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Intisar Al-Wazir (Um Jihad)

(1941 - )

Born in 1941 in Gaza City, Al-Wazir is a widow with five children.

B.A. in History, Damascus University, Syria

A long-time figure in Palestinian politics, Um Jihad joined the Fatah party in 1959, becoming the party’s first female member. She participated in the first conference for Palestinian women in 1965 and was instrumental in founding the General Union for Palestinian Women, an organization that focuses on the social, economic and legal status of Palestinian women.

Her interest in social affairs prompted her to found numerous centers for women, literacy training and rehabilitation including the Social Affairs Committee and the Martyrs’ Families Organization and the Committee for Prisoners and the Injured. Currently, Um Jihad is the director of a number of committees focusing on women, the elderly and care for the disabled.

Um Jihad has been a member of the PNC since 1974 and a member of the Fatah Central Committee since 1987. From 1980 to 1985, Um Jihad was the Secretary-General of the General Union of Palestinian Women. In 1983, she served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

Um Jihad lived in exile for thirty years with her husband, Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), the co-founder of the Fatah party, and leader of the first Palestinian uprising. In 1988, he was assassinated by Israel in his home in Tunisia.

After her husband's death in 1988, she became a member of the PLO Executive Committee. She served as Chair of the PLO's Social Welfare Institute and the Families of Martyrs foundation.

Um Jihad returned to the Gaza Strip in 1995. The following year she was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council, representing Gaza City for Fatah.. Since 1995, she has served as the Minister of Social Affairs. In 2003, she was nominated as the Minister of Social Affairs in the new Palestinian Authority Cabinet.

Al-Wazir is one of, if not the most, prominent women in the Palestinian territories. Her nom de guerre is Um Jihad, which translates to "mother of the fight" and exemplifies her persona to the Palestinian people, as their mother in the struggle against Israeli occupation.

Al-Wazir is one of the remaining female members of the "old guard". Her husband was a close associate of Arafat and she remains a close political ally.

In recent negotiations on the formation of the April 2003 Palestinian Cabinet under Prime Minister Abu Mazen, Arafat succeeded in securing the Minister of Social Affairs for Um Jihad, although Prime Minister Abu Mazen did not plan to include her in his cabinet.

Abu Mazen may not have wanted to include Um Jihad, as she is spoken of by the Palestinians, because she represents the freedom fighters and martyr's methods for attaining independence from Israel. She is often quoted in the press and at the United Nations for blaming Israel for many of the ills that plague Palestinian society. She has been quoted as not a proponent of compromise in order to attain Palestinian statehood.

Sources: Palestine Media Center;;;;;;;, (May 21, 2002);;, (September 25, 2001)