Hanan Ashwari was born in Nablus, Palestine in 1946. The youngest of five daughters Hanan cites her father, a physician in the British Army, as being one of the greatest influences in her life, giving her a Palestinian identity and instilling a system of values and self worth.
Hanan graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1969 and went on to gain her doctorate degree in Medieval English and Literary Criticism at the University of Virginia, America in 1973.
Returning to Israel, Hanan took up post at the Bir Zeit University, first as Chair of the Department of English, later becoming Dean of Faculty of Arts. It is here that Hanan actively became involved in the Palestinian cause. She participated in speeches, performances and demonstrations and in 1988, after a successful appearance on live American television, she joined the Palestinian Diplomatic Committee and the Intifada Political Committee.
In 1991, Yasser Arafat appointed her as Official Spokesperson of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Process. She then went on to become the Palestinian Minister of Higher Education and Research and for one year, Head of the Political Committee.
In 1993 Hanan was one of the founder members of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights and is currently a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. However, in 1998, she resigned from the Government in protest against political corruption and the handling of the peace talks.
In 1999 Hanan founded MIFTAH – the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. MIFTAH’s mission is to “foster the principles of democracy and effective dialogue based on the free and candid exchange of information and ideas”.