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Suha Arafat and her daughter Zahwa (archives)
Photo: AFP
A farmer named Suha Arafat?
WikiLeaks documents reveal American diplomats were puzzled by request for Tunisian citizenship made by former Palestinian Authority chairman's widow in 2006. One of benefits – owning agricultural land – did not seem very attractive as 'Mrs. Arafat is not known to be an aspiring farmer'

American official were puzzled in 2006 by a request made by former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's widow Suah Arafat for a Tunisian citizenship, a document released Tuesday by the WikiLeaks website revealed.

 

 

The Americans were occupied with the request because they couldn't understand why Suha Arafat would want a Tunisian citizenship, as she had been living in the African country since 2004 and had a diplomatic passport.

 

"She already enjoyed the privilege of a Tunisian diplomatic passport, and we doubt that she was eager to exercise her right to vote in Tunisia or become a member of the Tunisian National Assembly," said a secret American report sent to Washington.

 

The Americans estimated that "the only other tangible benefit of citizenship is that Tunisian law forbids foreigners to own agricultural land," but noted that "Mrs. Arafat is not known to be an aspiring farmer."

 

The American representative presented an assumption: "One possible motivation is that under Tunisian law, foreign participation in a totally non-exporting service industry cannot exceed 50%. Several months ago, Mrs. Arafat set up one such company – to build an international school in Tunis. Tunisian citizenship will allow her to control this company."

 

The document went on to examine Tunisia's motivation to grant Arafat a citizenship. "We suspect a continuing desire on the part of the government to market itself as closely tied to the Palestinian people played a role.

 

"The government of Tunisia probably feels the need for some Palestinian 'cover, during this time when newspapers are full of stories on the government's campaign against the hijab. In addition, Mrs. Arafat is said to be good friends with the First Lady, Leila Ben Ali."

 

Arafat's wife became a citizen of Tunisia, where she had lived before getting married, in October 2006. But in 2007 she was banished, her citizenship was revoked, and she moved to Malta. Earlier reports claimed that she had married the Tunisian president's brother-in-law, but she rushed to deny the claims.

 

 

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