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12 April 2013

Her Excellency Ms. Rabiha Thiab ('99):
Perseverant Women’s Rights Leader

Her Excellency Ms. Rabiha Thiab began her studies at Bethlehem University like the rest of her peers – 18 years old with a thirst for knowledge and passionate about making an impact in the world. After 21 years of interrupted studies, including two arrests by Israeli soldiers, she finally received her diploma in 1999. Now, Ms. Thiab has experienced success at the top of her field, as the Minister of Women’s Affairs in Palestine, responsible for improving and defending women’s rights – working on anti-discrimination laws against women in the workforce and in society, and developing resources for women to file complaints confidentially.

Ms. Rabiha Thiab

Her Excellency Ms. Rabiha Thiab, Minister of Women's Affairs
(left), and Ms. Haneen Musleh, Alumni Relations Officer
at Bethlehem University (right)

Politically active from a young age, Ms. Thiab played a role in establishing the Student Senate at Bethlehem University in 1978. At the time, she and her peers actively collaborated with the student senates at neighboring institutions, such as al Najah University and Berzeit University. Ms. Thiab’s patriotism stood out among her peers, as she would sing national Palestinian songs during Student Senate activities and throughout campus.

Ms. Thiab has three prominent memories from her time at Bethlehem University: her role in establishing the Student Senate, her arrest by Israeli military during her third year of study, and finally her graduation day in 1999. As a student returning to Bethlehem University, Ms. Thiab was seen as a mother or big sister by her classmates, who were nearly 20 years her junior. 

The students and graduates of Bethlehem University and the youth of Palestine will build the future of Palestine, Ms. Thiab said. She hopes they will learn from the older generation in order to achieve positive changes in the community. 

Bethlehem University provides an opportunity for people to come together and learn more about each other, Ms. Thiab said, noting that Bethlehem University is unique for embracing an atmosphere in which differences among people are respected. She said she will never forget the faces and names of those she met at Bethlehem University and continues to hold fond memories of many faculty and staff, in particular Ms. Mary Sabella, Dr. Jeanne Kattan, and Ms. Nabila Daqaq.

Ms. Thiab emphasizes the role of women in the community and believes that woman in Palestine should participate in political decisions and all other aspects of life – noting that women can play a powerful role in households with children and in the community. Ms. Thiab urges the women and the young ladies of Palestine not only to defend their rights, but also to play a leadership role and be a part of creating the political decisions.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine