Khadija Khwes: ‘The Struggle will continue’

Khadija Khwes
Updated 22 August 2017

Khadija Khwes: ‘The Struggle will continue’

AMMAN: A photo that went viral shows a woman squatting in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound turning over the contents of a large pot: The popular Palestinian dish maqlobeh, made up of rice, cauliflower and chicken. The food was being served to worshippers on July 27, the day Palestinians returned en masse to the mosque.
Khadija Khwes has been regularly targeted by the Israelis, and has been banned on many occasions from entering Al-Aqsa. Her contribution to the success of the two-week-long, nonviolent Palestinian protest is certainly not limited to her cooking skills.
Her trouble with Israeli authorities began when she and other women decided to hold prayer sessions just outside Mograbi Gate. They set up plastic tables and chairs, and when Jewish extremists would visit Al-Aqsa, the women would watch the unwelcome visitors to see if they carried out Jewish prayers. If they did, the women would start chanting “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest) to alert the Waqf guards, who would usually stop such efforts. Khwes and other women were featured in a 2014 documentary by Sawsan Qaoud titled “The Women of Al-Aqsa.”
Arab News met with Khwes during one of her afternoon visits to Al-Aqsa. She listed repeated Israeli restrictions on her: “In the past 10 years, I’ve been arrested seven times, and banned from entering the mosque eight times for a total of 550 days. I’ve also been banned from travel, including to the West Bank, and the Israelis stopped national insurance payments to me and my family, which is a right to all people of Jerusalem.”
During the recent protests over access to Al-Aqsa, “women were side-by-side with women” and supported the protesters “at all levels,” she said. Khwes invites tourists to speak with her so she can “tell people about the discrimination we face.”
The success of the protests has not blinded her to the long-term dangers to Al-Aqsa. “As long as there are Israeli aspirations for the mosque, the danger is present and the struggle will continue. While we believe this struggle will only end when the occupation ends, we still demand that Israel stop interfering in the affairs of Al-Aqsa and end restrictions on entering the mosque. We also want an end to the provocative entry of settlers to the mosque.”
She said: “I dedicated all my hours to Al-Aqsa during the protest period. Al-Aqsa needed all of us and I couldn’t leave it.” Her schedule is also full on regular days, during which “I go to Lions’ Gate in the morning and stand by Bab Hutta to protest my ban on entry to the mosque. At 3 p.m. I’m allowed to enter the mosque... I then go home and carry out chores and duties, including teaching my children and following up on other issues.”
Her career as a Qur’an teacher was cut short by the Israeli ban. “I was a teacher of Qur’an on the premises of the mosque compound, but this came to an end when the Israelis issued a ban denying me entry to the mosque.” Khwes now substitute-teaches at the Nisami school.
Hanadi Hilwani said of her friend: “We’re partners in so many things. We protest together, and we’ve been banned from Al-Aqsa together. We’re banned from travel, and our families have been denied national insurance stipends that are given to all Jerusalemites. But this is nothing to us as we believe Al-Aqsa deserves our attention.”

New Iraqi coalition ‘in three days’

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, left, meets with Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr in Baghdad early Sunday. Al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections, says the next government will be "inclusive." (Iraqi government via AP)
Updated 21 May 2018

New Iraqi coalition ‘in three days’

  • The Sairoon alliance led by the powerful Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr won the May 12 election with 54 parliamentary seats.
  • While Al-Sadr can not become prime minister, he is playing a key role in the talks.

BAGHDAD: Iraqi political forces have made “remarkable” progress in talks to form the largest parliamentary bloc in preparation for a new government, politicians involved in the negotiations told Arab News.

The Sairoon alliance led by the powerful Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr won the May 12 election with 54 parliamentary seats.

Talks aimed at forming a new government started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday.

The parliamentary alliance is expected to be announced in the next few days, and while Al-Sadr can not become prime minister, he is playing a key role in the talks.

Dhiyaa Al-Assadi, the head of Sadrist Parliamentary bloc, told Arab News they have initial agreements with several key political players including the current prime minister Haider Al-Abadi and his Al-Nassir coalition and the prominent Shiite cleric Ammar Al-Hakim and his list Al-Hikma.

He added they also have basic agreements with Vice President Ayad Allawi and his Al-Wattiniya alliance along with several Kurdish parties.

“The post of prime minister is not our main goal,” Al-Assadi said. “Our goal is to make the required reforms and correct the mistakes that dominated the political process since 2003.”

Shiite politicians involved in the talks said the nucleus of the alliance is Sairoon and Hikma and negotiations are underway with Al-Abadi and the pro-Iranian Al-Fattah list to join.

“The details are supposed to be settled soon and the coalition supposed to be announced within 72 hours,” Hikma spokesman Mohammed Al-Maiyahi told Arab News. 

The talks have focussed on deciding the form of the next government, its principles and program, sources involved said. 

Abandoning the power sharing government, which has been adopted by political parties since 2003, is the most prominent issue agreed by the negotiators.

“We have agreed to form a national majority government. A government that represents all of Iraq's contents (Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds) but does not include all the winning parliamentary blocs,” a senior Shiite politician told Arab News.

Rejecting foreign intervention in Iraqi affairs, writing a clear government program and pledging to implement it according to certain time limits, are also principles agreed between negotiators.

They decided not to nominate anyone for a ministerial position considered to have failed in previous posts or who has been involved in corruption. 

“The government program is initial and the nominated prime minister has to be committed to its details and its time limits,” the politician said. 

“He (the nominated PM) would be fired after a year, if he fails to meet the items of the government program and its time limits.”

The victory by Sairoon, an alliance of candidates from various affiliations, came amid low voter turnout with many Iraqis jaded by corruption and the lack of progress under recent governments.

Al-Fattah, which is headed by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most prominent paramilitary groups, won 47 seats and came second. Al-Nassir came third with 44 seats, but its leader, Prime Minister Al-Abadi is still in a strong position to keep his job.

The negotiations need to form an alliance that consists of no less than 166 seats - half of the total in parliament plus one.