat and they knew Sadat was softer than his predecessor and is more likely to agree to anything. The 1973 war was a stroke of luck for him; he was like a bad student who gets the right answer by chance. It was a great war and a great triumph for the Egyptians but its benefits were reaped by the wrong man and it is known plans for it were already in place before 1973. Sadat’s fault was that he tarnished this great victory by agreeing to sign the peace treaty. He should’ve waited to see how things would develop – he might have found himself at a stronger position. I’m not against peace and I do support peace fully, but it must be a fair and just peace. What peace is this while 12.000 political prisoners were still in Israeli jails? What peace is this, that Israel attacks our territories and kills our people every day? I’m sure you have been to the West Bank and have seen for yourself that at the end of every street in the West Bank there’s an Israeli checkpoint. This is not peace. This is subjugation of the Palestinian people and bullying of the weak Palestinian authority, which has been weak whether during the leadership of Abu Ammar or now under the leadership of Abbas. Abu Ammar recognized his mistakes and tried to turn things around but couldn’t and then they killed him. He might have even been killed by a Palestinian – I don’t know! Israel might have sent the poison, but who administered it? We also have traitors among us, who have given us or forsaken the Palestinian cause. Some have made fortunes and are comfortably sitting in their villas somewhere; they don’t care about who gets to go back to their homes in Palestine or whether people can visit their families that are still living there. This is what has led to the disintegration of the cause. If the Palestinian Cause is lost, then it because of the traitors, the ones who surrendered and forsake the cause and the ones who built their lands on the shoulders of the mighty Palestinian people. There are people who fought and others who hid away in their palaces and that is what needs to be rectified. Let’s imagine they took he lands that were decided upon by the UN and established a state with Jerusalem as its capital, but the enemy doesn’t want that. The enemy will only accept its sole existence. They will always want more than they are allowed in order to feel safe, not to mention the building of settlement and other things which went on after the treaties. That’s why Syria hasn’t agreed to a treaty, because it saw what happened to the others who did. It is a nationalist stand that shows the others that they were wrong to rush into the unjust peace process. What we are seeing in Syria today is a result of their stubbornness about the Golan Heights and they have the right to say that they want the Golan Heights back. It is their right because it is Syrian land. Whether Assad will fight with us in the future is unknown, but it is his prerogative as a person who sees himself as a patriot to keep demanding the return of the Golan Heights. He’ll only sign an agreement if it involves the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. It was the recklessness of the other and the recklessness of the Israelis in rushing into the peace treaties that made Syria freeze any negotiations. I don’t know what more I can add about this subject. I think up to the nineties was the golden age for Palestinians in Lebanon and if they could’ve kept it that way and not acted the way they did in Lebanon they would’ve still been strong and wouldn’t have had to leave. The 1982 war in Lebanon weakened both the Palestinians and the Lebanese, which paved the way for Sharon to enter Beirut, because the Lebanese wanted the Palestinians out; all the Lebanese, even the nationalists. There were Lebanese forces that were trained by Israel, who would carry out its bidding. History will show that in the war of 1982 there was conspiring by the Lebanese Phalanges and other Lebanese groups. Later there was national Lebanese resistance that the Palestinians backed while staying in shadows, but there was a lot conspiring from the Lebanese Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces. They had trained them and armed then and got Bachir Gemayel to power and later killed him. Bachir Gemayel thought he could fool the Israelis.

TAPE 2

Samira: the Israelis are no fools. Bachir Gemayel thought they would help him get rid of the PLO, then he would become president and then he needn't worry about them as they were on the outside. But this wasn't what they had in mind, they wanted to weaken Lebanon as a whole so that they could take over it, because Israel wants to have a monopoly on tourism, if they destroyed Lebanon so that it became weak and shaken and no tourists would go there, then after all the treats all the tourists would pour into Palestine, for us it is Palestine but they call it Israel, so people would go there. Israel had two goals behind the war, the first was to establish a Christian state in Lebanon, to displace all Muslims and to kick the Palestinians out of course, the other goal was that it would be a weak state and they would be the strong state in the Middle East that controls everything. But that didn't work out as they planned, the resistance was stronger than they thought… we can say that during that time before the peace treaties and black September there were consecutive phases one after another that led up to Black September and then the Lebanese civil war and finally the invasion of Lebanon. If they entered Jordan it wouldn't be a problem as it was a small area and they would be on the borders with Syria, but if they came to Lebanon, they considered it in the bag, but if they went to Jordan… they want to keep the king there as he was their ally. So, they came into Lebanon to kick the Palestinians out but when Bachir knew about their plan he said: "No, we had an agreement to kick the PLO out of Lebanon, and you have violated that agreement". Of course they wanted to conquer Lebanon even if for a short period of time. Entering Beirut and what happened in Black September in Jordan and here in Lebanon on September 16th when the massacres took place, that created a rift between Israel and the Kataeb party because they violated the agreement, so they asked Bachir Gemayel to go to them and he refused, so they sent someone to kill him. So, they don't want anyone to… wait, you're from Warwick University? I visited it. I just read that, sorry… so, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was the result of breaking all the barriers, by string the resistance in Jordan, in Lebanon and the Lebanese resistance, all that gave them easier access to Lebanon. There were also mistakes made by the Palestinians which we can't deny, at first, South Lebanon was a haven for the Palestinian resistance, but then South Lebanon was being harmed by the presence of the Palestinian resistance so it stopped being a haven, they weren't welcome there anymore. There was a rift, which was partially our fault, with the daily strikes by Israel, they destroyed their fields and lands, so we became a burden to the South. And there has become control and all the things we should've stayed away from, we shouldn't have been carried away with those things, but we had a leadership who wanted to control South Lebanon and Lebanon and to make their own decisions, which was a big mistake. We were guests and we should've respected that. Hence, all these things together brought us misery. As I said, between 1967 and 1990 there was progress and resistance, even progress on the Palestinian side, even on the inside, there was the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) and then the second Intifada. The first and second intifadas were planning to hit the occupation not to reach an agreement with it, but the result was an agreement with Israel, that was the main problem. Let's move on to 1991, when the invasion of Iraq happened, the main reason behid the invasion of Iraq was the invasion of Kuwait in the first place in 1990, which had an impact, and that was a mistake as the Iraqi regime could have urge the people of Kuwait to rise against… there were solutions other than occupying Kuwait. We are against the Israeli occupation, how much more difficult is it to have an Arab occupation, that's an enemy, but you are Arabs and you are occupying an Arab land. So, during that period I was against that, the Popular Front was against it too for sure, and Saddam Hussein made mistakes during that period. That was the mistake that led to all the other mistakes he's done. The mistake he had done before was attacking Iran. The Gulf countries played a role in that too, as they supported him with money and encouraged him by giving him the idea that he was protecting them from Iran. That made him attack Iran, although he didn't attack Iran on the days of the Shah, why did you attack Iran when there was a revolution in Iran? There was something wrong, you should've used Iran a an ally against the oppression in Saudi Arabia and against Israel, so how could you do that? So his big mistake was that he fought against the Iranian revolution. Everything could've been solved through treaties, was he afraid of a Shiite invasion? No. Shiite wouldn't have invaded him they didn't start the war, he did. So, there could've been treaties and agreements between neighbors as in all the Arab countries and as in Europe. Why? What's the difference? As Arabs we have more reasons to unite, in Europe they speak different languages, Spanish and Italian and English and French, and there's East Europe, yet they are in agreement, how much more should we be united when we all speak one language that is Arabic? We are supposed to be united, I'm happy with the European unity but… (chatter)
So, we can say that Saddam made a mistake, and he did so by the support of the surrounding Gulf countries who were afraid of Iran, so they were supporting him against Iran to protect themselves. And when he invaded Kuwait, they all turned against him. So, that was the main mistake. I am against the invasion of Kuwait and against attacking Iran, and that was what inflicted the misery on Iraq, they destroyed Iraq as a strong country rich with scholars and scientists, and it was proved that there weren't any chemical weapons, but there was scientists, there were intellectuals they wanted to kill and to force to migrate. Until now 200 scientists were killed during the war on Iraq, so it's become obvious what that was about. Hereby I say that, there have been many mistakes during this era, whether by Iraq, the Gulf countries especially KSA, KSA is the axis of evil in the Gulf, because it wants to become a power and doesn't know how. If Iraq, Syria and Egypt became powerful countries KSA would have no role to play, so they want to become a powerful country by hook or by crook, they want to rise over the ruins of others, and that what became obvious later on through their support of radicals and Al-Qaeda, it was obvious how they worked, their support of the Americans to invade Afghanistan, everywhere there is a revolution they provide support against it. They are against peoples' revolutions. So, they were the main reason behind that. KSA is the root of evil here and it's controlled by the USA. If we're going to talk about the period between 1990 and 2001… there was a large growth of NGO's, and NGO's had a huge role during all states wars, but they are not being appreciated as they should be or given the role they should be given. After the Lebanese war in 1982, NGO's played a major role in refugee camps, the resistance forces left and the PLO left, nobody was able to move, and people were threatened even by the Lebanese army, so the Ngo's were working within the Palestinian commun9ity and they had a major role in that, their role was represented by supporting people on the ground. But, sadly, that role wasn't given a big significance. Until now, NGO's have a role to play during wars and they lose some of their own people, they receive a lot of support and they use it to help Palestinian refugee camps, in the interest of youth, women, children… and we are proud of that role. I work at NGO's and I know how much our women and men work in that field, this invisible field. When a politician gives a speech people see him, but we work on the ground with women and with refugee camps were our role isn't visible to people, it's the role they try to hide. When a politician gives a speech he appears in the media, but all this struggle and hard work among the people in the camps isn't shown in the media. But people know that the NGO's in Lebanon, both the Palestinian and the Lebanese ones, contributed greatly to the relief of the refugee camps. UNRWA has a role in this of course because they are one of the results of the occupation, so it's only natural, the world was behind this occupation and they should be responsible for the Palestinian people, but what's the extent of that role? I can't really say. It's a limited role because it depends on the support they get. Sometimes they have programs that are irrelevant to the situation, they could be useful in the future, they are not a priority. I also want to say that the constant attacks on refugee camps compel us to have an emergency program at all times. Emergency programs are made at the expense of regular programs, that's why neither are successful, neither the emergency nor the regular programs, there's always a shortage. I don't know if you want me to proceed like this. There have been laws that were issued from 1990 to 2001. We talked about Palestinians in Lebanon in a previous interview. Between 1990 and 2001 a number of laws were issued, the most important of which was the no ownership law. All the Palestinians who owned properties, who are not a lot but not few at the same time, were harmed by that decision. Those who died couldn't bequeath their properties to their children, and if the children inherited the property they couldn't sell it or live in the real estate they inherited. And many Palestinians had bought houses they couldn't register. They registered them under someone else's name and they lost them. I'm one of those people, this house is registered under the name of a Lebanese man and I'm in the middle of a lawsuit now, I lost the house. So, it's discriminatory law, a country like Lebanon who abides by Human rights in their constitution should not do that. They might say it's to prevent Palestinians from settling in Lebanon, it's ridiculous, would I not go back to Palestine because I bought a house in Lebanon? I had houses in Palestine and I left it. So, it's not really like that, the thing is that they want Palestinians to be restricted to camps ad prevented from having a decent social status. So, between 1990 and 2001 there was a number of laws that… for example, the camps, there was an agreement in Al-Taef to discuss the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon and improve it. We worked on several issues with the Lebanese government and we presented several petitions but until now none of these petitions were fulfilled, whether by the political leadership or the popular committees or the civil society organizations, one of that was achieved. Even if you want to establish an organization, ¾ of the members must be Lebanese and the remaining quarter Palestinians, or two thirds Lebanese and one third Palestinians, and the president must be Lebanese and the general secretary Lebanese as well as the treasurer, these are the simplest of issues. That was a very difficult period and things are still difficult, we can't say things are easier now, but what I want to say now is that, first there is a siege over all refugee camps, the army is surrounding the camps and at the same time they say that transgressors are going into the camp. Who lets them in? There must be someone in the army or mercenaries who can provide access to the camp, but it's not the Palestinians who let transgressors go into the camp, because the camp is surrounded by guards, how could they get in? They must have crossed the army barrier, so either the army is loosening the restrictions on going in and out of the camp, but we do not see such a thing, or there is a conspiracy going on. There are several ways to enter the camp, I know a man who used to go into the occupied territory, so he certainly can go into the camp, but for the most part, the army is surrounding the camp with a fence from all sides, not only at one point, and where there is no fence they have barb wire, I don't know if you've seen it, there is barb wire around the camp, especially Ain A-Hilweh camp. So, before we talk about that, from 2001 to 2011…
We can talk about the invasion of Iraq. We talked about how the leadership in Iraq followed a wrong approach in the wars against Iran and Kuwait, which weakened it. It’s not the army that was weakened but rather the decision makers, so it became a tool in the hands of KSA or… we have to admit that it became a tool in someone's hand. I have never been to Iraq but I wasn't comfortable with the leadership approach in Iraq. I used to hear from people that there is dictatorship and whatnot, Iraqi people would tell us what was going on. But it has never occurred to me that those same people who carried out revolutions and formed communist parties would collaborate with the Americans in the invasion of Iraq. They've always been against imperialism, who represents imperialism? The Americans. And now they cut a deal with the Americans to destroy their own country! I don't know if they made them promises to depose Saddam and then… but that was basically wrong, the principle is wrong. When we start to collaborate with Busch or America, that means we became subject to America. Because America wants to conquer the world in any way possible. They could start things gradually but once they have a firm grip on things…
We as Arabs haven't done this right. All the parties in Iraq didn't do that in a a way that would preserve their dignity. They could've united among themselves to overthrow the regime. What happen? They might be killed, but that's better than bringing the armies of the world to their country. That's what happened in Iraq, in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his regime they brought everyone in and the result so far was that, since 1990 or 1991 until now in Iraq, the invasion was in 2009? The 9th of April, I'm not sure… until now Iraq hasn't seen peace or stability, and people now are saying that it would've been better if Saddam stayed. That what happens, a dictator is a dictator, they know his limits, but there are no booby trapped cars and dozens or even hundreds of people dying every day, people are dying on the streets, women, children and men. The purpose of that is either to convince us that we should stay ruled by a dictator, because this is the alternative, death and destruction, or they didn't do that right, Neither the Americans nor the Iraqi National Movement and now the Syrian National Movement, the Syrian opposition, they didn't do things right. So, that what made the Arab countries lose their compass. The Palestinian Cause is falling behind because there are no strong leaders. When Iraq is gone and Syria is under attack, when Egypt is in the midst of the power game between Muslim Brotherhood and others, who would lead the way? Saudi Arabia who's controlled by America would take the lead. So, they want Saudi Arabia to lead the way, is Saudi Arabia qualified to lead the Arab people while they still ban women from driving? When women their could become leaders, MP's and Ministers, and when they get rid of what's blinding them, they could say that they would lead the Arab people, but under the current circumstances, can they lead the Arabs? No they can't. Nobody would accept that. So, as for these revolutions of the Arab Spring, where is the Cedar Revolution standing now? Rafiq Al-Hariri was killed so that we would reach this. Rafiq Al-Hariri wasn't killed by Syrians, he was killed by radicals with American hands, and the future will show that the radicals who were condemned to death belonged to the group that killed Al-Hariri. How could someone kill Al-Hariri when his car isn't known to anyone other than the Germans? Only the Germans knowthe secret behind his car explosion. There's something in the cases that makes you conclude that this person was killed in order to destroy Lebanon, and so that the Syrian army would leave Lebanon to Syria in order to overthrow the regime in Syria. That was the plan. It didn't work back then, but during these past two years they've been trying to reach their goal. What Israel and the American both want isn't establishing democracy, because if they wanted to establish democracy in the Middle East they wouldn't support the radicals and give them weapons, they would bring scientists and scholars, democratic people and progressive parties, they wouldn't bring radicals and support them to take over power. So, here starts the game which aims to take full control of the Middle East by America and Israel, this is their ultimate goal. I don't know if the peoples are taking part in that game too, but nobody can keep their eyes shut forever, but in the future, there will be change for sure, we live by the hope for change, real change, not the change that happened in Tunisia and put the radicals in power, or the change that happened in Egypt and put the MB in power, the change they wanted in Syria and resulted in giving power to the radicals who murder people. This isn't the change we want, it's the change wanted by those with an agenda to destroy the Arab people, nit the governments, because if the radicals mingled with the people and took control of them then it's over. It would only be about performing religious duties and we would be back to living in tents, no progress, tents and camels. While if Arab people kept their awareness, that awareness would lay the foundations for a new phase. We hope that this awareness will live on, they want to take women back to… you know about this attire where nothing shows except the woman's eyes? That was originally worn by the women in a zealous Jewish community, this isn't an Islamic attire. It was worn by the women in a zealous Jewish community, you can look it up on the internet, we found it there. So, you can see how they want us to go backwards and shut our minds. They don't want us to make any progress, Arabs must not grow bigger than this and be under everyone's control, Israel, America, France, England, they must remain under control. This is the thing whose ramifications we fear in the future. The Arab revolutions were based on the efforts of the motivated and active youth, like "Tamarrud" movement in Egypt, but there is someone controlling them from above who's invisible to ordinary people. People rose against the ruling regimes spontaneously, but there is an invisible force controlling things from a distance and that is a very dangerous force, who want to send people to the gutters. This is my opinion, when you support radical religious movements this is what happens. America started doing that during the war on Afghanistan, and before that, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, America mobilized all the people to fight, and those were the seeds, then they spread them all over the world, such as Ben Laden and Az-Zawahri, these were seeds planted by America. And now America and Israel will reap what they sowed, because those radicals don't tolerate open societies. And we're seeing the results now although they are slow results in Europe and America, but they have to be warned. How many times did they talk about this in England? They are still busting terrorist cells. The West must take heed of that because it's not in the best interest of their people, it might be in the interest of the president, but not the people. And the peoples who prevented the strike against Syria are the same peoples who has to prevent anyone from controlling them in the future. The Arab people are qualified just like any other people, they hate injustice and oppression. There are other ways to solve that, other than the military solution. In Syria for example if they had taken the democratic approach, even if it would mean that some people would go to jail… I talked to people from the Syrian opposition and said: what's the problem if some of you were imprisoned or murdered? In Palestine many people were killed but we rose up and waged the Intifada, we fought against Israel who is bigger than the Syrian regime, why are you afraid of jail or death? If you kept making demands and stuck with your agenda, because the opposition must have an agenda, they should present their agenda and fight for it. But they didn't do that, because it's all conspiracies, people conspiring against others. The Coalition is conspiring against the fair opposition, and the Islamists are conspiring against both. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are conspiring against both, you think Saudi Arabia and Qatar want me to have a democracy with opposition while they don't have that in their countries? A man was sentenced to 15 years in jail for writing a comment on a picture of Hamad. Where is the democracy you're preaching to us while you yourselves are not democratic? So, all the peoples must be aware of that. This is what makes the future looks scary, so many women wearing hijab, my mother has never talked about religion, now if she comments on the way people dress. I tell her that it has always been like this. So, even the older generation who were progressive and modern are changing because of the media who promotes that

TAPE 3

Samira: these things that I consider against religion, because religion means tolerance, but these are not being tolerant, they are killing people. So, you can see how much we're moving backwards and that is what we fear. If I want to talk about popular movements, elections, reforms and civil wars which we talked about a lot, but we can say that there are popular movements who are honest, has integrity and are patriotic, we can't deny that. And there are popular movements that are patriotic but they are being controlled by other powers. They consider themselves patriotic, they got rid of Sadat, Hosni Mubarak and Mursi, they are patriotic, but at the same time we have to be aware of what's behind them. For example, how does Saudi Arabia approve Sisi in Egypt right away? This makes you think. I don't want to doubt Sisi because I think he had led a great campaign, but why Saudi Arabia? America hasn't approved him yet while Saudi Arabia approved him right away. I can interpret this by saying that Saudi Arabia is against the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical Islamist movement, but what are the dimensions? I'm afraid of the dimensions, as Egypt now is going through an economic crisis and they need money, so the fear is that Saudi Arabia would try to intervene in order to control the decision making. This is what one might fear, but I'm not afraid because the Egyptians are aware of that and that they don't want anything from anyone, they told Qatar to take back their deposit, Qatar wanted to rent the Suez Canal, which means that Suez canal will be a passage for Israeli ships and the ships of Arabs' enemies. So, look how far things have gone, Suez Canal was once nationalized and now Mursi wanted to rent it to Qatar, that's unbelievable, that's too much political manipulation. As I said, the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon was just a big show, and there were big plans behind it but they didn't work, they didn't work at the time, but they gave way to what happened in Syria later on, and whoever sees the tunnels and the preparations will know that all this was arranged when they didn't succeed in their plan to overthrow the Syrian regime by the Syrian army that had withdrawn from Lebanon, so they started using other tools by letting mercenaries n, Chechnyans, Caucasian, Afghanis and others, they pumped Islamists in to fight on the opposition's side. That was the end of the Coalition, because there was a good opposition that refused the war against their country, like Haitham Manna'a in Paris, like Qadri Jameel, these are people who put their country first, this is the real opposition, they have a political agenda, they know what they want, while the others came with a different approach connected to the West, to Saudi Arabia, Israel and America. That's my take on that issue. We can talk about women empowerment, actually we only hear about women empowerment, every year we hear that the UN has put together a program to empower women, we see bits and pieces of it reach women but the biggest part goes for the administrations, the project manager takes 5 thousand dollars - of he's a foreigner- to run that project. Where does he get it from? From the money dedicated to empower women. Okay, then we call for a comprehensive meeting to discuss the main ways to empower women. Do women need daily seminars? Or do they need to be qualified in order to be able to work and be empowered? And creating job opportunities for those without jobs. The way we understand women empowerment, political empowerment depends on economic empowerment. We used to ay and we still say that if women get liberated economically they would be liberated politically and socially. Working women have the ability to say no to things. This is what leads to women empowerment. Believe me, we've been talking about women empowerment since 1967, but we need to look into the practical ways of empowering women. For example, there's a project by the EU now that aims to empower women by teaching them embroidery, and help them to promote their products in Europe, in a way that suits Europeans. But we've been working for 50 years and Europeans buy our products. The money that would be paid for the trainer and the training could be spared, why would we need 350 thousand dollars for this? I implemented a women empowerment program for 5 thousand dollars and women graduated from it into the labor market, I taught them how to make leather products like belts and whatnot, I taught them how to coordinate flowers for party, you need to observe the needs of society, and women started to work, I taught them how to shoot videos at women parties, they don't like to let a man do that job. That's it, it's a simple skill, but instead of paying a salary for the coordinator I buy cameras for women to work with. There are people, I don't know who they are but I liked what they did, they held sewing courses for women, and by the end of the course they gave each woman a sewing machine. So, if she had to fix or mend any clothes she would do it herself, instead of paying someone else to do it. If her neighbor needed something she could do it for her and charge her for it, this is women empowerment, but to keep pumping money to administrators saying it's for women empowerment, I find this really alarming, or to bring people from Norway to give me their experience for money, to take 100 thousand dollars from Canada or Norway to empower women, why? I could use the money to create a project for women, it's better than brining trainers. Besides, this doesn't suit my situation as a Palestinian. I want to empower the women in the camps, create cooperatives for them. You know, the project I liked the most was a project done by UNICEF, where they give loans, it was run by the Palestinian Women's Federation, I don't know if you've met Amna Jibreel
Intreviewer: I will, inshallah
Samira: Let her tell you about this project. This project was run by the Palestinian Women's Federation, it gives each woman a certain amount of money to do her own project, and two months later she starts to repay the loan in small payments, and then they tell the five women who took loans to do a project together, take a bigger amount of money and work with it, which will make them grow, and they did, and women are the most likely to pay off these loans. The Palestinian Women's Federation raised the cap on the loans, it started to give 5 thousands, 7 thousands, 3 thousands, not just 500 or 1000 or 200 dollars. And their projects were successful. Such projects empower women and make them productive. Besides, they look into the things required to increase the productivity of a factory for example, and they give them the money need for that to improve it, because this factory provides jobs for 40 women, I have 40 or 50 women sometimes, I have an embroidery factory, sometimes when I have a delivery to America I hire those women with no qualifications, I teach them and make them qualified through my friends who show them how to mix colors and do the designs. This doesn't require money, why should I use 2000 dollars from my capital for that and work only with 3000? No, I want to work with all the 5 thousand dollars. And I call for women to come work with me and I pay them per piece, if they ask for 7000 Liras I give them 8000, I don't want to be unfair with you, take 8000 and give me something good. That is what we're working on. We've held 2 courses with the World Labor Organization last year, 2 courses, one in the North in Nahr Al-Bared and Ain Al-Hilweh, and they were great, 33 ladies attended the courses, and when the rest knew about the course they wanted to come, so we told them we'd hold another one. It didn't cost us anything. So, let's take that approach in our work, to lower the administrative expenses and pump it into the production process, that's how you empower women, you provide them with work. There's also the issue of selling your products, if you want to keep working you need to sell what you produce. So, this needs cooperation with committees outside. I know people in America who buy my products and they ask me to provide them with those products. We've just sent a delivery today, and there were others before it. Women call me and tell me they want work because they have no work. So, this is the good thing that empowers women economically and at the same time they develop their skills. But I can't pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project that doesn't empower women, and then each of them would go work on her own or find a job at some factory. That's what we discuss with global organizations, and it has been discussed more than once at the ESQUA???? (minute 12:10), Rabei' Bashour, head of that department at ESQUA, we've discussed these issues with him several times, and he would write his recommendations but we need someone to come up with an idea so that they could support it. They find a lot of organizations to work with them, but I don't agree to do any work that wouldn't empower women, but there are people who find organizations to work with them and they see it as an opportunity when the organization is provided with funds. How much this woman would benefit, I don't know, all I care about is that the woman benefit from this. I want this project to succeed and carry on not because of the project itself, but rather to spread our heritage and develop it and so that women could benefit from it, because they support their families and children. So, I think there is a lot of negligence towards women empowerment. Listen, I'll tell you something. In Syria, before all these things happened, the Syrian Women's Federation was spread over the entire Syrian countryside. There were cooperatives inside the Syrian countryside, they had a pioneering experience, I don't know how people change 180 degrees all of a sudden. They had a pioneering experience among women. For example, a woman farmer starts a cooperative, she grows crops in her land and they buy the produce. They give her the money. They had great experiences in the Syrian countryside, but war is brutal, nobody knows what other agonies it will inflict on people. All international organizations now are preparing themselves to go into Syria and start their work. They are waiting, they stopped pumping money into Lebanon, waiting for what will happen in Syria. If those won, I don't like to call them opposition because opposition must be democratic and progressive, but if these armed forces won who would support them? CIA bodies will ome to work with them in order to keep them on their feet. That's how I imagine it in case the regime failed, I'm not saying the regime will achieve democracy, no regime can achieve democracy to all people, no regime in the world can do that, even in America, no regime can achieve democracy to all people, there will always be people who are abused, any political opponent will be persecuted, everywhere. So, if the regime stayed they need to bring in the people who do real and proper social work, not those using social work as a cover, there's a difference here. But there are many people who would take social work as a cover, and that what becomes difficult afterwards, like when they tried to go into Egypt, now Egypt has limited their access. After the Muslim Brotherhood, many European and American organizations came into Egypt. I don't know if you have any other question that we didn't talk about.
Interviewer: Yes, I have questions. If we could we go back in time, when did you come to Lebanon?
Samira: in 1970 when I got married, I used to live in Syria before that. I came to Lebanon in 1970, I got married and lived in Ain Al-Hilweh camp.
Interviewer: After that, did you go to university?
Samira: No, I didn't go to university, I studied by affiliation with the Arab University of Beirut, but I didn't go to it, I just went to do the exams. I came back to study in 1970 after stopping for a while. I stopped for a while.
Interviewer: Why?
Samira: Because it was hard to go into Lebanon.
Interviewer: what did you study at university?
Samira: Business administration. Before enrolling in the Arab University I was enrolled in the Lebanese university, and then I stopped for a while, I couldn't enter Lebanon, I didn't get a permission to enter it. After I got married I came here and I enrolled in the Arab university, my house was close to Sabra. I lived in Saida at first, in Ain Al-Hilweh, in 1971 I moved to Beirut and I started to attend, and I would come to do the exams. I didn't attend regular classes.
Interviewer: So you were here during the war?
Samira: Yes, I came to Lebanon in 1970, the uprising of the camps was still on, which started in 1969. I used to hear about what was going on, newspapers were banned, people were banned from gathering in coffee houses, we weren't allowed to read newspapers at cafes, we took them home, the internal security forces were taking over the camps as well as the intelligence forces which were called Division 2. At the gates of every camp there was an intelligence office. The security forces didn't carry weapons, only clubs, but those clubs were effective deterrents. When I came to the camp there was the 1969 uprising, and the camp was run by the PLO. First the confederations run it and then in 1971 it was run by the PLO, after the events in Jordan. So, there were improvements. People were allowed only to build roofs of tin, you know tin? It's a kind of metal, they weren't allowed to use it to build roofs. After 1969/1970 up until the 1980's there was a golden chance, everyone built houses in the camps. Those houses you see in the camps are all new. Between 1948 and 1969 they weren't allowed to build full houses, they could build walls but the roofs were only allowed to be made of tin, and because of all that there was an uprising against the Lebanese government, and the security forces and intelligent forces were kicked out of the camps. They weren't allowed to move between camps, I don't know if they told you that, but they had to take permission to move from one camp to another within Beirut, if they wanted to visit family, from 1948 to 1967. If they wanted to go to a camp in Tripoli they would need an intelligence clearance, where they'd ask about the reason of the visit, it could be a funeral or a wedding or just a visit, you needed permission for that. This is how things were in Lebanon until 1969. So, Palestinians in Lebanon were very relieved when the resistance came to Lebanon, when the PLO entered Lebanon and there was an official Palestinian representation, before that all parties were secret, the Arab Nationalist Movement was secret. The Syrian Social Nationalist party was secret, Ba'ath party was secret. All those were secret parties, and if anyone was known to belong to a party, they would be arrested. My husband, before we got married, was arrested many times, then he fled from Lebanon to Syria and lived in Syria. He went back to Lebanon sometime between 1969 and 1970
Interviewer: During that time, were you working in Ain Al-Hilweh?
Samira: Yes, when I came to Lebanon? Yes, I loved in Ain Al-Hilweh camp, I lived there for 2 years, from 1970 to 1972, I moved to Beirut because of our work but I worked in Ain Al-Hilweh, and honestly, my first work in Lebanon was in Ain Al-Hilweh, I was in charge of women in the Popular Front, in Ain Al-Hilweh, Sur, Saida and all these areas. I felt there was a lot of awareness here among women, more than now. I don't know, people before had more awareness, they knew who the enemy was, there wasn't as much religious estremism, now we have religious organizations and religious parties, and they shut the women in, now we have women who are too liberated, other who are too shut-in, and very few women who are moderate. My daughters and I as well as other 3 women in the family are the only ones not wearing a headscarf, and we are a big family, everyone wears a headscarf, but I'll tell you, if it's out of faith, if they are doing it out of their belief that it's a religious duty then it's okay, but they wear it as a fad, they wear make-up and everything but they wear a headscarf, so that sight in itself is alarming; it's easy to lure these girls who are as young as 17 or 18 into becoming extremists. They tried a lot, for example, in the area were my husband's family still lives in Ain Al-Hilweh, and where I have a house too, we weren't used to seeing a lot of r4adical practices, but now they are on the rise… That's my son, the youngest one, we still call him the baby.
Interviewer: Did you continue to work during the war or was it difficult?
Samira: Of course. It's difficult with all the shelling and bombing, but you can't stop, you should be a role model for the people, during the consecutive wars, like the civil war, we worked a lot, we were with the people and the relief missions all the time. I know Amna from the relief missions, the Women's federation had a major role, I was a member in the general secretariat of the federation and now I'm a member of the conference of the federation. I really love the federation because through it I worked with diverse women, not only women from the Popular Front, and thus I formed a wide range of relations which were carried on, even political views didn't affect the human relationships between women, and that's very important. The women's Federation worked a lot during wars in humanitarian aid and relief, there was even a fighting squad of women, they were trained to protect the areas, especially in 1982, it took a lot of guards to prevent the enemy from infiltrating us, the enemy could dress in any way and gain access, there wasn't an army to protect the country. So, we used to make hot meals for the fighters, and we would bring it to their locations, during all wars, the war in the south, the 1982 war, the civil war, women were the fuel for all these, women did so much work to be proud of. In the 2006 war I volunteered with the Norwegians, I was in charge of the relief boxes, because I had no role to play in my organization because it wasn't a relief organization, so I told them I wanted to volunteer with them and I was assigned with the packing, I had around 100 young men and women who were packing the boxes to help the people, so I feel that I have made a contribution by doing that. My children too were helping the people in Sanaye' area. The first relief convoy was led by my son to the South. It carried provisions and whatnot and it was driven by my son and his friends to the south. People would say: how could your son go? I'd say: well, I went there myself before. I was in the base and I would go anywhere. My husband's mother was a very kind woman, she would offer to take care of the children so that I can go wherever I wanted, so she raised my children, technically. So, I was very active because there was someone to take care of my kids. So, I can't forget those days, long before 1982, even during the civil war we would go to the South and take hot meals to the fighters there, because they couldn't cook, they would eat sardines and falafel and whatnot, they couldn't cook, so each weak we would go to one place and we would sleep over there and then come back, we were a group of women. We would cook, bring the meals to them, sleep in the base and then come back the next day. There was a memorable intimate relation and everyone still knows me to this day because of that intimate relation. So, I can say that, thanks to God, I did something with my life. I was here during all the wars that came over Lebanon, I didn't leave. After 1982, my husband was arrested and then he was banished to Tunisia. I didn't leave, but later on when he moved from Tunisia to Syria we lived there for a year in 1985 and I came back here in 1986. I couldn't stay there, although I was raised in Syria and I love it, but most of the people I know are here,.
Interviewer: Regarding your work with women, do you use laws such as those of the UN, CIDAW…
Samira: Yes, you mean the civil status law? By the way, we hold a session each month to take about a certain subject. Such as discrimination against women, women rights, even divorced women who are raising their children, everyone. We also hold sessions to raise health awareness, and sometimes we train them on new things. Because, people do not just come to attend a seminar anymore, or to hear a speech, they like to come to work and learn through that work. Learning through work. So, we give them embroidery work to do ad at the same time we hold meetings for them to raise awareness among women, and this is the best thing to do, you can't bring them just to attend a seminar, we found that to be futile. It could be beneficial for a while but then they start asking: what now? There is now a campaign against discrimination against women and another one against the government called "My nationality is my right and my children's right". We participate in that too because we are subject to the Lebanese law, so anything that happens benefits us. If a foreign woman married a Palestinian they don't register her
Interviewer: Is there coordination with the organizations?
Samira: With the Lebanese? Yes. There is constant coordination; we attend the meeting with them all the time. I'm a member with them and I attend the extensive meetings where they discuss issues of activism. We coordinate with a well-known body such as the Women's Rights Board, the Lebanese Women's Council sometimes - if they invite us-, the committee for women's affairs, seldom with the government. The committee for women's affairs where there's that woman, Sharaffddin, what was her first name?
Interviewer: Fahmiyya?
Samira: Yes, Fahmiyya. I forgot her name because I know Fatima and Najat… Yes, Fahmiyyah Sharaffeddin. We coordinate with them in many issues, even the issues of labor rights, we coordinate that with them. So, there is cooperation, we started to do that during the wars, that's why I'm telling you you should meet Jumana Mare'i
Interviewer: I did
Samira: Really?

TAPE 4

Samira: during all wars, we used to coordinate and work together as a group of women, so this relationship carried on, a lasting and growing relationship. Jumana is a great lady. Jamana Mar'ie is an open-minded woman and she sympathizes with Palestinians a lot. She understands everything. I'm glad that you met her, this is someone you should meet, you should meet Amna too, she lived under siege in Shatella once. Amna Suleiman from the women federation, she was caught under siege in Shatella when the war broke out in Shatella camp, Amna was there, that's another kind of women struggle. There are many struggling women, not necessarily involved in political work, but they built families, raised and educated their children, and these are mothers one should be proud of as they raised their children to become doctors, engineers, lawyers and whatnot. These mothers should be honored, as well as the mothers of martyrs. These things are very important, you can't just focus on those involved in political or social work, some people weren't involved in any kind of work but they built great families in the society, these are too women who deserve our respect.
Interviewer: I met some people who left political parties after the PLO pulled out of Lebanon. You stayed in the Popular Front?
Samira: Yes, I stayed, I'm still with them. In 1993 I wasn't nominated for the central committee but I remained a member. Political work gives us awareness in order to tell the difference, so that when an NGO comes from America or Canada for example you should be aware as to know who are these people, what they want, what's their purpose, if you don't have awareness you will be carried away without realizing it. Did they come all the way from Canada to support us for purely social reasons? No, there must be other motives. Awareness is very important and it is not formed outside political parties but rather inside them. The more political awareness you have, the more successful you can be in your social work. Social work is very useful, this is a very important point, because many people feel disappointed by political parties for not achieving anything, so they establish a small organization which turns eventually into a religious institute, they get pulled towards religious issues spontaneously. In Palestine, especially in the West Bank, after the first and the second Intifadas many women leaders left the political parties. I think this is wrong, even if you just go there once a month to see where they stand, that gives you awareness, and not at the expense of… look, some people left the parties for certain reasons, such as being managers of institutions or something like that, that doesn't last for a long time. Or if there is a conflict of interest between the party and the institution so they choose the institution, one of those is Riyad Al-Maliki, he was in the Popular Front, there was a conflict of interest between him and the party so he chose to be with Abbas, he's now one of Mahmoud Abbas's men. Maybe he considers himself a leader now, but he was a leader under occupation, not in the light. He was a leader under occupation, now in the light everyone can show up, it's normal, but all the secrecy and the work and the main struggle, all of that is in the shade when you are working secretly, you work without being recognized. When that is done publicly you find that those who become leaders are the opportunists, you know what that means? Someone who wants to climb their way to a certain position. They offer him a position so he gives everything up for that position. While in secret work, people who are really firm and solid are the ones who last. We faced a lot of problems like this, many people left our party and joined the authority, even in the Popular Front, this is no secret. There was a conflict of interest between them and the party so they chose to be with the authority. They left the party, many young men, some of them are professors in sociology and whatnot. And this is… I don't know. They hold esteemed positions now but everyone knows they left the Popular Front for the authority. So they know, even FATAH and the authority knows, so they know they have them in the bag. In the first phase when the men went into Ramallah, the Front was against running for the elections, but there were people who wanted to run for the elections, there were two different opinions and that is quite natural in all parties, confederations and countries, there were two different opinions, but when the party made its decision, one should stand by the party's decision; because it's a collective decision, they know more than we know as individuals. That doesn't wipe out my personality, I'll keep in mind that you took a wrong decision, but I don't leave the party. Leaving the party means you're going somewhere else. They'd say they didn't leave and that they are still with the national approach, you are with the national approach but when you elect someone or vote for someone it will be in favor of the other side. So, there were some issues here. When there's a conflict of interest between the party's interests and personal interests, one always chooses their own interests over the party's, and that is a person, I don't want to describe them as giving priority to their own interests over everything else, but… someone might say they are tired and they want to find a job and settle down, many people are like that, it's their right, I might say now that I'm tired and I want to stay home, it's my right, but I don't side with the opponents. But the men who left didn't take the opponent side, they said they had an opinion and the Front didn't understand it and hence was the disagreement. Most of them are decent people with a struggle record, we can't say about someone who spent 30 years of their life in the struggle that they are not strugglers just because of one year. I don't accept that, but many people left the parties, men and women, not only women. Besides, when there's hostility towards women, it's difficult, I'm like you, we're doing the same work, why would you stand against me? Why would you want to replace me with someone with less awareness just because he is a man? This hurts too. So, parties did women injustice. There are a lot of mistakes, but that doesn't mean I have to leave, no. Because it's a long struggle, social struggle is good, being among people, and the political struggle too, if you're a politician working among people you get to convey good messages to people. I was told that I could be murdered by Islamists, but this approach doesn't lead to the liberation of Palestine. I'm convinced that the approach taken by the Ismlamist organization doesn't lead to the liberation of Palestine. I'm convinced with that, and it was shown, if we take Hamas and Fatah for example, Hamas ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood, not with the Palestinian national resolution. Your interest in Egypt and Syria is to be a resistance movement, their internal affairs in none of your business, but they took one side over the other, they sided with Muslim Brotherhood as a party, which means they are part of the Muslim Brotherhood now, they didn't set themselves apart from the MB. They adopted their opinion. So, these parties look like so strong but with time they are exposed to people, people used to think that Hamas was going to liberate Palestine with the operations and everything, but now they are wondering where Hamas is, they are in Qaradawy's bag. You know Qaradawy? He's the leader of the MB around the world, and he's sponsored by Qatar. Hamas is now with Qaradawy. So, this will not liberate Palestine, Qaradawy will not liberate Palestine. So, there are things that are just self-evident, and one must be aware of them. Hoshomino in Vietnam said that religion is the opium of the masses, and we are seeing now that religion is destroying nations. It's destroying the land, the people, the civilization, they don't want civilization, they want to go back to tents and camels and to controlling people like sheep. This makes me sad. Islamic conquests reached Spain, to Tareq Ben Ziyad mountain that was called after him, Muslims back then weren't extremists like the ones we have now who are made by CIA and Israel, they bring people to teach them religion like they want them to learn it, and then spread them around the world, and this is harmful for all the world, not only Arabs, it is harmful for Arabs and none-Arabs. Ad we will see the results of that, not now, later on. Those are who were called by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Al-Khawarej, those who went outside the path of religion. We Arabs are Muslims by nature, even Muslims and Christians, we embrace religion as a faith, as a legislative vision, but not as reason to kill people, this is not a vision, it's a deviation from religion, killing Christians just because they are Christians? You're not God. We don't have such things in the Quran, if you read the Holy Quran, I don't know if you have an English version of the Quran but if you read it you will not find this in religion, we don't have that. What they are doing to religion is like what they do in politics, they are manipulating it so that they could control people. It poses a future problem for women, because men still didn't get rid of these thoughts and it's easy for them to come back and to become extremists, extremism happens so fast for us, it happens faster than progress. That's why Hoshomino said religion is the opium of the masses. A sheikh might bring all the people on his side, but if a Marxist spoke they might call him an infidel, so that's why Hoshomino was secular, religion is for God and the country is for all the people. What else would you like to ask?
Interviewer: May I ask about your best memories? on the personal or professional level
Samira: On the level of my cause, the best thing about my life is that I got involved in political work so that I would understand everything, because now when I see people who do not understand everything I think that I could've been like them had I not worked, joined the revolution, joined a party, married Salah Salah, gave birth to these children who are all like me and like their father, thank God. They are all educated and they were great in their different positions. That's the best thing about my life, on the personal level. On the professional level the best memory I have is when I was in the municipality hall in Homs and I greeted President Jamal Abdul Nasser in person. This is something I will never forget. I greeted many presidents in person after that, Ali Nasser, Ben Bella, Abu Ammar who liked me a lot, George Habash, and Wadee' Haddad… but that was my best memory. I consider that ever since that day I chose this as my path. I imagine that this is what pushed me to always work with the people and for my cause. There are many other things, but I can say that these are the most important things. There's also another thing I never forget, which is my teacher at school, she might be dead now, I don't know anything about her, her name was Enaya Wafa'ei, she taught me how to learn the Arabic language, how to read, she told me that even if I found a paper on the street I should pick it up and read it. She told that to all the girls, not to me in particular. So, she taught me to persevere in reading and commitment, she was a Nasserist too, and she made me give my first speech, so I'm proud of that teacher. I'm also proud of my family, my father, my mother, my mother in law, they are all people who contributed to the development of my personality, each of them in their own way. If I married and couldn't keep up with my work I would've been an ordinary woman now, cooking and cleaning, but this main contribution gave me encouragement. I also have many friends, we love each other and we had nice memories together, mostly in Syria, I have friends in Homs who I always ask about and follow their news.
Interviewer: are you worried about them?
Samira: Well, they are out of the danger zone right now, I was worried about them in the beginning for sure. I had a wish to see Palestine. I got a permission to go there on three occasions, but I couldn't, I don't know why. I didn't go, I stopped in the last minute. One of those times I couldn't go for reasons out of my hands, it was the Women's conference, I could have been a member in the general secretariat of the federation but since I didn't attend they couldn't elect someone who was absent. The other two times were the meetings of the national council. I don't regret not attending these events but I regret not going to Palestine, I might not be able to go now. You know. When I was a baby in Haifa I was wounded here and I still have the scar, an Israeli man tried to kill my father and the bullet hit me, but since it was fired from a long distance, it was a minor injury, I still have the scar, you can feel it here… it was in Haifa, so my parents thought one of the children hit me, I as putting my hand here, I was two years old, they asked who had hit me, so I removed my hand and my teeth fell out with the bullet. but since it was fired from a long distance, it didn't do much harm. They took me to the hospital in Haifa and got it stitched right away. So, I wrote these down, I'm writing them down. My father told me that when he was moving back and forth between Tiberias and Haifa, he always had some guns or ammunition to deliver to someone, and since I was a baby he used to hide them between my clothes, because they didn't inspect babies, so I'm writing these things now, so that I don't forget them, because I'm not getting any younger and one might forget. Go on while I finish this.
Interviewer: What are your worst memories?
Samira: There are a lot of bad things, that's why there are a few good ones. Many bad things happened in our life as a Palestinian people. The worst phase or the worst thing was Abdul Nasser's death who was like a dream for the Arab people, because we knew it was a conspiracy, the other worst thing was… there are personal things, like the death of my father, but in general life, the invasion of Beirut in 1982. That was the worst thing we've ever witnessed. What can I say? Once, we were in a house in Al-Manara, someone gave us its key to stay there. We went there because there was water and we wanted to take baths. While we were there, the Israeli warships started to fire. My sister in law ran out of the bathroom naked with fear. There were fireballs falling from the sky I front of us, big fireballs blazing in front of us, we could've all died, we were around 12 people in the house. We could've all died under the shelling. And the last time, Al-Fakihany strike, it's well-known historically, Israel struck with its planes the area where the Palestinian leadership was, my sister and I were home alone, we went downstairs with the neighbors. When that big missiles hit, we saw the fire coming out of it. So, we embraced each other, closed our eyes and waited for death. When we opened our eyes, we saw that the missile didn't hit a building, it was a building under construction, it hit a square opening where they were preparing shelters, the water rose up 20 meters in the air, with dust and everything, if that missile had hit the street it would've killed thousands of people, I'm not exaggerating, this is a residential area. We survived these two incidents, I think we survived because we all still had time to live. Another incident was when they tried to kill my husband, twice, with no success. There are many things that happen in one's life and it's hard to talk about all of them because they are too many. In 2006, there was an incident where I felt that we were victorious, even since then I felt that were victorious. There was a Lebanese group of people who would cheer each time Israeli missiles hit the Dahieh. But one time on that day when Hassan Nasrallah was giving a speech and said "Now, our valiant fighters are hitting the Israeli warship in Lebanese territorial waters" and it was hit, we saw it on TV. I was deeply moved by someone who stood on his porch and screamed "Allahu Akbar! Wake up people! We hit the Israeli warship". That warship was firing on people and children and women. You wouldn't believe that how much that had moved me, it moved me so deeply, because I felt that despite all this tyranny we achieved a victory. I didn't see beyond that, but at the moment, they were firing bombs and missiles at people in Dahieh and Beirut. This bridge was susceptible, we had left the house. But at that moment I felt that I was victorious over the whole world. I cannot forget that moment as long as I shall live, because they think they are strong by firing at us from afar, they can't encounter us face to face, they only fire at us from a distance, and we don't have the artillery to do the same to them, nobody provided us with such weapons. Only Israel had those weapons, I mean, what would a Gazan missile do? What's the most damage it could inflict? Destroying a wall? I'm against killing, but it wouldn't even kill a family, while entire families were wiped out here. The Anna strike were large numbers of people and international forces were killed. They are wiping out entire populations, not individuals. So, that for me felt like a great victory. Of course, there were many horrible tragedies like the murder of Ali Mustafa by a direct missile that hit his office, the murder of many young people like Tasneem Abu Ammar, there are many things, Palestinians could keep talking about their tragedies for 100 years and they wouldn't finish. We cannot forget that. You want Palestine? Let's make a democratic state where there are Jews, Christians and Muslims, where we could all live in peace, and believe me, we would conquer the world. Believe me, because the Palestinian people are full of life, and they can't give them up. They wouldn't. You say you want a Palestine for you and I want a Palestine for me, then let's make a democratic state, why have two states? why would you take my land and give me a small fraction of it and tell me to have two states, what are the basic elements of this state? It doesn't have borders, there are Israeli soldiers along its borders with Jordan, and there is no road to link between Gaza and Jericho. They have a purpose behind that, they surrendered Gaza anyway because they didn't want it, they wanted to get rid of it, they didn't give it up to form a state in Gaza and the West Bank, and they created problems in order to separate them again, but Gaza in particular was surrendered by Israel to get rid of it, and then in the future it would be under the Egyptian jurisdiction and whoever rules Egypt would control the corssings. So, that's it. It's hard. It's very hard. My children had visited Palestine, my daughter has a foreign passport and the other married a foreigner so they managed to enter Palestine and they went to our house in Tiberias. How come that I'm kicked out of my house that's been there for thousands of years and then an American, Russian, or French Jew would reside in it? They weren't in Palestine, they immigrated to Palestine. The Eastern Jews were living with us. My aunt visited Tiberias 10 or 12 years ago, through the Red Cross. Her neighbors told her: "we wish you stayed here, those were the days! Now Easter Jews have no power, we work as porters, we wash dishes and collect waste, we have no power, the European Jews who immigrated to Palestine have all the power. We wish that you stayed here and we remained like the old days smoking argeelah together" - My aunt smoked argeelah and they used to smoke it with her- "We wish that things had remained the same". So, they gathered Jews from all over the world to establish a state, but these people will finally go back to their countries if they didn't find the basics of the state, with wars all the time, Israel went to war against everyone, in the end these people will say for example: "We’re French, we'll go back to our country. We are Jews, that's right, but we are French Jews. If you want to build a state then you and your children can defend it." You will find that the Eastern people are the ones who will stay, and the Eastern Jews - as we hope- will stay with us to build a state where Jews, Christians and Muslims are equal citizens. So, this is what we hope, it'sa dream of course, but someone once told me when I was at university - I didn't know he was Israeli- he was an intelligence agent

TAPE 5

Interviewee (later 2.): … in the West Bank and he’s retired. [inaudible] was sitting at the same table as me, but he wasn’t wearing his badge, so I didn’t know who he was. I was also not wearing my badge and next to me was a Frenchman who was speaking Arabic. So we were all talking about the book that my daughter had wrote, which was being published in Tiberias. She had written it in French. So, he says to me: “Don’t even dream of it!” So I said: “You can’t stop the dream.” I asked him who he was and he told me some name. Then the person next to me told me that that man used to be the head of intelligence in the West Bank. So I looked at him and said: “So you’re the murderer of nations?” I told him that I thought that intelligence to be the worst evil in the world and that he had no business being here at a humanitarian conference. After saying that of course, I was very upset and I couldn’t contain myself. A man sitting next to him was translating to him what I was saying, because his Arabic wasn’t too good. Or maybe he just didn’t want to speak Arabic. To be honest, my English isn’t that good either, so we didn’t speak for long. The person next to him was a Briton, who was married to a Palestinian woman from Beit Jala. He said: “My wife is Palestinian.” So I immediately answered: “So, this means there is a Palestine.” Palestine lives and they’re the ones trying to wipe it away. Palestine exists and is a recognized country. He might not, but there are many that do. After that, a waiter came to the table to serve the food and asked if we were Arab and I said yes. He told us that he was Palestinian – he was about 20 years old. So, I said to that guy – I think his name was Shlomo – that young man is 20 years old, which means he was born after 1948. He wasn’t even born there; he was born in Kuwait, but he identifies himself as Palestinian. So long as there’s a nation that identifies as Palestinian, we will get our Palestine back. Our conversation ended after that, as Tony Blair was starting to give his speech and others. Next morning, he found me sitting at a table with some people at breakfast – I didn’t know them all, but we were a group of Arabs sitting together and some non-Arabs. I asked a Syrian sitting next to me: “Who is this sitting next to you?” He said it was a Syrian Jew, but that he had emigrated from Syria. Shlomo, who was sitting at the other end of the dining hall came over and said to me: “I hope you slept well.” And I replied: “At least, I didn’t see you in my dreams.” He gave me an angry look. I said to him: “Do you know how this whole predicament will be solved?” “How?” he asked. I said: “This man here is a Syrian Jew and he can go back to Syria. You’re from Turkey and you’ll go back there. This man is from Saffuriya and he’ll go back to Saffuriya. I’m a Palestinian from Tiberias and I’ll go back to Tiberias. That’s how we should do it. We don’t want you to go on killing us and we don’t want to go on killing you. We should all go back where we came from.” He just turned around and walked away. I guess he didn’t like what I had to say. He was a Turkish Jew, the other and Syrian Jew and the third a French Jew and so on. All coming together to control the Middle East, with their different nationalities and their Zionism. We can’t help the fact that they have different nationalities, but with the Zionism – It doesn’t work. That day was the first time I’ve ever spoken to an Israeli. I found it really upsetting. I couldn’t believe that he was there, sitting right in front of me. Next to me sat a girl called Dalal Salameh. Have you met her? I think she lives in the Balata Camp. She was a member in the legislative council.

Interviewer (later .1): I’ve met Dalal, but her last name wasn’t Salameh.
2. Not Salameh? What was it then? Was the Dalal you met a member of the legislative council?
1. She was a lawyer.
2. That’s a different Dalal, then. So Dalal Salameh says to me: “Why did you let it bother you? In Ramallah, we have to see them every day, and fight them every day.” I told her that we had never seen them. When they came into Beirut we didn’t see them or go to the areas they were at. I had only passed one checkpoint at that time and after that I didn’t leave the house. We were hiding.
1. Is there anything that I haven’t asked about that you would like to add? Something you feel is important?
2. No. Would you like to ask about anything else? I have nothing else to add. I hope we meet again. Maybe we’ll meet in Palestine; you never know what the future will bring. I really want to go to Haifa, to the house where I was conceived (?) It’s on Nasreh Street, so if you’re ever there, you should go there. I think it’s still called Nasreh Street. We used to live there in a big house – according to my father – at the top of a small hill. I don’t know if it’s still there. In Tiberias, our house in the Arab quarter is behind the mosque – There is only one mosque in Tiberias. It’s my grandfather’s house.