Khalida Jarrar was born in the Palestinian city of Nablus on February 9th, 1963. She dedicated her life for political and social activism, and spent the majority of her adult years heavily involved in advocating for the rights of Palestinian political detainees. She was first arrested by the Israeli Occupying Forces in 1989 for taking part in a demonstration on International Women’s Day in Ramallah. Khalida was detained in Israeli prison for one month and was released on bail. She first became involved in human rights organizing and advocacy while completing her bachelors of Arts degree at Birzeit University. Despite her father’s initial disapproval, and like many other Palestinian students, Jarrar was actively involved in community-based and university organizing against the Israeli occupation. While doing so, she met her, lover, best friend, and later to be husband, Ghassan Jarrar, who was also heavily involved in student-based organizing and advocacy. Khalida and Ghassan tied the knot on 19-07-1985. They have two daughters, Yafa and Suha, whom they both frequently refer to as their “most cherished treasure”. Jarrar’s long and passionate involvement in supporting and advocating for Palestinian political prisoners led her to serve as the director of Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association in Ramallah from 1993 to 2005. She is currently a board member at Addameer. In 2001, she obtained her masters degree in Human Rights and Democracy from Birzeit University. In 2006, she was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council as one of the deputies for the left wing Abu Ali Mustafa Bloc and continued to serve as a representative ever since. She is also head of the PLC’s Prisoner’s Committee. Her accomplishments and wide international recognition qualified her to serve as the Palestinian representative on the Council of Europe. Since 1998, and due to her strong international presence and influence in advocating for justice for Palestine, the Israeli occupying authorities have banned Jarrar from traveling outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Shortly before her recent arrest on April 2nd, 2015, Khalida became a member of the committee that oversaw the Palestinian Authority joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) to set the scene for potential legal action against Israel.
Yafa Jarrar, the eldest daughter writes:
I never thought I would be writing a public statement describing what my mother is to me. It is a very difficult task to verbalize the feeling of being a daughter. Not just a daughter, but a daughter of gentle, wise, and ever tireless mother, I call a sister. My mother and I had a rough journey together. I gave her a rough time as a child as she raised me and my younger sister while my father, Ghassan, spent a large portion of his life behind Israeli bars. As a child, I missed my father when he was a political prisoner inside Israeli jails and I often laid my anger on my mother, who provided us with all means possible to live with dignity and pride. I regret giving her a hard time. I just missed dad so much and she was the only parental figure to rebel against.
My mother is a big sister, a friend, and a mom. She always amazed me with her ability to hold our small family together, and yet dedicate all her time and energy towards the Palestinian people. I often asked her how she does it! I often nagged her to pay attention to me, her daughter, as much as she does for others. I repeatedly asked her if she loves me less than she adores Palestine. I wish I weren’t that greedy. I wanted mom for me only. I always wondered why we weren’t a “regular” family. But we are the best family! I wish I never gave her a rough time for paying attention to others who need it more than she paid attention to me, because mom was always there for me. I just wanted her all for myself and that was greedy. So very greedy.
Now that I am an adult, I always wonder how mom could balance her public and political life, and yet manage to cook my favorite meals when I visit home, insist on doing my laundry, and be there as a mother and as a friend at all times. I miss telling her jokes to make her laugh, I miss her amazing cooking, I miss her distinct musky smell, I miss her laugh, and I miss her gentle touch. I love you mom, and I love how much we look alike. I am positive that I will see you soon. I am positive you and all Palestinian prisoners will be free soon.
Suha Jarrar, the youngest daughter writes:
Spending most of our time together at home as my dad had to work in a different city, my mom and I became extremely attached. She drove me to and from work every single day. She cooked for me, did my laundry, and took me out for ice-cream more frequently than she did when I was just a little kid. She loves ice-cream! It has always amazed me how she is able to juggle all of her chores and responsibilities. I felt guilty for not helping out more, but also extremely relieved and lucky as I knew I had superwoman for a mother. She is the one person I would say anything to without hesitation or fear of judgment.
That moment when I first heard about her arrest, it felt like my entire world just collapsed around me. I desperately looked for the strength to survive what I described, at the moment, as my worst nightmare coming true. I love her and miss her beyond words. I think about her every waking moment of every day. But when we (my sister and I) say that we will not let them (IOF) break us, we don’t say it pretending to be strong and unbreakable. We say it because this is what my mother and father have always taught us. We live by this principle despite the occasional moments of weakness. They taught us that since we live under a merciless occupation… anything is possible and expected! We either choose to continue on with the struggle, or we choose to put our lives on hold and hand the occupiers, on a plate of gold, the gift of breaking our spirit. Well, we choose to live and resist!
In addition to Khalida Jarrar being a leader, an activist and a remarkable figure, she is also an extraordinary mother. My mother doesn’t only advocate for human rights and social justice principles, but she also lives by them very strongly. She does not only speak the language of social justice, but applies it in her everyday life in a way that sometimes, seems hard to believe. It sometimes irritated me how selfless she can be. I always wished she would take better care of herself and make more time for hobbies and other fun activities. But I remember reaching a conclusion just a few years ago. I concluded that doing things for others, advocating for the vulnerable and taking care of those in need is what brings her the most joy and sense of accomplishment. It breaks my heart that she is no longer telling me endless stories about Ajwa (our cat), that I can no longer speak with her, hug her, kiss her and talk to her about everything that happens in my day. But she is strong, and so are we. Let’s keep up the work to demand her immediate release and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners.
She’s a cat’s best friend — She never wanted a cat. In fact, the idea of having a pet inside the house gave her the shivers. “They’re messy and extremely unhygienic”, she used to say. Her daughter, being a cat/dog lover, surprised her with a meowing box that she brought back home one day. She had adopted a kitty. Khalida was in shock. “What’s that sound”? She asked. Her daughter opened the box. Khalida smiled and said “Oh! This is the cutest thing I have ever seen!”. They called him Ajwa. Khalida and Ajwa lived together and formed an incredibly special bond. No one had ever thought she would care for and love a pet to that extent. Ajwa is not only a pet; he is now part of the family. His presence in the family’s life is very therapeutic. Khalida has repeatedly expressed how much she misses him while behind bars.
She loves to swim — She had a traumatic near-drowning experience when she was a child. Ever since, she had been terrified of the water. She loved the idea of being able to swim and, years later, asked her daughters and husband to help her overcome that fear. This was one of the few times she had expressed the desire to pick up a hobby. Very patiently, the family was successful in helping her break that cycle of fear. She now loves to swim and frequently does it for fun and for health reasons as her doctor advised her it was a good sport for her blood circulation.
She has a sweet tooth — She loves ice-cream, popcorn, chocolate and all types of candy. Close family and friends often make fun of her child-like love for sweets.