Dr el-Sarraj and his candidate

The commentary contributed by Dr Eyad el-Sarraj to Kathimerini’s English Edition offers insight to the inner workings of a state in the making, where voices for change find their way to a public audience even at the most daunting times. Dr el-Sarraj is a moderate voice in an area where for decades diplomacy has given way to militancy as an answer to occupation. His criticism of human rights violations has been directed at both Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, a stance for which he has found himself at odds with his own people. He is the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) and secretary-general of the Independent Palestinian Commission for Citizens’ Rights. He founded the GCMHP in 1990 to provide counseling and psychological care for a population traumatized by military occupation and left unattended by the ineffective health services of the Palestinian Authority (PA). He was arrested twice in 1996 by the PA for condemning its violations of human rights, and he was the recipient of the Physicians for Human Rights Award in 1997 and of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights in 1998. Hanan Ashrawi Palestinian Legislative Council member Hanan Ashrawi is probably the most prominent female politician in Palestine. A tireless campaigner for human rights, she has distinguished herself in both the academic and political arenas. Dr Ashrawi received her BA and MA degrees in literature from the American University of Beirut, and her PhD in medieval and comparative literature from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. After returning to her homeland in 1973 she established a Department of English at Birzeit University on the West Bank, serving as a chairman of the department from 1973 to 1978 and again from 1981 through 1984. From 1986 to 1990 she served the university as dean of the Faculty of Arts, where she remained a faculty member until 1995. Her political activism dates from 1974, when she founded the Birzeit University Legal Aid Committee/Human Rights Action Project. In 1988 during the uprising (Intifada), she joined the Intifada Political and Diplomatic committees, serving until 1993. From 1991 to 1993 she served as the official spokesperson of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Process, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Delegation. In 1993, when the peace accords by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin were signed, Dr Ashrawi headed the Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights in Jerusalem, serving as a commissioner general until 1995. From 1996 through 1998 she served as minister of higher education and research, and in her last year at the ministry she founded the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. Ashrawi has also served as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Jerusalem District since 1996. In 1997-98, girls outperformed boys, representing 64.81 percent of grade A pupils at junior high school and 66.64 percent of A grade pupils at senior high.