Suha with portrait of Yasset
Photo: AFP

'Arafat was the Mandela of the Arab world'

In rare interview to CNN, Suha, widow of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, says she might enter politics; reveals marriage was a sham

Over seven years after the death of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, the CNN network is publishing a rare interview with his widow Suha Arafat.


In the interview, parts of which were published on Wednesday, Suha discusses her suspicions that Israel poisoned her husband, the possibility that she would enter politics, and claims that she only married Arafat because of his position and then abandoned him at a the toughest point in his life.


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Suha was interviewed for a CNN documentary series The Price of Kings. CNN claims it is the first time that Suha has agreed to be interviewed on camera. She was interviewed by CNN's Becky Anderson.


סוהא ערפאת ובתה זהווה. "פוליטיקה? אולי אחרי שהיא תתחתן" (צילום: AFP)

Politics? After Zahwa gets married (Photo: AFP)


Following allegations within the Arab world that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat, who died of a mysterious illness in 2004, Anderson asked Suha whether she would have wanted a full autopsy on his body.


"Yes, but it was the decision of the Palestinian Authority, and I respected their decision. Yasser died with his secrets with him and no one can know the truth now."


'Mary Antoinette of Arab world'

When asked why after years of silence did she decide to speak out now she said: "Because of the injustices that was exerted against my husband and myself all this time.


"This has made me speak about what happened especially the last days of Yasser, the last you know, after the intifada Yasser and myself were portrayed as devils. I was portrayed as very, very - as the Mary Antoinette of the Arab world."


Anderson did not make it easy on Suha, asking her if she believed Arafat had been a terrorist, to which Suha responded: "No, a terrorist would not have ever taken the Nobel Peace Prize. You know there is this difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. My husband has never been a terrorist - he was a freedom fighter."


Anderson then asked whether it was a case of her husband being unable to control the factions, or unwilling to control them that gave this sense of this man as a terrorist in the end.


"Look now what is going on - this split between Gaza and the West Bank, Fatah and Hamas. If Yasser was alive this split between Fatah and Hamas would never have existed," Suha noted.


"Did he have a conscience?" asked Anderson; "Of course he had a conscience. Yasser Arafat was the conscience – he was the Mandela of the Arab world, the Mandela of Palestine," Suha stated.


כרזה לציון 7 שנים למות ערפאת, בסוף השנה שעברה (צילום: EPA)

Seven years on - Yasser Arafat commemorative billboard (Photo: EPA)


Suha was then asked about her feelings with regards to the peace process and whether she had plans to go into politics: "Not now - I have been saying that maybe after Zahwa gets married and she will be okay that I might go into politics because Yasser Arafat has to have a continuity.


"I lived 20 years with this man. I know how he works and how he can gather with his charm and personality all the people around him, all the factions, all the Arab world actually, and now when I see the Arab spring and how the people are getting rid of their leaders like we are witnessing in Syria, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Yemen, all over, yet still now the Palestinian people cry for the loss of Arafat - the democracy that Arafat brought in spite of the occupation.


"He was a great leader and he was the only one who was respected and loved truly by his people."

As for the price Arafat paid for the Palestinian cause, Suha believes that "he paid his life, even if he was not poisoned, he paid his life. He did not see his daughter. He told us to go out because he did not want us to stay in Palestine.


"He said 'I don't want to be protected by a woman and a child, they will say that I am a coward and I am protecting myself with my daughter.' Everyone was saying 'she left him' - I had to leave him because he obliged me to leave him because he said I am becoming the new revolutionary again."




פרסום ראשון: 03.15.12, 00:20
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