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(Editors note: Hanan Ashrawi will be available to the media at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Terrace Room of the IMU.)

Former Palestinian education minister Hanan Ashrawi to speak at UI Feb. 2

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Hanan Ashrawi, former minister of higher education for the Palestinian National Authority, will deliver two public lectures at the University of Iowa Feb. 2. The first lecture will be a student-oriented presentation, "Palestine and Human Rights," at 4 p.m. in the Terrace Room in the Iowa Memorial Union. The second will be a public lecture, "The Middle East Peace Process," at 7:30 p.m. in the IMU Main Lounge. Both lectures are free and open to the public and are sponsored by the University Lecture Committee.

Ashrawi is best known for being a top Palestinian negotiator for peace in the Middle East. She first stepped onto the world stage during a now famous edition of ABC's Nightline in April 1988 when she was among four Palestinians and four Israelis who became involved in a heated debate. In 1991 Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat appointed her as the first female spokesperson for the PLO, an organization of which her father Daoud Mikhael was a founding member.

In her career as an educator, politician, and activist, Ashrawi has faced many obstacles as a Christian woman in a Muslim culture where men are the undisputed leaders. But despite those barriers, Ashrawi has always carried on her family's tradition of leadership.

She attended the American University of Beirut (AUB) from 1964-69 earning a degree in physics and working with several activist groups. She volunteered at the Palestinian information office and was the only woman among 200 men in the General Union of Palestinian Students, participating in PLO activities which focused on improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugee camps. After graduating from AUB, she went to the University of Virginia where she received a master's degree and doctorate in medieval English. At Virginia she formed a group called "American Friends of a Free Palestine" and participated in anti-Arab discrimination movements.

In 1973, at the age of 27, she was hired to be chairperson of the English studies department at AUB. In 1975 she became a professor of English literature at the Arab Birzeit University where she later served as dean of Faculty of Arts. In 1995 she was made head of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights.

In 1996 Ashrawi was appointed minister for higher education in the cabinet of Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Arafat, her highest post in Palestinian government. She resigned that position in 1998 in protest of PNA corruption. Despite her resignation, Ashrawi served as a key negotiator at the 1998 Wye River Accords which ended in the latest agreement between the PNA and Israel.

For more information about the lecture, contact Shirin Sadeghi, the Lecture Committee's event coordinator, at (319) 337-4103 or <>. Sadeghi can also help reporters arrange interviews with UI Palestinian students.

Adrien Wing, a UI professor of law, is an expert in Palestine-Israeli relations and is available to speak with reporters. Wing was an American representative chosen to help create the Palestinian constitution, The Basic Law. She can be reached at (319) 335-9129 or <>.