Suha Arafat
Suha Daoud Tawil

(1963-07-17) 17 July 1963 (age 58)
Tunisian (2006–2007)
(m. 1990; died 2004)
Parent(s)Raymonda Tawil
Daoud Tawil

Suha Arafat (Arabic: سهى عرفات‎; born Suha Daoud Tawil (Arabic: سهى داود الطويل‎) on 17 July 1963) is the widow of former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Early life and education

Suha was born in Jerusalem on 17 July 1963 into an affluent Roman Catholic[1][2][3] family who lived in Nablus and then Ramallah (both cities under Jordanian rule at the time).[4][5] Suha's father Daoud Tawil, an Oxford-educated[6] banker,[7] was born in Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv). Daoud Tawil had business both in the West Bank and Jordan.[8]

Suha's mother, Raymonda Hawa Tawil, born in Acre, is a member of the Hawa family of Acre, prominent property owners in the Haifa area.[8] She was a poet and writer. She became a Palestinian political activist after 1967 and was arrested several times by the Israelis, making her a media star.[8] She was also a high-profile Palestinian journalist.[9] Suha was raised Catholic.[9] Suha, growing up in Ramallah, was influenced by the political activism of her mother conducted in the 1970s from her PLO-influenced news bureau in East Jerusalem.[8]

Suha attended a convent school, Rosary Sisters' School, in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem. At age 18, she went to Paris to study, where she lived with her older sister, who was married to Ibrahim Souss, the PLO's then-ambassador to France.[8] As a student, Suha was a leader in the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) in France, where she organized demonstrations for the Palestinian cause.[citation needed]

Marriage to Arafat

Suha, with her mother and sisters, met Arafat for the first time in 1985.[10] When he visited France in 1989, she acted as an interpreter at the meetings with visitors and French government officials. It is argued that through her mother Suha met her husband. However, it is also argued[by whom?] that Suha met Arafat in 1987 and 1988, and helped organize his visit to Paris in 1989.[citation needed]

Soon after his departure from Paris, Arafat asked Suha to come and work with him in Tunisia (where the Palestinian Liberation Organization had set up a haven). Suha secretly married Arafat on 17 July 1990, when she was aged 27 and he was 61. Their only child, daughter Zahwa, was born on 24 July 1995 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Zahwa was named after Arafat's mother.[11]

Suha converted to Sunni Islam at the time of her marriage.[12] Many Palestinians believe her conversion to be false, however; and allege that Suha has had millions of dollars channeled into secret bank accounts by her late husband, both of which she denies.[12] During her marriage, she tried to leave Arafat on many occasions to escape the gossip aimed at her, but was not permitted to.[13]

After Arafat's death

Suha and Zahwa lived in Tunisia from 2004 to 2007. Suha had also lived in Tunisia before marrying Arafat. They obtained Tunisian citizenship in September 2006. Zahwa went to the American Cooperative School of Tunisia. From 1998 onward she lived in Tunisia and France on and off.[14]

Controversies in Tunisia

On 7 August 2007, Tunisia, without warning Suha, revoked her citizenship but not her daughter's.[15] Suha claimed her Tunisian property was also frozen.[16]

On 31 October 2011, the Tunis Court of First Instance issued an international arrest warrant for Suha, relating to corruption in a business deal that involved the former Tunisian first lady, Leila Ben Ali, in 2006.[15] Initially, Suha proclaimed her complete cooperation with the Tunisian prosecutors.[17] But shortly thereafter she denounced the prosecution as a Tunisian scheme to defame her and the Palestinian cause.[18] She was, at the time, living in Malta. She also denied reports that she had any money or property belonging to the Palestinian national cause, and she said that she opposed normalization of relations with Israel.[19]

Other activities

On 27 November 2012, at the behest of Suha, Arafat's body was exhumed in the West Bank, in order to have samples taken from his remains. The purpose of the exhumation, according to Suha, was to determine whether he was poisoned with Polonium. [20]

As of 2011, she was living with her daughter in Malta.[15]

After Arafat's death, Suha and Zahwa argued in French courts that Arafat had been murdered, possibly by poisoning.[21] They lost their lawsuits and appeals, and in 2017 they took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the French authorities didn’t give their case a fair trial by refusing to include additional expert evidence.[21] In 2021, the Court rejected their appeal as inadmissible.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Moore, Molly (9 November 2004). "Fight Over Icon Has Plenty of Precedent". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Profile: Suha Arafat 11 Nov 2004 BBC News Retrieved 04 Jan 2013
  3. ^ The Associated Press Yasser Arafat rarely saw his wife and daughter 11 Nov 2004 USA Today Retrieved 04 jan 2013
  4. ^ "Q&A: Suha Arafat".
  5. ^ "The Oslo Accords: Background and Derailment".
  6. ^ "Stifling of Suha", Telegraph / The Age, 14 November 2004
  7. ^ "Fight Over Icon Has Plenty of Precedent", Washington Post Foreign Service, 9 November 2004
  8. ^ a b c d e Rubinstein, Danny (9 November 2004). "Focus / The rantings of Suha Arafat are more than just about money". Haaretz. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Profile: Suha Arafat". BBC. 11 November 2004. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  10. ^ "The Times & The Sunday Times".
  11. ^ "Suha Arafat". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Yasser Arafat's widow says her marriage was 'a big mistake'". The Guardian. 10 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Arafat's widow tried to leave Palestinian leader 'hundreds of times'". The Daily Star. The Daily Star (Lebanon). 9 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2010-12-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b c "Tunisia issues warrant for Arafat's widow". Reuters. Reuters. 31 October 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2011-01-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-19. Retrieved 2011-11-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Middle East News - The Jerusalem Post".
  19. ^ "Suha Arafat: I never took money from Palestine". 17 November 2011.
  20. ^ Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Tearful Suha Arafat watches husband's exhumation from her Malta home".
  21. ^ a b davidhencke (2021-06-28). "Exclusive with @NewsEchr: Murder or death by natural causes? European Court of Human Rights ruling 17 years after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death". Westminster Confidential. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  22. ^ "European Court of Human Rights rules against review of the cause of Yasser Arafat's death". 2 July 2021.