Marwan Barghouthi was born on 6th June 1959, in the village of Kobar, near Ramallah. He grew up in occupied Palestine and his life has been shaped by this occupation and been defined by his struggle against it.
Fatah: In 1974, a then 15 year old Marwan joined the Fatah party, the historic Palestinian national liberation movement, and began his gradual rise up its ranks. Marwan Barghouthi founded the Fatah Youth (Shabiba). He was elected to its Revolutionary Council in 1989 and subsequently elected its Secretary-General for the West Bank in 1994. He was elected as MP in the Parliamentary elections of 1996 and re-elected in the 2006 general elections as Head of Fatah’s list. In 2009, he was elected member of the highest instance of the party, the Fatah Central Committee.
Prison and banishment: Marwan is the most renowned Palestinian political prisoner. He has spent a total of 17 years in Israeli prisons, including the last 11 years consecutively. His first experience in Israeli prisons dates back to 1978, when he found himself charged by the Israeli occupier for being a member of Fatah, a then “banned” organization. In 1987, the State of Israel banished him from his homeland for “inciting” the struggle against its occupation. He will only return in 1994, following the conclusion of the Oslo peace agreements.
During the 2nd Intifada, and following two failed attempts on his life, he was abducted by the Israeli occupation forces on 15th April 2002. He was the first Palestinian Member of Parliament to be arrested by Israel. Many would follow. On 6th June 2004, following what international observers and attending delegations unanimously described as a “political show-trial”, Marwan Barghouthi was sentenced to 5 life sentences and 40 years in prison. It should be noted that Marwan Barghouthi refused to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation court, especially to judge an elected representative of the Palestinian people, considering these courts as an integral part of the Occupation’s system. Marwan spent 100 days in interrogation and over 1000 days in isolation, deprived of the right to receive family visits. His wife now visits him for 45 minutes every 2 weeks, while his 3 sons and daughter require a permit to be able to visit their father, which they are granted once every 2 or 3 years.
Education: Marwan completed his high school diplomas from his cell. In 1983, he was admitted to Birzeit University, Palestine’s most renowned academic institution. However, 11 years passed before he could complete what should have been a 4-year B.A. in History & Political Science. During his time at Birzeit University, Marwan became a prominent figure in the student political scene, leading the Students’ Union as elected president, at a time when the university was becoming a hub of Palestinian political activity. He wrote his Masters thesis on Palestinian-French relations, a subject he knows well as Chair of the Palestine-France Inter-parliamentary group in the Palestinian Legislative Council. In 2010, he obtained a PhD in Political Science from the Arab League Institute for Studies and Research, entitled ”Legislative performance and political status of the Palestinian Legislative Council and its contribution to the democratic process in Palestine from 1996 to 2006”. Marwan Barghouthi wrote his thesis whilst at Hadarim prison, and smuggled the pages secretly for a whole year through his lawyer.
Intifadas and the peace process: The First Intifada, which erupted soon after Marwan’s exile to Jordan, saw him play an increasingly significant role in organizing the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupier. His official role during the Palestinian uprising was that of Central Liaison Officer between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), based outside the oPt, and the Fatah party, based inside the oPt. In 1994, as a result of the Oslo Accords, Marwan Barghouthi was able to return to the oPt. He immediately began actively advocating in favor of the peace process, campaigning tirelessly on the Palestinian streets and within Israeli and Palestinian political circles, believing that the Accords had created a historic opportunity for Palestinians to achieve statehood, independence and self-determination. By the end of the 1990s however, it became clear to most Palestinians that the intentions of the Sate of Israel were anything but peaceful, and that the initial optimism that had prevailed at the time of the Oslo Accords had been misplaced, since Israel pursued and intensified its colonial policies. On 28th September 2000, following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque, massive protests broke out, which were in turn met with brutality by the Israeli occupation forces. The Second Intifada had begun. It confirmed Marwan Barghouthi’s central role in the Palestinian struggle. While opposing attacks against Israeli civilians and within the Israeli territory, he defended and continues defending the Palestinian people’s right to resist the occupation in accordance with international law, and emphasized that peace and security will be the result of the end of occupation. Marwan Barghouthi advocates popular resistance against colonisation as well as isolation of the Israeli occupation. He was a strong advocate of the UN bid, and continues calling for increased international involvement in light of the failure of bilateral negotiations to secure freedom and justice for the Palestinian people, and peace and security for the peoples of the region.
Reconciliation: Marwan Barghouthi was the initiator of the ‘National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners’, drafted by leaders from the different Palestinian political factions, upon whose basis a national unity government was formed in February 2007. In this document, the representatives of the political parties agreed on a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, on pursuing the ceasefire, on restricting resistance to the oPt and on adopting popular resistance as an approach to end the occupation. Marwan insists that reconciliation should be a top priority, and believes in an inclusive approach, uniting Palestinian factions around the PLO platform and allowing the involvement of all political parties within the political system. This reconciliation should lead to the resumption of the Palestinian democratic process and to elections at all levels within an agreed timeframe.
Personal life: Marwan was first imprisoned in 1978. Upon his release, he married the love of his life, Fadwa, to whom he had proposed 6 months prior to his discharge. Marwan and Fadwa now have three sons (Qassam, Sharaf and ‘Arab) and one daughter (Ruba).
The Author: Marwan Barghouthi wrote a number of books during his years of captivity, including:
- “The Promise”, (a collection of interviews, statements and messages issued by Marwan from prison)
- “One Thousand Days in a Solitary Confinement Cell” (this book depicts the interrogation, ill-treatment and isolation that Marwan experienced during his one thousand days of isolation after he was kidnapped).
- “Resisting arrest” co-authored with Abdel Nasser Issa, a leader of the Hamas movement, and A’hed Abu Ghulmeh, a Central Committee member of the Popular Front. (The book explains how to deal with Israeli interrogation, torture and the psychological torture during arrest).
- “Palestinian- French Relations” which was published before Marwan’s abduction and based on his Masters thesis.