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Sameeha Khalil, founder Inash al-Usra

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 15.09.2006:


Sameeha Yousef Al-Qabaj Khalil was born in the village of Anabta, in the district of Tulkarem, in 1923. From her childhood Sameeha demonstrated a strong personality with leadership qualities. As an adolescent she was very active in the civic, social and political spheres. She had a youthful outlook, which she maintained throughout her life. She was quick at making decisions even on the most difficult and complex matters. At the age of 32, Sameeha established the Union of Arab Women’s Society in El-Bireh, a women’s voluntary charitable society that, at the present, offers services to the elderly and the community in general. In 1965, Sameeha went on to establish the Society of In’ash El-Usra, also in El-Bireh, with the aim of mobilising women and empowering them. Under her leadership, the Society developed into one of the most outstanding women’s organisations and multifaceted institutions offering educational and cultural programmes to women and children and helping families victimised by war and occupation.

Besides being the president of the Society of In’ash El-Usra, the General Union of Palestinian Women and the Union of Women’s Voluntary Societies, positions she was to hold until her death in 1999, Sameeha Khalil, or Um Khalil as she was fondly known, was very actively involved in a variety of other national and civic organisations such as the Palestinian National Council, the National Front, the National Guidance Committee, and the Higher Committee for Illiteracy and Adult Education in Palestine, among many others. It was inevitable that her political activism brought her into conflict with the Israeli authorities who imprisoned her six times, for varying periods each time, without her ever being brought to trial. The last of her political endeavours was running opposite Mr. Yasser Arafat for the post of president of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996.

Sameeha Khalil participated in many Palestinian, Arab, and international conferences where she advocated the cause of her people effectively and with great enthusiasm. She published a book of zajal (popular poetry) entitled “Min Al-Intifada Ila Al-Dawlah” (From the Intifada to Statehood), in which she related the saga of her people and expressed their determination to achieve liberation and independence. She also published several articles dealing with politics and social affairs, and was interviewed extensively by the Arab and foreign press and media. In recognition of her tireless efforts in the service of her country and people, she was honoured by several reputable organisations and institutions.

Sameeha Khalil was a consummate fighter for the cause of justice, peace and human rights, devoting a lifetime to the service of her people in whom she had great faith and whom she loved with a passion. She believed that through education, unity and wise leadership, coupled with strong determination and a will to overcome, her people would be able to attain its freedom and national rights.

All through her life she was an inspiration to all those who got in touch with her because of her integrity, her indomitable spirit, her sense of humour and the great gift of practising what she believed in. To the students and young women in the Society, she was a mother, a guardian and, above all, a teacher striving to inculcate in them the lofty principles and ideals to which she adhered. To her colleagues, she was a mentor and a friend who never failed to be there at the hour of need. To the women of Palestine, she was a model to emulate and a leader who set rigorous standards, which she expected to be met. To the community in general, she was a symbol of love, caring, commitment and courage.


This Week in Palestine

March 2002

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