13 December 1988

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York.

Yasser Arafat
ياسر عرفات
Flickr - Government Press Office (GPO) - THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATES FOR 1994 IN OSLO. (cropped).jpg
1st President of the Palestinian National Authority
In office
5 July 1994 – 11 November 2004
Prime Minister
Succeeded byRawhi Fattouh (interim)
3rd Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization
In office
4 February 1969 – 29 October 2004
Preceded byYahya Hammuda
Succeeded byMahmoud Abbas
Personal details
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini

4 / (1929-08-24)24 August 1929
Cairo, Egypt
Died11 November 2004(2004-11-11) (aged 75)
Clamart, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Resting place Arafat's compound, Ramallah, Palestine
Political partyFatah
Spouse(s)Suha Arafat (1990–2004)
ProfessionCivil engineer

Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini (/ˈærəfæt/ ARR-ə-fat, also US: /ˈɑːrəfɑːt/ AR-ə-FAHT;[1] Arabic: محمد ياسر عبد الرحمن عبد الرؤوف عرفات القدوة الحسيني‎‎; 4[2][3] / 24[4][5] August 1929 – 11 November 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat (Arabic: ياسر عرفات‎, romanizedYāsir ʿArafāt) or by his kunya Abu Ammar (Arabic: أبو عمار‎, romanized: ʾAbū ʿAmmār), was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004.[6] Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.

Arafat was born to Palestinian parents in Cairo, Egypt, where he spent most of his youth and studied at the University of King Fuad I. While a student, he embraced Arab nationalist and anti-Zionist ideas. Opposed to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, he fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Returning to Cairo, he served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students from 1952 to 1956. In the latter part of the 1950s he co-founded Fatah, a paramilitary organisation seeking the disestablishment of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Fatah operated within several Arab countries, from where it launched attacks on Israeli targets. In the latter part of the 1960s Arafat's profile grew; in 1967 he joined the PLO and in 1969 was elected chair of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Fatah's growing presence in Jordan resulted in military clashes with King Hussein's Jordanian government and in the early 1970s it relocated to Lebanon. There, Fatah assisted the Lebanese National Movement during the Lebanese Civil War and continued its attacks on Israel, resulting in it becoming a major target of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions.

From 1983 to 1993, Arafat based himself in Tunisia, and began to shift his approach from open conflict with the Israelis to negotiation. In 1988, he acknowledged Israel's right to exist and sought a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 1994 he returned to Palestine, settling in Gaza City and promoting self-governance for the Palestinian territories. He engaged in a series of negotiations with the Israeli government to end the conflict between it and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. In 1994 Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. At the time, Fatah's support among the Palestinians declined with the growth of Hamas and other militant rivals. In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat fell into a coma and died. While the cause of Arafat's death has remained the subject of speculation, investigations by Russian and French teams determined no foul play was involved.[7][8][9]

Arafat remains a controversial figure. The majority of the Palestinian people view him as a heroic freedom fighter and martyr who symbolized the national aspirations of his people. Conversely, most Israelis[10][11] came to regard him as an unrepentant terrorist,[12][13] while Palestinian rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government.

Early life

Birth and childhood

Arafat was born in Cairo, Egypt.[14] His father, Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, was a Palestinian from Gaza City, whose mother, Yasser's paternal grandmother, was Egyptian. Arafat's father battled in the Egyptian courts for 25 years to claim family land in Egypt as part of his inheritance but was unsuccessful.[15] He worked as a textile merchant in Cairo's religiously mixed Sakakini District. Arafat was the second-youngest of seven children and was, along with his younger brother Fathi, the only offspring born in Cairo. His mother, Zahwa Abul Saud, was from a Jerusalem-based family. She died from a kidney ailment in 1933, when Arafat was four years of age.[16]

Arafat's first visit to Jerusalem came when his father, unable to raise seven children alone, sent Yasser and his brother Fathi to their mother's family in the Moroccan Quarter of the Old City. They lived there with their uncle Salim Abul Saud for four years. In 1937, their father recalled them to be taken care of by their older sister, Inam. Arafat had a deteriorating relationship with his father; when he died in 1952, Arafat did not attend the funeral, nor did he visit his father's grave upon his return to Gaza. Arafat's sister Inam stated in an interview with Arafat's biographer, British historian Alan Hart, that Arafat was heavily beaten by his father for going to the Jewish quarter in Cairo and attending religious services. When she asked Arafat why he would not stop going, he responded by saying that he wanted to study Jewish mentality.[16]


In 1944, Arafat enrolled in the University of King Fuad I and graduated in 1950.[16] At university, he engaged Jews in discussion and read publications by Theodor Herzl and other prominent Zionists.[17] By 1946 he was an Arab nationalist and began procuring weapons to be smuggled into the former British Mandate of Palestine, for use by irregulars in the Arab Higher Committee and the Army of the Holy War militias.[18]

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Arafat left the University and, along with other Arabs, sought to enter Palestine to join Arab forces fighting against Israeli troops and the creation of the state of Israel. However, instead of joining the ranks of the Palestinian fedayeen, Arafat fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, although he did not join the organization. He took part in combat in the Gaza area (which was the main battleground of Egyptian forces during the conflict). In early 1949, the war was winding down in Israel's favor, and Arafat returned to Cairo from a lack of logistical support.[16]

After returning to the University, Arafat studied civil engineering and served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) from 1952 to 1956. During his first year as president of the union, the University was renamed Cairo University after a coup was carried out by the Free Officers Movement overthrowing King Farouk I. By that time, Arafat had graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and was called to duty to fight with Egyptian forces during the Suez Crisis; however, he never actually fought.[16] Later that year, at a conference in Prague, he donned a solid white keffiyeh–different from the fishnet-patterned one he adopted later in Kuwait, which was to become his emblem.[19]


In 1990, Arafat married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Christian, when he was 61 and Suha, 27. Her mother introduced her to him in France, after which she worked as his secretary in Tunis.[20][21] Prior to their marriage, Arafat adopted fifty Palestinian war orphans.[22] During their marriage, Suha tried to leave Arafat on many occasions, but he forbade it.[23] Suha said she regrets the marriage, and given the choice again would not repeat it.[23][24] On 24 July 1995, Arafat's wife Suha gave birth to a daughter in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.[25] She was named Zahwa after Arafat's deceased mother.[21]


Arafat's full name was Mohammed Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini. Mohammed Abdel Rahman was his first name, Abdel Raouf was his father's name and Arafat his grandfather's. Al-Qudwa was the name of his tribe and al-Husseini was that of the clan to which the al-Qudwas belonged. The al-Husseini clan was based in Gaza and is not related to the well-known al-Husayni clan of Jerusalem.[16]

Since Arafat was raised in Cairo, the tradition of dropping the Mohammed or Ahmad portion of one's first name was common; notable Egyptians such as Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak did so. However, Arafat dropped Abdel Rahman and Abdel Raouf from his name as well. During the early 1950s, Arafat adopted the name Yasser, and in the early years of Arafat's guerrilla career, he assumed the nom de guerre of Abu Ammar. Both names are related to Ammar ibn Yasir, one of Muhammad's early companions. Although he dropped most of his inherited names, he retained Arafat due to its significance in Islam.[16]

Rise of Fatah

Founding of Fatah

Following the Suez Crisis in 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser agreed to allow the United Nations Emergency Force to establish itself in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, precipitating the expulsion of all guerrilla or "fedayeen" forces there—including Arafat. Arafat originally attempted to obtain a visa to Canada and later Saudi Arabia, but was unsuccessful in both attempts.[16] In 1957, he applied for a visa to Kuwait (at the time a British protectorate) and was approved, based on his work in civil engineering. There he encountered two Palestinian friends: Salah Khalaf ("Abu Iyad") and Khalil al-Wazir ("Abu Jihad"), both official members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Arafat had met Abu Iyad while attending Cairo University and Abu Jihad in Gaza. Both would later become Arafat's top aides. Abu Iyad traveled with Arafat to Kuwait in late 1960; Abu Jihad, also working as a teacher, had already been living there since 1959.[26] After settling in Kuwait, Abu Iyad helped Arafat obtain a temporary job as a schoolteacher.[27]

As Arafat began to develop friendships with Palestinian refugees (some of whom he knew from his Cairo days), he and the others gradually founded the group that became known as Fatah. The exact date for the establishment of Fatah is unknown. In 1959, the group's existence was attested to in the pages of a Palestinian nationalist magazine, Filastununa Nida al-Hayat (Our Palestine, The Call of Life), which was written and edited by Abu Jihad.[28] FaTaH is a reverse acronym of the Arabic name Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini which translates into "The Palestinian National Liberation Movement".[27][29] "Fatah" is also a word that was used in early Islamic times to refer to "conquest."[27]

Fatah dedicated itself to the liberation of Palestine by an armed struggle carried out by Palestinians themselves. This differed from other Palestinian political and guerrilla organizations, most of which firmly believed in a united Arab response.[27][30] Arafat's organization never embraced the ideologies of the major Arab governments of the time, in contrast to other Palestinian factions, which often became satellites of nations such as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and others.[31]

In accordance with his ideology, Arafat generally refused to accept donations to his organization from major Arab governments, in order to act independently of them. He did not want to alienate them, and sought their undivided support by avoiding ideological alliances. However, to establish the groundwork for Fatah's future financial support, he enlisted contributions from the many wealthy Palestinians working in Kuwait and other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, such as Qatar (where he met Mahmoud Abbas in 1961).[32] These businessmen and oil workers contributed generously to the Fatah organization. Arafat continued this process in other Arab countries, such as Libya and Syria.[27]

In 1962, Arafat and his closest companions migrated to Syria—a country sharing a border with Israel—which had recently seceded from its union with Egypt. Fatah had approximately three hundred members by this time, but none were fighters.[27] In Syria, he managed to recruit members by offering them higher incomes to enable his armed attacks against Israel. Fatah's manpower was incremented further after Arafat decided to offer new recruits much higher salaries than members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was created by the Arab League in 1964. On 31 December, a squad from al-Assifa, Fatah's armed wing, attempted to infiltrate Israel, but they were intercepted and detained by Lebanese security forces. Several other raids with Fatah's poorly trained and badly-equipped fighters followed this incident. Some were successful, others failed in their missions. Arafat often led these incursions personally.[27]

Arafat was detained in Syria's Mezzeh Prison when a Palestinian Syrian Army officer, Yusef Urabi, was killed. Urabi had been chairing a meeting to ease tensions between Arafat and Palestinian Liberation Front leader Ahmed Jibril, but neither Arafat nor Jibril attended, delegating representatives to attend on their behalf. Urabi was killed during or after the meeting amid disputed circumstances. On the orders of Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, a close friend of Urabi, Arafat was subsequently arrested, found guilty by a three-man jury and sentenced to death. However, he and his colleagues were pardoned by President Salah Jadid shortly after the verdict.[33] The incident brought Assad and Arafat to unpleasant terms, which would surface later when Assad became President of Syria.[27]

Leader of the Palestinians

On 13 November 1966, Israel launched a major raid against the Jordanian administered West Bank town of as-Samu, in response to a Fatah-implemented roadside bomb attack which had killed three members of the Israeli security forces near the southern Green Line border. In the resulting skirmish, scores of Jordanian security forces were killed and 125 homes razed. This raid was one of several factors that led to the 1967 Six-Day War.[34]

The Six-Day war began when Israel launched air strikes against Egypt's air force on 5 June 1967. The war ended in an Arab defeat and Israel's occupation of several Arab territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although Nasser and his Arab allies had been defeated, Arafat and Fatah could claim a victory, in that the majority of Palestinians, who had up to that time tended to align and sympathize with individual Arab governments, now began to agree that a 'Palestinian' solution to their dilemma was indispensable.[35] Many primarily Palestinian political parties, including George Habash's Arab Nationalist Movement, Hajj Amin al-Husseini's Arab Higher Committee, the Islamic Liberation Front and several Syrian-backed groups, virtually crumbled after their sponsor governments' defeat. Barely a week after the defeat, Arafat crossed the Jordan River in disguise and entered the West Bank, where he set up recruitment centers in Hebron, the Jerusalem area and Nablus, and began attracting both fighters and financiers for his cause.[35]

At the same time, Nasser contacted Arafat through the former's adviser Mohammed Heikal and Arafat was declared by Nasser to be the "leader of the Palestinians."[36] In December 1967 Ahmad Shukeiri resigned his post as PLO Chairman. Yahya Hammuda took his place and invited Arafat to join the organization. Fatah was allocated 33 of 105 seats of the PLO Executive Committee while 57 seats were left for several other guerrilla factions.[35]

Battle of Karameh

Throughout 1968, Fatah and other Palestinian armed groups were the target of a major Israeli army operation in the Jordanian village of Karameh, where the Fatah headquarters—as well as a mid-sized Palestinian refugee camp—were located. The town's name is the Arabic word for 'dignity', which elevated its symbolism in the eyes of the Arab people, especially after the collective Arab defeat in 1967. The operation was in response to attacks, including rockets strikes from Fatah and other Palestinian militias, within the Israeli-occupied West Bank. According to Said Aburish, the government of Jordan and a number of Fatah commandos informed Arafat that large-scale Israeli military preparations for an attack on the town were underway, prompting fedayeen groups, such as George Habash's newly formed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Nayef Hawatmeh's breakaway organization the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to withdraw their forces from the town. Though advised by a sympathetic Jordanian Army divisional commander to withdraw his men and headquarters to the nearby hills, Arafat refused,[35] stating, "We want to convince the world that there are those in the Arab world who will not withdraw or flee."[37] Aburish writes that it was on Arafat's orders that Fatah remained, and that the Jordanian Army agreed to back them if heavy fighting ensued.[35]

In response to persistent PLO raids against Israeli civilian targets, Israel attacked the town of Karameh, Jordan, the site of a major PLO camp. The goal of the invasion was to destroy Karameh camp and capture Yasser Arafat in reprisal for the attacks by the PLO against Israeli civilians, which culminated in an Israeli school bus hitting a mine in the Negev, killing two children.[38] However, plans for the two operations were prepared in 1967, one year before the bus attack.[39] The size of the Israeli forces entering Karameh made the Jordanians assume that Israel was also planning to occupy the eastern bank of the Jordan River, including the Balqa Governorate, to create a situation similar to the Golan Heights, which Israel had captured just 10 months prior, to be used a bargaining chip.[40][41] Israel assumed that the Jordanian Army would ignore the invasion, but the latter fought alongside the Palestinians, opening heavy fire that inflicted losses upon the Israeli forces.[42] This engagement marked the first known deployment of suicide bombers by Palestinian forces.[43] The Israelis were repelled at the end of a day's battle, having destroyed most of the Karameh camp and taken around 141 PLO prisoners.[44] Both sides declared victory. On a tactical level, the battle went in Israel's favor[45] and the destruction of the Karameh camp was achieved.[46] However, the relatively high casualties were a considerable surprise for the Israel Defense Forces and was stunning to the Israelis.[47] Although the Palestinians were not victorious on their own, King Hussein let the Palestinians take credit.[47][48][49] Some have alleged that Arafat himself was on the battlefield, but the details of his involvement are unclear. However, his allies–as well as Israeli intelligence–confirm that he urged his men throughout the battle to hold their ground and continue fighting.[50]

The battle was covered in detail by Time, and Arafat's face appeared on the cover of the 13 December 1968 issue, bringing his image to the world for the first time.[51] Amid the post-war environment, the profiles of Arafat and Fatah were raised by this important turning point, and he came to be regarded as a national hero who dared to confront Israel. With mass applause from the Arab world, financial donations increased significantly, and Fatah's weaponry and equipment improved. The group's numbers swelled as many young Arabs, including thousands of non-Palestinians, joined the ranks of Fatah.[52]

When the Palestinian National Council (PNC) convened in Cairo on 3 February 1969, Yahya Hammuda stepped down from his chairmanship of the PLO. Arafat was elected chairman on 4 February.[53][54] He became Commander-in-Chief of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces two years later, and in 1973, became the head of the PLO's political department.[35]

Confrontation with Jordan

Arafat with Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader, Nayef Hawatmeh and Palestinian writer Kamal Nasser at press conference in Amman, 1970

In the late 1960s, tensions between Palestinians and the Jordanian government increased greatly; heavily armed Palestinian elements had created a virtual "state within a state" in Jordan, eventually controlling several strategic positions in that country. After their proclaimed victory in the Battle of Karameh, Fatah and other Palestinian militias began taking control of civil life in Jordan. They set up roadblocks, publicly humiliated Jordanian police forces, molested women and levied illegal taxes—all of which Arafat either condoned or ignored.[37] King Hussein considered this a growing threat to his kingdom's sovereignty and security, and attempted to disarm the militias. However, in order to avoid a military confrontation with opposition forces, Hussein dismissed several of his anti-PLO cabinet officials, including some of his own family members, and invited Arafat to become Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan. Arafat refused, citing his belief in the need for a Palestinian state with Palestinian leadership.[55]

Despite Hussein's intervention, militant actions in Jordan continued. On 15 September 1970, the PFLP (part of the PLO) hijacked four planes and landed three of them at Dawson's Field, located 30 miles (48 km) east of Amman. After the foreign national hostages were taken off the planes and moved away from them, three of the planes were blown up in front of international press, which took photos of the explosion. This tarnished Arafat's image in many western nations, including the United States, who held him responsible for controlling Palestinian factions that belonged to the PLO. Arafat, bowing to pressure from Arab governments, publicly condemned the hijackings and suspended the PFLP from any guerrilla actions for a few weeks. He had taken the same action after the PFLP attacked Athens Airport. The Jordanian government moved to regain control over its territory, and the next day, King Hussein declared martial law.[55] On the same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the PLA.[56]

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (center) mediating an agreement between Arafat and Jordanian King Hussein to end to the Black September conflict, during the emergency Arab League summit, September 1970

As the conflict raged, other Arab governments attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. As part of this effort, Gamal Abdel Nasser led the first emergency Arab League summit in Cairo on 21 September. Arafat's speech drew sympathy from attending Arab leaders. Other heads of state took sides against Hussein, among them Muammar Gaddafi, who mocked him and his schizophrenic father King Talal. A ceasefire was agreed upon between the two sides, but Nasser died of a massive heart attack hours after the summit, and the conflict resumed shortly afterward.[55]

By 25 September, the Jordanian Army achieved dominance, and two days later Arafat and Hussein agreed to a ceasefire in Amman. The Jordanian Army inflicted heavy casualties on the Palestinians—including civilians—who suffered approximately 3,500 fatalities.[56] After repeated violations of the ceasefire from both the PLO and the Jordanian Army, Arafat called for King Hussein to be toppled. Responding to the threat, in June 1971, Hussein ordered his forces to oust all remaining Palestinian fighters in northern Jordan, which they accomplished. Arafat and a number of his forces, including two high-ranking commanders, Abu Iyad and Abu Jihad, were forced into the northern corner of Jordan. They relocated near the town of Jerash, near the border with Syria. With the help of Munib Masri, a pro-Palestinian Jordanian cabinet member, and Fahd al-Khomeimi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Arafat managed to enter Syria with nearly two thousand of his fighters. However, due to the hostility of relations between Arafat and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (who had since ousted President Salah Jadid), the Palestinian fighters crossed the border into Lebanon to join PLO forces in that country, where they set up their new headquarters.[57]

Headquarters in Lebanon

Official recognition

Yasser Arafat visits East Germany in 1971; background: Brandenburg Gate

Because of Lebanon's weak central government, the PLO was able to operate virtually as an independent state. During this time in the 1970s, numerous leftist PLO groups took up arms against Israel, carrying out attacks against civilians as well as military targets within Israel and outside of it.

Two major incidents occurred in 1972. The Fatah subgroup Black September Organization hijacked Sabena Flight 572 en route to Vienna and forced it to land at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel.[58] The PFLP and the Japanese Red Army carried out a shooting rampage at the same airport, killing twenty-four civilians.[58][59] Israel later claimed that the assassination of PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani was a response to the PFLP's involvement in masterminding the latter attack. Two days later, various PLO factions retaliated by bombing a bus station, killing eleven civilians.[58]

At the Munich Olympic Games, Black September kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli athletes.[60] A number of sources, including Mohammed Oudeh (Abu Daoud), one of the masterminds of the Munich massacre, and Benny Morris, a prominent Israeli historian, have stated that Black September was an armed branch of Fatah used for paramilitary operations. According to Abu Daoud's 1999 book, "Arafat was briefed on plans for the Munich hostage-taking."[61] The killings were internationally condemned. In 1973–74, Arafat closed Black September down, ordering the PLO to withdraw from acts of violence outside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[62]

In 1974, the PNC approved the Ten Point Program (drawn up by Arafat and his advisers), and proposed a compromise with the Israelis. It called for a Palestinian national authority over every part of "liberated" Palestinian territory,[63] which refers to areas captured by Arab forces in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (present-day West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip). This caused discontent among several of the PLO factions; the PFLP, DFLP and other parties formed a breakaway organization, the Rejectionist Front.[64]

Israel and the US have alleged also that Arafat was involved in the 1973 Khartoum diplomatic assassinations, in which five diplomats and five others were killed. A 1973 United States Department of State document, declassified in 2006, concluded "The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat."[65][66] Arafat denied any involvement in the operation and insisted it was carried out independently by the Black September Organization. Israel claimed that Arafat was in ultimate control over these organizations and therefore had not abandoned terrorism.[67]

In addition, some circles within the US State Department viewed Arafat as an able diplomat and negotiator who could get support from many Arab governments at once. An example of that, we find in March 1973 that Arafat tried to arrange for a meeting between the President of Iraq and the Emir of Kuwait in order to resolve their disputes.[68]

Also in 1974, the PLO was declared the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and admitted to full membership of the Arab League at the Rabat Summit.[64] Arafat became the first representative of a non-governmental organization to address a plenary session of the UN General Assembly. In his United Nations address, Arafat condemned Zionism, but said, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."[69] He wore a holster throughout his speech, although it did not contain a gun.[70][71] His speech increased international sympathy for the Palestinian cause.[64]

Following recognition, Arafat established relationships with a variety of world leaders, including Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin. Arafat was Amin's best man at his wedding in Uganda in 1975.[72][73]

Fatah involvement in Lebanese Civil War

Arafat in a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, 1978

Although hesitant at first to take sides in the conflict, Arafat and Fatah played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War. Succumbing to pressure from PLO sub-groups such as the PFLP, DFLP and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), Arafat aligned the PLO with the Communist and Nasserist Lebanese National Movement (LNM). The LNM was led by Kamal Jumblatt, who had a friendly relationship with Arafat and other PLO leaders. Although originally aligned with Fatah, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad feared a loss of influence in Lebanon and switched sides. He sent his army, along with the Syrian-backed Palestinian factions of as-Sa'iqa and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmad Jibril to fight alongside right-wing Christian forces against the PLO and the LNM. The primary components of the Christian front were the Phalangists loyal to Bachir Gemayel and the Tigers Militia led by Dany Chamoun, a son of former President Camille Chamoun.[74]

Yasser Arafat with Gaddafi in 1977

In February 1975, a pro-Palestinian Lebanese MP, Maarouf Saad, was shot and killed, reportedly by the Lebanese Army.[75] His death from his wounds, the following month, and the massacre in April of 27 Palestinians and Lebanese travelling on a bus from Sabra and Shatila to the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp by Phalangist forces precipitated the Lebanese Civil War.[76] Arafat was reluctant to respond with force, but many other Fatah and PLO members felt otherwise.[37] For example, the DFLP carried out several attacks against the Lebanese Army. In 1976, an alliance of Christian militias with the backing of the Lebanese and Syrian armies besieged Tel al-Zaatar camp in east Beirut.[77][78] The PLO and LNM retaliated by attacking the town of Damour, a Phalangist stronghold where they massacred 684 people and wounded many more.[77][79] The Tel al-Zaatar camp fell to the Christians after a six-month siege in which thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed.[80] Arafat and Abu Jihad blamed themselves for not successfully organizing a rescue effort.[74]

Arafat with Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (center) and PFLP leader George Habash (right) in Syria, 1980

PLO cross-border raids against Israel grew during the late 1970s. One of the most severe—known as the Coastal Road massacre—occurred on 11 March 1978. A force of nearly a dozen Fatah fighters landed their boats near a major coastal road connecting the city of Haifa with Tel Aviv-Yafo. There they hijacked a bus and sprayed gunfire inside and at passing vehicles, killing thirty-seven civilians.[81] In response, the IDF launched Operation Litani three days later, with the goal of taking control of Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. The IDF achieved this goal, and Arafat withdrew PLO forces north into Beirut.[82]

After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, cross-border hostilities between PLO forces and Israel continued, though from August 1981 to May 1982, the PLO adopted an official policy of refraining from responding to provocations.[83] On 6 June 1982, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon to expel the PLO from southern Lebanon. Beirut was soon besieged and bombarded by the IDF;[74] Arafat declared the city to be the "Hanoi and Stalingrad of the Israeli army."[74] The Civil War's first phase ended and Arafat—who was commanding Fatah forces at Tel al-Zaatar—narrowly escaped with assistance from Saudi and Kuwaiti diplomats.[84] Towards the end of the siege, the US and European governments brokered an agreement guaranteeing safe passage for Arafat and the PLO—guarded by a multinational force of eight hundred US Marines supported by the US Navy—to exile in Tunis.[74]

Arafat returned to Lebanon a year after his eviction from Beirut, this time establishing himself in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. This time Arafat was expelled by a fellow Palestinian working under Hafez al-Assad. Arafat did not return to Lebanon after his second expulsion, though many Fatah fighters did.[74]

Headquarters in Tunisia

Arafat and Fatah's center for operations was based in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, until 1993. In 1985 Arafat narrowly survived an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli Air Force F-15s bombed his Tunis headquarters as part of Operation Wooden Leg, leaving 73 people dead; Arafat had gone out jogging that morning.[85]

First Intifada

During the 1980s, Arafat received financial assistance from Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which allowed him to reconstruct the badly damaged PLO. This was particularly useful during the First Intifada in December 1987, which began as an uprising of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The word Intifada in Arabic is literally translated as "tremor"; however, it is generally defined as an uprising or revolt.[86]

The first stage of the Intifada began following an incident at the Erez checkpoint where four Palestinian residents of the Jabalya refugee camp were killed in a traffic accident involving an Israeli driver. Rumors spread that the deaths were a deliberate act of revenge for an Israeli shopper who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Gaza four days earlier. Mass rioting broke out, and within weeks, partly upon consistent requests by Abu Jihad, Arafat attempted to direct the uprising, which lasted until 1992–93. Abu Jihad had previously been assigned the responsibility of the Palestinian territories within the PLO command and, according to biographer Said Aburish, had "impressive knowledge of local conditions" in the Israeli-occupied territories. On 16 April 1988, as the Intifada was raging, Abu Jihad was assassinated in his Tunis household by an Israeli hit squad. Arafat had considered Abu Jihad as a PLO counterweight to local Palestinian leadership in the territories, and led a funeral procession for him in Damascus.[86]

The most common tactic used by Palestinians during the Intifada was throwing stones, molotov cocktails, and burning tires.[87] The local leadership in some West Bank towns commenced non-violent protests against Israeli occupation by engaging in tax resistance and other boycotts. Israel responded by confiscating large sums of money in house-to-house raids.[86][88] As the Intifada came to a close, new armed Palestinian groups—in particular Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—began targeting Israeli civilians with the new tactic of suicide bombings, and internal fighting amongst the Palestinians increased dramatically.[86]

Change in direction

In 1970, Arafat declared: "Our basic aim is to liberate the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. We are not concerned with what took place in June 1967 or in eliminating the consequences of the June war. The Palestinian revolution's basic concern is the uprooting of the Zionist entity from our land and liberating it."[89] However, in early 1976, at a meeting with US Senator Adlai Stevenson III, Arafat suggested that if Israel withdrew a "few kilometers" from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and transferred responsibility to the UN, Arafat could give "something to show his people before he could acknowledge Israel's right to exist".[90]

On 15 November 1988, the PLO proclaimed the independent State of Palestine. Though he had frequently been accused of and associated with terrorism,[91][92][93] in speeches on 13 and 14 December Arafat repudiated 'terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism'. He accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Israel's right "to exist in peace and security" and[94][95] Arafat's statements were greeted with approval by the US administration, which had long insisted on these statements as a necessary starting point for official discussions between the US and the PLO. These remarks from Arafat indicated a shift away from one of the PLO's primary aims—the destruction of Israel (as entailed in the Palestinian National Covenant)–and toward the establishment of two separate entities: an Israeli state within the 1949 armistice lines, and an Arab state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On 2 April 1989, Arafat was elected by the Central Council of the Palestine National Council, the governing body of the PLO, to be the president of the proclaimed State of Palestine.[86]

Prior to the Gulf War in 1990–91, when the Intifada's intensity began to wear down, Arafat supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and opposed the US-led coalition attack on Iraq. He made this decision without the consent of other leading members of Fatah and the PLO. Arafat's top aide Abu Iyad vowed to stay neutral and opposed an alliance with Saddam; on 17 January 1991, Abu Iyad was assassinated by the Abu Nidal Organization. Arafat's decision also severed relations with Egypt and many of the oil-producing Arab states that supported the US-led coalition. Many in the US also used Arafat's position as a reason to disregard his claims to being a partner for peace. After the end of hostilities, many Arab states that backed the coalition cut off funds to the PLO and began providing financial support for the organization's rival Hamas and other Islamist groups.[86] Arafat narrowly escaped death again on 7 April 1992, when an Air Bissau aircraft he was a passenger on crash-landed in the Libyan Desert during a sandstorm. Two pilots and an engineer were killed; Arafat was bruised and shaken.[96]

Palestinian Authority and peace negotiations

Oslo Accords

Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Arafat during the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993
Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat receiving the Nobel Peace Prize following the Oslo Accords

In the early 1990s, Arafat and leading Fatah officials engaged the Israeli government in a series of secret talks and negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords.[67][97] The agreement called for the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five-year period, along with an immediate halt to and gradual removal of Israeli settlements in those areas. The accords called for a Palestinian police force to be formed from local recruits and Palestinians abroad, to patrol areas of self-rule. Authority over the various fields of rule, including education and culture, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism, would be transferred to the Palestinian interim government. Both parties agreed also on forming a committee that would establish cooperation and coordination dealing with specific economic sectors, including utilities, industry, trade and communication.[98]

Prior to signing the accords, Arafat—as Chairman of the PLO and its official representative—signed two letters renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel. In return, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO.[99] The following year, Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Shimon Peres.[100] The Palestinian reaction was mixed. The Rejectionist Front of the PLO allied itself with Islamists in a common opposition against the agreements. It was rejected also by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan as well as by many Palestinian intellectuals and the local leadership of the Palestinian territories. However, the inhabitants of the territories generally accepted the agreements and Arafat's promise for peace and economic well-being.[101]

Establishing authority in the territories

In accordance with the terms of the Oslo agreement, Arafat was required to implement PLO authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He insisted that financial support was imperative to establishing this authority and needed it to secure the acceptance of the agreements by the Palestinians living in those areas. However, Arab states of the Persian Gulf—Arafat's usual source for financial backing—still refused to provide him and the PLO with any major donations for siding with Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.[101] Ahmed Qurei—a key Fatah negotiator during the negotiations in Oslo—publicly announced that the PLO was bankrupt.[102]

In 1994, Arafat moved to Gaza City, which was controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)—the provisional entity created by the Oslo Accords.[100] Arafat became the President and Prime Minister of the PNA, the Commander of the PLA and the Speaker of the PLC. In July, after the PNA was declared the official government of the Palestinians, the Basic Laws of the Palestinian National Authority was published,[103] in three different versions by the PLO. Arafat proceeded with creating a structure for the PNA. He established an executive committee or cabinet composed of twenty members. Arafat also replaced and assigned mayors and city councils for major cities such as Gaza and Nablus. He began subordinating non-governmental organizations that worked in education, health, and social affairs under his authority by replacing their elected leaders and directors with PNA officials loyal to him. He then appointed himself chairman of the Palestinian financial organization that was created by the World Bank to control most aid money towards helping the new Palestinian entity.[101]

Arafat established a Palestinian police force, named the Preventive Security Service (PSS), that became active on 13 May 1994. It was mainly composed of PLA soldiers and foreign Palestinian volunteers. Arafat assigned Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub to head the PSS.[101] Amnesty International accused Arafat and the PNA leadership of failing to adequately investigate abuses by the PSS (including torture and unlawful killings) against political opponents and dissidents as well as the arrests of human rights activists.[104]

Throughout November and December 1995, Arafat toured dozens of Palestinian cities and towns that were evacuated by Israeli forces including Jenin, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Nablus, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm, declaring them "liberated". The PNA also gained control of the West Bank's postal service during this period.[105] On 20 January 1996, Arafat was elected president of the PNA, with an overwhelming 88.2 percent majority (the other candidate was charity organizer Samiha Khalil). However, because Hamas, the DFLP and other popular opposition movements chose to boycott the presidential elections, the choices were limited. Arafat's landslide victory guaranteed Fatah 51 of the 88 seats in the PLC. After Arafat was elected to the post of President of the PNA, he was often referred to as the Ra'is, (literally president in Arabic), although he spoke of himself as "the general".[106] In 1997, the PLC accused the executive branch of the PNA of financial mismanagement causing the resignation of four members of Arafat's cabinet. Arafat refused to resign his post.[107]

Other peace agreements

Arafat with PNA cabinet members Yasser Abed Rabbo (left) and Nabil Shaath (right) at a meeting in Copenhagen, 1999

In mid-1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel. Palestinian-Israeli relations grew even more hostile as a result of continued conflict.[108] Despite the Israel-PLO accord, Netanyahu opposed the idea of Palestinian statehood.[109] In 1998, US President Bill Clinton persuaded the two leaders to meet. The resulting Wye River Memorandum detailed the steps to be taken by the Israeli government and PNA to complete the peace process.[110]

Arafat with Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton at Camp David Summit, 2000

Arafat continued negotiations with Netanyahu's successor, Ehud Barak, at the Camp David 2000 Summit in July 2000. Due partly to his own politics (Barak was from the leftist Labor Party, whereas Netanyahu was from the rightist Likud Party) and partly due to insistence for compromise by President Clinton, Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in 73 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian percentage of sovereignty would extend to 90 percent over a ten- to twenty-five-year period. Also included in the offer was the return of a small number of refugees and compensation for those not allowed to return. Palestinians would also have "custodianship" over the Temple Mount, sovereignty on all Islamic and Christian holy sites, and three of Jerusalem's four Old City quarters. Arafat rejected Barak's offer and refused to make an immediate counter-offer.[97] He told President Clinton that, "the Arab leader who would surrender Jerusalem is not born yet."[111]

After the September 2000 outbreak of the Second Intifada, negotiations continued at the Taba summit in January 2001; this time, Ehud Barak pulled out of the talks to campaign in the Israeli elections. In October and December 2001, suicide bombings by Palestinian militant groups increased and Israeli counter strikes intensified. Following the election of Ariel Sharon in February, the peace process took a steep downfall. Palestinian elections scheduled for January 2002 were postponed—the stated reason was an inability to campaign due to the emergency conditions imposed by the Intifada, as well as IDF incursions and restrictions on freedom of movement in the Palestinian territories. In the same month, Sharon ordered Arafat to be confined to his Mukata'a headquarters in Ramallah, following an attack in the Israeli city of Hadera;[111] US President George W. Bush supported Sharon's action, claiming that Arafat was "an obstacle to the peace."[112]

Political survival

Footage of Arafat speaking and meeting international leaders

Arafat's long personal and political survival was taken by most Western commentators as a sign of his mastery of asymmetric warfare and his skill as a tactician, given the extremely dangerous nature of politics of the Middle East and the frequency of assassinations.[113] Some commentators believe his survival was largely due to Israel's fear that he could become a martyr for the Palestinian cause if he were assassinated or even arrested by Israel.[114] Others believe that Israel refrained from taking action against Arafat because it feared Arafat less than Hamas and the other Islamist movements gaining support over Fatah. The complex and fragile web of relations between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states contributed also to Arafat's longevity as the leader of the Palestinians.[113]

Israel attempted to assassinate Arafat on a number of occasions, but has never used its own agents, preferring instead to "turn" Palestinians close to the intended target, usually using blackmail.[115] According to Alan Hart, the Mossad's specialty is poison.[115] According to Abu Iyad, two attempts were made on Arafat's life by the Israeli Mossad and the Military Directorate in 1970.[116] In 1976, Abu Sa'ed, a Palestinian agent working for the Mossad, was enlisted in a plot to put poison pellets that looked like grains of rice in Arafat's food. Abu Iyad explains that Abu Sa'ed confessed after he received the order to go ahead, explaining that he was unable to go through with the plot because, "He was first of all a Palestinian and his conscience wouldn't let him do it."[117] Arafat claimed in a 1988 interview with Time that because of his fear of assassination by the Israelis, he never slept in the same place two nights in a row.[118]

Relations with Hamas and other militant groups

Arafat's ability to adapt to new tactical and political situations was perhaps tested by the rise of the Hamas and PIJ organizations, Islamist groups espousing rejectionist policies with Israel. These groups often bombed non-military targets, such as malls and movie theaters, to increase the psychological damage and civilian casualties. In the 1990s, these groups seemed to threaten Arafat's capacity to hold together a unified nationalist organization with a goal of statehood.[113]

An attack carried out by Hamas militants in March 2002 killed 29 Israeli civilians celebrating Passover, including many senior citizens.[119] In response, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive into major West Bank cities. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, stated in September 2010 that Arafat had instructed Hamas to launch what he termed "military operations" against Israel in 2000 when Arafat felt that negotiations with Israel would not succeed.[120]

Some Israeli government officials opined in 2002 that the armed Fatah sub-group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades commenced attacks towards Israel in order to compete with Hamas.[121] On 6 May 2002, the Israeli government released a report, based in part on documents, allegedly captured during the Israeli raid of Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, which allegedly included copies of papers signed by Arafat authorizing funding for al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades' activities. The report implicated Arafat in the "planning and execution of terror attacks".[122]

Attempts to marginalize

Persistent attempts by the Israeli government to identify another Palestinian leader to represent the Palestinian people failed. Arafat was enjoying the support of groups that, given his own history, would normally have been quite wary of dealing with or supporting him. Marwan Barghouti (a leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) emerged as a possible replacement during the Second Intifada, but Israel had him arrested for allegedly being involved in the killing of twenty-six civilians, and he was sentenced to five life terms.[123]

Arafat was finally allowed to leave his compound on 2 May 2002 after intense negotiations led to a settlement: six PFLP militants, including the organization's secretary-general Ahmad Sa'adat, wanted by Israel, who had been holed up with Arafat in his compound, would be transferred to international custody in Jericho. After the wanted men were handed over the siege was lifted.[124] With that, and a promise that he would issue a call to the Palestinians to halt attacks on Israelis, Arafat was released. He issued such a call on 8 May. On 19 September 2002, the IDF largely demolished the compound with armored bulldozers in order to isolate Arafat.[125][126][127] In March 2003, Arafat ceded his post as Prime Minister to Mahmoud Abbas amid pressures by the US.[128]

The Israeli security Cabinet on 11 September 2003 decided that "Israel will act to remove this obstacle [Arafat] in the manner, at the time, and in the ways that will be decided on separately".[129] Israeli Cabinet members and officials hinted on Arafat's death,[130][131][132] the Israeli military had begun making preparations for Arafat's possible expulsion in the near future,[133][134] and many feared for his life. Israeli peace activists of Gush Shalom, Knesset members and others went into the Presidential Compound prepared to serve as a human shield.[135][136] The compound remained under siege until Arafat's transfer to a French hospital, shortly before his death.

In 2004, President Bush dismissed Arafat as a negotiating partner, saying he had "failed as a leader", and accused him of undercutting Abbas when he was prime minister (Abbas resigned the same year he was given the position).[137] Arafat had a mixed relationship with the leaders of other Arab nations. His support from Arab leaders tended to increase whenever he was pressured by Israel; for example, when Israel declared in 2003 it had made the decision, in principle, to remove him from the Israeli-controlled West Bank.[111] In an interview with the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, Arafat responded to Ariel Sharon's suggestion that he be exiled from the Palestinian territories permanently, by stating, "Is it his [Sharon's] homeland or ours? We were planted here before the Prophet Abraham came, but it looks like they [Israelis] don't understand history or geography."[111]

Financial dealings

Under the Oslo Peace Accords, Israel undertook to deposit the VAT tax receipts on goods purchased by Palestinians into the Palestinian treasury. Until 2000, these monies were transferred directly to Arafat's personal accounts at Bank Leumi, in Tel Aviv. [138]

In August 2002, the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief alleged that Arafat's personal wealth was in the range of US$1.3 billion.[139] In 2003 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted an audit of the PNA and stated that Arafat had diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by himself and the PNA Chief Economic Financial adviser. However, the IMF did not claim that there were any improprieties, and it specifically stated that most of the funds had been used to invest in Palestinian assets, both internally and abroad.[140][141]

However, in 2003, a team of American accountants—hired by Arafat's own finance ministry—began examining Arafat's finances. In its conclusions, the team claimed that part of the Palestinian leader's wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion, with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. The head of the investigation stated that "although the money for the portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat. And none of these dealings were made public."[142] An investigation conducted by the General Accounting Office reported that Arafat and the PLO held over $10 billion in assets even at the time when he was publicly claiming bankruptcy.[143]

Although Arafat lived a modest lifestyle, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, stated that Arafat's "walking-around money" financed a vast patronage system known as neopatrimonialism. According to Salam Fayyad—a former World Bank official whom Arafat appointed Finance Minister of the PNA in 2002—Arafat's commodity monopolies could accurately be seen as gouging his own people, "especially in Gaza which is poorer, which is something that is totally unacceptable and immoral." Fayyad claims that Arafat used $20 million from public funds to pay the leadership of the PNA security forces (the Preventive Security Service) alone.[142]

Fuad Shubaki, former financial aide to Arafat, told the Israeli security service Shin Bet that Arafat used several million dollars of aid money to buy weapons and support militant groups.[144] During Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, the Israel army recovered counterfeit money and documents from Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. The documents showed that, in 2001, Arafat personally approved payments to Tanzim militants.[145] The Palestinians claimed that the counterfeit money was confiscated from criminal elements.[146]

Illness and death

Unsuccessful Israeli assassination attempts

The Israeli government tried for decades to assassinate Arafat, including attempting to intercept and shoot down private aircraft and commercial airliners on which he was believed to be traveling.[147] The assassination was initially assigned to Caesarea, the Mossad unit in charge of Israel's numerous targeted killings. Shooting down a commercial airliner in international airspace over very deep water was thought to be preferable to make recovery of the wreckage, and hence investigation, more difficult.[147] Following Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon created a special task force code named "Salt Fish" headed by special ops experts Meir Dagan and Rafi Eitan to track Arafat's movements in Lebanon to kill him because Sharon saw Arafat as a "Jew murderer" and an important symbol, symbols being as important as body counts in a war against a terrorist organization. The Salt Fish task force orchestrated the bombing of buildings where Arafat and senior PLO leaders were believed to be staying. Later renamed "Operation Goldfish", Israeli operatives followed Israeli journalist Uri Avnery to a meeting with Arafat in an additional unsuccessful attempt to kill him. In 2001, Sharon as prime minister is believed to have made a commitment to cease attempts to assassinate Arafat. However following Israel's successful assassination in March 2004 of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a founder of the Hamas movement, Sharon stated in April 2004 that "this commitment of mine no longer exists."[147]

Failing health

The first reports of Arafat's failing health by his doctors for what his spokesman said was influenza came on 25 October 2004, after he vomited during a staff meeting. His condition deteriorated in the following days.[148] Following visits by other doctors, including teams from Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt—and agreement by Israel to allow him to travel—Arafat was taken to France on a French government jet, and was admitted to the Percy military hospital in Clamart, a suburb of Paris.[149][150] On 3 November, he had lapsed into a gradually deepening coma.[151]

Arafat was pronounced dead at 03:30 UTC on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75 of what French doctors called a massive hemorrhagic cerebrovascular accident (hemorrhagic stroke).[152][153] Initially, Arafat's medical records were withheld by senior Palestinian officials, and Arafat's wife refused an autopsy.[154] French doctors also said that Arafat suffered from a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, although it is inconclusive what brought about the condition.[155][156] When Arafat's death was announced, the Palestinian people went into a state of mourning, with Qur'anic mourning prayers emitted from mosque loudspeakers throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and tires burned in the streets.[157] The Palestinian Authority and refugee camps in Lebanon declared 40 days of mourning.[158][159]


Arafat's "temporary" tomb in Ramallah, 2004

On 11 November 2004, a French Army guard of honour held a brief ceremony for Arafat, with his coffin draped in a Palestinian flag. A military band played the French and Palestinian national anthems, and a Chopin funeral march.[160] French President Jacques Chirac stood alone beside Arafat's coffin for about ten minutes in a last show of respect for Arafat, whom he hailed as "a man of courage".[161] The next day, Arafat's body was flown from Paris aboard a French Air Force transport plane to Cairo, Egypt, for a brief military funeral there, attended by several heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers.[162] Egypt's top Muslim cleric Sayed Tantawi led mourning prayers preceding the funeral procession.[149]

Honour guard at attention over Yasser Arafat's tombstone in mausoleum, opened 10 November 2007 at the PNA presidential headquarters in Ramallah

Israel refused Arafat's wish to be buried near the Al-Aqsa Mosque or anywhere in Jerusalem, citing security concerns.[163] Israel also feared that his burial would strengthen Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem.[164] Following the Cairo procession, Arafat was "temporarily" buried within the Mukataa in Ramallah; tens of thousands of Palestinians attended the ceremony.[149] Arafat was buried in a stone, rather than wooden, coffin, and Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat said that Arafat would be reburied in East Jerusalem following the establishment of a Palestinian state. After Sheikh Taissir Tamimi discovered that Arafat was buried improperly and in a coffin—which is not in accordance with Islamic law—Arafat was reburied on the morning of 13 November at around 3:00 am.[165] On 10 November 2007, prior to the third anniversary of Arafat's death, President Mahmoud Abbas unveiled a mausoleum for Arafat near his tomb in commemoration of him.[166]

Theories about the cause of death

Arafat mausoleum

Numerous theories have appeared regarding Arafat's death, with the most prominent being poisoning[167][168][169][170] (possibly by polonium) and [171] AIDS-related illnesses,[172][173][174] as well as liver disease[175] or a platelet disorder.[176]

In September 2005, an Israeli-declared AIDS expert claimed that Arafat bore all the symptoms of AIDS based on obtained medical records.[172] But others, including Patrice Mangin of the University of Lausanne and The New York Times, disagreed with this claim, insisting that Arafat's record indicated that it was highly unlikely that the cause of his death was AIDS.[177][178] Arafat's personal doctor Ashraf al-Kurdi and aide Bassam Abu Sharif maintained that Arafat was poisoned,[167][168] possibly by thallium.[169] A senior Israeli physician concluded that Arafat died from food poisoning.[172] Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have denied claims that Arafat was poisoned.[172][179] Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath ruled out poisoning after talks with Arafat's French doctors.[179]

On 4 July 2012, Al Jazeera published the results of a nine-month investigation, which revealed that none of the causes of Arafat's death suggested in several rumors could be true. Tests carried out by a Swiss scientific experts found traces of polonium in quantities much higher than could occur naturally on Arafat's personal belongings.[177][180] On 12 October 2013, the British medical journal The Lancet published a peer-reviewed article by the Swiss experts about the analysis of the 38 samples of Arafat's clothes and belongings and 37 reference samples which were known to be polonium-free, suggesting that Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning.[181][182]

On 27 November 2012, three teams of international investigators, a French, a Swiss, and a Russian team, collected samples from Arafat's body and the surrounding soil in the mausoleum in Ramallah, to carry out an investigation independently from each other.[183][184][185]

On 6 November 2013, Al Jazeera reported that the Swiss forensic team had found levels of polonium in Arafat's ribs and pelvis 18 to 36 times the average. According to the Swiss expert team (including notably experts in radio-chemistry, radio-physics and legal medicine), on a probability scale ranging from one to six, death by polonium poisoning is around five.[182] While Al Jazeera reported that the scientist were "confident up to an 83 percent level" that polonium poisoning occurred, but Francois Bochud (the head of the Swiss team) clarified to Al Jazeera that this is not the case and that the scale does not allow a simple division like this; he stated only that the poisoning hypothesis by polonium is "reasonably supported".[186][187][188][182] Forensic Biologist Nathan Lents of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the report's results are consistent with a possible polonium poisoning, but "There's certainly not a smoking gun here." Derek Hill, a professor in radiological science at University College London who was not involved in the investigation, said "I would say it's clearly not overwhelming proof, and there is a risk of contamination (of the samples), but it is a pretty strong signal. ... It seems likely what they're doing is putting a very cautious interpretation of strong data."[189]

On 26 December 2013, a team of Russian scientists released a report saying they had found no trace of radioactive poisoning—a finding that comes after the French report found traces of the radioactive isotope polonium. Vladimir Uiba, the head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, said that Arafat died of natural causes and the agency had no plans to conduct further tests.[190] Unlike the Swiss report, the French and Russian reports were not made public, at the time.[182] The Swiss experts read the French and Russian reports and argued that the radiologic data measured by the other teams support their conclusions of a probable death by polonium poisoning.[182] In March 2015 a French prosecutor closed a 2012 French inquiry, stating that French experts had determined Arafat's death was of natural causes, and that the polonium and lead traces found were environmental.[191]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Arafat". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ The A to Z of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, P R. Kumaraswamy, page 26
  3. ^ "Yasser Arafat Mausoleum |". Alluring World. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. ^ Arafat, a Political Biography, Alan Hart, page 67
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East & North Africa: A-C, Philip Mattar, page 269, quote: Arafat and his family have always insisted that he was born 4 August 1929. in his mother's family home in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, an Egyptian birth registration exists, suggesting that he was born in Egypt on 24 August 1929– His father had ...
  6. ^ Some sources use the term Chairman, rather than President; the Arabic word for both titles is the same. See President of the Palestinian National Authority for further information.
  7. ^ "Yasser Arafat: French rule out foul play in former Palestinian leader's death". The Guardian. 16 March 2015.
  8. ^ "France drops investigation into Arafat's death". Jerusalem Post. 2 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Yasser Arafat investigation: Russian probe finds death not caused by radiation". CBS News. 26 December 2013.
  10. ^ Major Richard D. Creed Jr., Eighteen Years In Lebanon And Two Intifadas: The Israeli Defense Force And The U.S. Army Operational Environment, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2014 p.53.
  11. ^ As'ad Ghanem Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement:Palestinian Politics after Arafat, Indiana University Press, 2010 p.259.
  12. ^ Kershner, Isabel (4 July 2012). "Palestinians May Exhume Arafat After Report of Poisoning". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  13. ^ Hockstader, Lee (11 November 2004). "A Dreamer Who Forced His Cause Onto World Stage". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  14. ^ Not certain; Disputed; Most sources including Tony Walker, Andrew Gowers, Alan Hart and Said K. Aburish indicate Cairo as Arafat's place of birth, but others list his birthplace as Jerusalem as well as Gaza. See here [1] and here [2] for more information. Some believe also that the Jerusalem birthplace might have been a little known rumor created by the KGB [3].
  15. ^ Bernadette Brexel (2003). Yasser Arafat. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 12.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 7–32. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  17. ^ "Yasser Arafat: Homeland a dream for Palestinian Authority Chief". CNN News. Cable News Network. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  18. ^ Rubenstein, Dany (1995). The Mystery of Arafat. New York: Steerforth Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-883642-10-5.
  19. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  20. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  21. ^ a b "Profile: Suha Arafat-Blonde, convent-educated and with a rumored penchant for designer suits, Suha Arafat made an unlikely wife for the leader of the Palestinian resistance". BBC News. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  22. ^ "Milestones". Time. 19 December 1994.
  23. ^ a b "Arafat's widow tried to leave Palestinian leader 'hundreds of times'". 9 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Suha Arafat: I wish I'd never married him".
  25. ^ "Suha Arafat". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org.
  26. ^ Mattar, Phillip (12 November 2000). "Biography of Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad)". Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. Facts on File; 1st edition. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2007.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 33–67. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  28. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 33–67. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4. Aburish says the date of Fatah's founding is unclear but claims in 1959 it was exposed by its magazine.
    Zeev Schiff, Raphael Rothstein (1972). Fedayeen; Guerillas Against Israel. McKay, p.58; Schiff and Rothstein claim Fatah was founded in 1959.
    Salah Khalaf and Khalil al-Wazir state Fatah's first formal meeting was in October 1959. See Anat N. Kurz (2005) Fatah and the Politics of Violence: The Institutionalization of a Popular Struggle. Brighton, Portland: Sussex Academic Press (Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies), pp. 29–30
  29. ^ Hussein, Hassan Khalil. Abu Iyad, Unknown Pages of his Life. p. 64.
  30. ^ Cooley, John K. (1973). Green March, Black September. Frank Crass & Co. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7146-2987-2.
  31. ^ Abu Sharif, Bassam; Uzi Mahmaini (1996). Tried by Fire. Time Warner Paperbacks. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7515-1636-4.
  32. ^ Gowers, Andrew; Tony Walker (1991). Behind the Myth: Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Revolution. Interlink Pub Group Inc. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-940793-86-6.
  33. ^ Hart, Alan (1994). Arafat. Sidgwick and Jackson. pp. 204–205. ISBN 978-0-283-06220-9.
  34. ^ Oren, Michael (2003). Six Days of War, June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: The Random House Publishing Group. pp. 33–36. ISBN 978-0-345-46192-6.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 69–98. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  36. ^ Aburish, Said K. (2004). Nasser, The Last Arab. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-0-312-28683-5. OCLC 52766217.
  37. ^ a b c Sayigh, Yezid (1997). Armed Struggle and the Search for State, the Palestinian National Movement, 1949–1993. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-829643-0.
  38. ^ Cath Senker (2004). The Arab-Israeli Conflict. Black Rabbit Books. ISBN 9781583404416. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  39. ^ "Debacle in the desert". Haaretz. 29 March 1968. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  40. ^ Patrick Tyler (18 September 2012). Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—and Why They Can't Make Peace. Macmillan. ISBN 9781429944472. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
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Further reading

External video
Booknotes interview with John and Janet Wallach on Arafat: In the Eyes of the Beholder, 23 December 1990, C-SPAN

External links

1 December 1988

World AIDS Day was proclaimed worldwide by the UN member states.

World AIDS Day
Red Ribbon.svg
The red ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
Observed byAll UN Member States
Date1 December
First time1988; 32 years ago (1988)

World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988,[1] is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.

World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World Hepatitis Day.[2]

As of 2017, AIDS has killed between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV,[3] making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Thanks to recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the death rate from AIDS epidemic has decreased since its peak in 2005 (1 million in 2016, compared to 1.9 million in 2005).[3]


Russian stamp, 1993

World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.[4][5] Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Dr. Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be on 1 December 1988.[6] Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, had recommended the date of 1 December that believing it would maximize coverage of World AIDS Day by western news media, sufficiently long following the US elections but before the Christmas holidays.[6]

In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. While the choice of this theme was criticized at the time by some for ignoring the fact that people of all ages may become infected with HIV, the theme helped alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease and boost recognition of the problem as a family disease.[7]

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day.[7] Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education.[7][8] In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent organization.[7][8][9]

Each year, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have released a greeting message for patients and doctors on World AIDS Day.[10][11][12][13][14]

In 2016, a collection of HIV and AIDS-related NGOs (including and ) started a campaign to rename World AIDS Day to World HIV Day. They claim the change will emphasize social justice issues, and the advancement of treatments like PrEP.[15]

In the US, the White House began marking World AIDS Day with the iconic display of a 28 foot (8.5 m) AIDS Ribbon on the building's North Portico in 2007.[16][17] White House aide Steven M. Levine, then serving in President George W. Bush's administration, proposed the display to symbolize the United States' commitment to combat the world AIDS epidemic through its landmark PEPFAR program.[18] The White House display, now an annual tradition across four presidential administrations, quickly garnered attention, as it was the first banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since the Abraham Lincoln administration[citation needed].[19][20][21]

Since 1993, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation for World AIDS Day (see section #US Presidential Proclamations for World AIDS Day for copies of those proclamations). On 30 November 2017, President Donald Trump proclaimed World AIDS Day for 1 December.[22][23]


All the World AIDS Day campaigns focus on a specific theme, chosen following consultations with UNAIDS, WHO, and a large number of grassroots, national and international agencies involved in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. As of 2008, each year's theme is chosen by the Global Steering Committee of the World AIDS Campaign (WAC).[7]

For each World AIDS Day from 2005 through 2010, the theme was "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise", designed to encourage political leaders to keep their commitment to achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support by the year 2010.[7]

As of 2012, the multi-year theme for World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination."[24] The US Federal theme for the year 2014 is "Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation".[25]

The themes are not limited to a single day but are used year-round in international efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness within the context of other major global events including the G8 Summit, as well as local campaigns like the in the UK.

World AIDS Day themes


A large red ribbon hangs between columns in the north portico of the White House for World AIDS Day, 30 November 2007
A 67 m long condom sculpture on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an awareness campaign for the 2005 World AIDS Day
1988 Communication
1989 Youth
1990 Women and AIDS
1991 Sharing the Challenge
1992 Community Commitment
1993 Time to Act
1994 AIDS and the Family
1995 Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities
1996 One World. One Hope.
1997 Children Living in a World with AIDS
1998 Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign With Young People
1999 Listen, Learn, Live: World AIDS Campaign with Children & Young People
2000 AIDS: Men Make a Difference
2001 I care. Do you?
2002 Stigma and Discrimination
2003 Stigma and Discrimination
2004 Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS
2005 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2006 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Accountability
2007 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Leadership
2008 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Lead – Empower – Deliver[27]
2009 Universal Access and Human Rights[28]
2010 Universal Access and Human Rights[28]
2011 Getting to Zero[29]
2012 Together we will end AIDS [30]
2013 Zero Discrimination[31]
2014 Close the gap[32]
2015 On the fast track to end AIDS[33]
2016 Hands up for #HIVprevention[34]
2017 My Health, My Right[35]
2018 Know your status[36]
2019 Communities make the difference[37]

See also


  1. ^ "About World Aids Day". worldaidsday.org. National Aids Trust. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  2. ^ World Health Organization, WHO campaigns.
  3. ^ a b Fact sheet - Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic UNAIDS. Accessed 30 November 2017.
  4. ^ "NPR: How World AIDS Day Began".
  5. ^ U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International News, "World AIDS Day Co-Founder Looks Back 20 Years Later", CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update, 12 December 2007
  6. ^ a b "Inventors of World AIDS Day: James Bunn and Thomas Netter".
  7. ^ a b c d e f Speicher, Sara (19 November 2008). ""World AIDS Day Marks 20th Anniversary Of Solidarity."". Medical News Today. Medicalnewstoday.com. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b "van Soest, Marcel. "Accountability: Main Message on World AIDS Day." Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. 20 Oct 2006". Unaids.org. 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  9. ^ Yearbook of the United Nations 2005. Vol. 59. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Publications, 2007. ISBN 92-1-100967-7
  10. ^ "First World AIDS Day in 1988". Vatican.va. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  11. ^ Message for the World AIDS Day Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Gheddo, Piero. "Pope: "I feel near to people with AIDS and their families"". Asianews.it. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  13. ^ Message of Caritas Internationalis On Occasion of World AIDS Day 2006
  14. ^ Pullella, Philip. "Pope skirts condoms issue in World AIDS Day statement". Blogs.reuters.com. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  15. ^ "The World Has Changed: The HIV Response Must Change Too On World HIV Day".
  16. ^ Jennifer Parker (30 November 2007). "Two-Story AIDS Ribbon at White House". ABC News. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  17. ^ Proclamation 8207: World AIDS Day, 2007 . 29 November 2007 – via Wikisource.
  18. ^ "Inside George W. Bush's Closet". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  19. ^ "White House hangs red ribbon for World AIDS Day". Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  20. ^ "The White House Honors World AIDS Day 2012". whitehouse.gov. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  21. ^ "A red ribbon adorns the North Portico of the White House Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, in recognition of World AIDS Day and the commitment by President George W. Bush and his administration to fighting and preventing HIV/AIDS in America and the world. White House photo by Eric Draper". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  22. ^ Office of the Press Secretary (30 November 2017). "President Donald J. Trump Proclaims December 1, 2017, as World AIDS Day". whitehouse.gov. Washington, D.C.: White House. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  23. ^ Wong, Curtis M. (30 November 2017). "Trump Excludes LGBTQ People From World AIDS Day Proclamation". HuffPost. New York City: Oath Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  24. ^ World Health Organization, World Aids Day 2012: Closing in on global HIV targets. Accessed 8 April 2014
  25. ^ "Aids Day 2014". ibtimes. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  26. ^ "World AIDS Day". Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), Minnesota Department of Health
  27. ^ "Dr. Peter Piot, "2008 World AIDS Day statements", Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 30 November 2008". UNAIDS. 30 November 2008. Archived from the original on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  28. ^ a b World AIDS Day avert.org
  29. ^ World AIDS Day 2011 Archived 1 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ World AIDS Day 2012 UNAids
  31. ^ World AIDS Day 2013 UNAids
  32. ^ World AIDS Day 2014 UNAids
  33. ^ World AIDS Day 2015 UNAids
  34. ^ World AIDS Day 2016 UNAids
  35. ^ UNAIDS launches 2017 World AIDS Day campaign-right to health UNAids
  36. ^ Know your HIV status UNAids
  37. ^ Communities make the difference UNAids

External links

US Presidential Proclamations for World AIDS Day

18 September 1988

– The 8888 Uprising in Myanmar comes to an end.

8888 Uprising
Info box collage for 8888 Uprising.jpg
  • 1st row: Protesters gathering at Sule Pagoda, central Rangoon
  • 2nd row: Protesters rallying in Mandalay; Aung San Suu Kyi addresses half a million of protesters at central Yangon.
  • 3rd row: Soldiers about to open fire on protesters; Two doctors carry a critically wounded school girl.
Date12 March 1988 (1988-03-12) – 21 September 1988 (1988-09-21)
Burma (Nationwide)
Caused by
GoalsDemocracy in Burma and Resignation of Ne Win
Resulted inViolently suppressed
  • Total number of protesters: 1 Million-4 Million
  • Casualties
    • 350–10,000[3][4][5]
    • Tens of thousands of protesters fled to Thailand and joined insurgent groups
    InjuriesUnknown, Possible tens of thousands
    ArrestedUnknown, Possible thousands

    The 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests (MLCTS: hrac le: lum:), also known as the 8-8-88 Uprisings, or the People Power Uprising,[6] the People's Democracy Movement and the 1988 Uprising, were a series of nationwide protests,[7] marches and civil unrest[8] in Burma (Myanmar) that peaked in August 1988. Key events occurred on 8 August 1988 and therefore it is known as the 8888 Uprising.[9] The protests began as a student movement and were organised largely by university students at the Rangoon Arts and Sciences University and the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT).

    Since 1962, the Burma Socialist Programme Party had ruled the country as a totalitarian one-party state, headed by General Ne Win. Under the government agenda, called the Burmese Way to Socialism, which involved economic isolation and strengthening the military, Burma became one of the world's most impoverished countries.[10][11][12] Many firms in the formal sector of the economy were nationalised, and the government combined Soviet-style central planning with Buddhist and traditional beliefs.[12]

    The 8888 uprising was started by students in Yangon (Rangoon) on 8 August 1988. Student protests spread throughout the country.[3][10] Hundreds of thousands of monks, children, university students, housewives, doctors and common people protested against the government.[13][14] The uprising ended on 18 September after a bloody military coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Thousands of deaths have been attributed to the military during this uprising,[3][4][5] while authorities in Myanmar put the figure at around 350 people killed.[15][16]

    During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. When the military junta arranged an election in 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won 81% of the seats in the government (392 out of 492).[17] However, the military junta refused to recognise the results and continued ruling the country as the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Aung San Suu Kyi was also put under house arrest. The State Law and Order Restoration Council would be a cosmetic change from the Burma Socialist Programme Party.[13] Suu Kyi's house arrest was lifted in 2010, when worldwide attention for her peaked again during the making of the biographical film The Lady.


    Economic problems

    Before the crisis, Burma had been ruled by the repressive and isolated regime of General Ne Win since 1962. The country had a national debt of $3.5 billion and currency reserves of between $20 million and $35 million, with debt service ratios standing at half of the national budget.[18] In November 1985, students gathered and boycotted the government's decision to withdraw Burmese local currency notes. Economic problems coupled with counter-insurgency required continuous involvement in the international market.[19]

    On 5 September 1987, Ne Win announced the withdrawal of the newly replaced currency notes, 100, 75, 35 and 25 kyats, leaving only 45 and 90 kyat notes, apparently because only the latter two are numbers divisible by 9, considered lucky by Ne Win.[20] Students were particularly angry at the government's decision as savings for tuition fees were wiped out instantly.[21] Students from the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) ran riot through Rangoon, smashing windows and traffic lights down Insein Road.[22][page needed] Universities in Rangoon closed and sent students home. Meanwhile, larger protests in Mandalay involved monks and workers, with some burning government buildings and state businesses.[23] Burmese state media reported little on the protests, but information quickly spread through the students.[23]

    With the re-opening of schools in late October 1987, underground groups in Rangoon and Mandalay produced dissident leaflets which culminated in bombs exploding in November.[23] Police later received threatening letters from underground groups, who organised small protests around the university campus.[24] After securing Least Developed Country status from the United Nations Economic and Social Council in December 1987, government policy requiring farmers to sell produce below market rates to create greater revenue for the government sparked several, violent rural protests.[25][page needed] The protests were fanned by public letters to Ne Win by former second in command General Brigadier Aung Gyi from July 1987, reminding him of the 1967 rice riots and condemning lack of economic reform, describing Burma as "almost a joke" compared to other Southeast Asian nations. He was later arrested.[19][26]

    Early democracy protests

    On 12 March 1988, students from the RIT were arguing with out-of-school youths inside the Sanda Win tea shop about music playing on a sound system.[6][23] A drunken youth would not return a tape that the RIT students favoured.[27] A brawl followed in which one youth, who was the son of a BSPP official, was arrested and later released for injuring a student.[23] Students protested at a local police department where 500 riot police were mobilised and in the ensuing clash, one student, Phone Maw, was shot and killed.[23] The incident angered pro-democracy groups and the next day more students rallied at the RIT and spread to other campuses.[28] The students, who had never protested before, increasingly saw themselves as activists.[23] There was growing resentment towards military rule and there were no channels to address grievances, further exacerbated by police brutality, economic mismanagement and corruption within the government.[6]

    By mid-March, several protests had occurred and there was open dissent in the army. Various demonstrations were broken up by using tear gas canisters to disperse crowds.[20] On 16 March, students demanding an end to one party rule marched towards soldiers at Inya Lake when riot police stormed from the rear, clubbing several students to death and raping others.[29] Several students recalled the police shouting, "Don't let them escape" and "Kill them!".[30]

    Ne Win resigns

    Following the latest protests, authorities announced the closure of universities for several months.[31] By June 1988, large demonstrations of students and sympathisers were a daily sight.[31] Many students, sympathisers and riot police died throughout the month as the protests spread throughout Burma from Rangoon. Large scale protests were reported in Pegu, Mandalay, Tavoy, Toungoo, Sittwe, Pakokku, Mergui, Minbu and Myitkyina.[32][page needed] Demonstrators in larger numbers demanded multi-party democracy, which marked Ne Win's resignation on 23 July 1988.[31] In a valedictory address given that day, Win affirmed that "When the army shoots, it shoots to kill."[20] He also promised a multi-party system, but he had appointed the largely disliked Sein Lwin, known as the "Butcher of Rangoon"[33][page needed] to head a new government.[26]

    Main protests

    1–7 August

    Flag of the Burma Socialist Programme Party, the sole legal political party that ruled the country from 1962 to 1988.

    Protests reached their peak in August 1988. Students planned for a nationwide demonstration on 8 August 1988, an auspicious date based on numerological significance.[2] News of the protest reached rural areas and four days prior to the national protest, students across the country were denouncing Sein Lwin's regime and Tatmadaw troops were being mobilised.[2] Pamphlets and posters appeared on the streets of Rangoon bearing the fighting peacock insignia of the All-Burma Students Union.[34] Neighbourhood and strike committees were openly formed on the advice of underground activists, many of which were influenced by similar underground movements by workers and monks in the 1980s.[34] Between 2 and 10 August, co-ordinated protests were occurring in most Burmese towns.[35]

    The flag depicting a fighting peacock became a symbol of the protests on the streets of Burma.

    In the first few days of the Rangoon protests, activists contacted lawyers and monks[36][page needed] in Mandalay to encourage them to take part in the protests.[37] The students were quickly joined by Burmese citizens from all walks of life, including government workers, Buddhist monks, air force and navy personnel, customs officers, teachers and hospital staff. The demonstrations in the streets of Rangoon became a focal point for other demonstrations, which spread to other states' capitals.[38][page needed] 10,000 protesters alone demonstrated outside the Sule Pagoda in Rangoon, where demonstrators burned and buried effigies of Ne Win and Sein Lwin in coffins decorated with demonetised bank notes.[20] Further protests took place around the country at stadiums and hospitals.[39] Monks at the Sule Pagoda reported that the Buddha's image had changed shape, with an image in the sky standing on its head.[20] On 3 August, the authorities imposed martial law from 8 pm to 4 am and a ban on gatherings of more than five people.[39]

    8–12 August

    Across Burma, people poured out in thousands to join the protests – not just students but also teachers, monks, children, professionals, and trade unionists of every shade. It was on this day, too, that the junta made its first determined attempt at repression. Soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators and hundreds of unarmed marchers were killed. The killings continued for a week, but still the demonstrators continued to flood the streets.

    — Amitav Ghosh (2001)[38][page needed]

    A general strike, as planned, began on 8 August 1988. Mass demonstrations were held across Burma as ethnic minorities, Buddhists, Muslims, students, workers and the young and old all demonstrated.[20] The first procession circled Rangoon, stopping for people to speak. A stage was also erected.[37] Demonstrators from the Rangoon neighbourhoods converged in downtown Rangoon. Only one casualty was reported at this point as a frightened traffic policeman fired into the crowd and fled.[37] (Such marches would occur daily until 19 September.)[37] Protesters kissed the shoes of soldiers, in an attempt to persuade them to join the civilian protest, whilst some encircled military officers to protect them from the crowd and earlier violence[40][41] Over the next four days these demonstrations continued; the government was surprised by the scale of the protests and stated that it promised to heed the demands of the protesters "insofar as possible".[39] Lwin had brought in more soldiers from insurgent areas to deal with the protesters.[42][page needed]

    In Mandalay Division, a more organised strike committee was headed by lawyers and discussion focused on multi-party democracy and human rights. Many participants in the protests arrived from nearby towns and villages.[43] Farmers who were particularly angry with the government's economic policies joined the protests in Rangoon. In one village, 2,000 of the 5,000 people also went on strike.[43]

    A short while later, the authorities opened fire on the protesters.[3][20] Ne Win ordered that "guns were not to shoot upwards," meaning that he was ordering the military to shoot directly at the demonstrators.[38][page needed] Protesters responded by throwing Molotov cocktails, swords, knives, rocks, poisoned darts and bicycle spokes.[20] In one incident, protesters burned a police station and tore apart four fleeing officers.[41] On 10 August, soldiers fired into Rangoon General Hospital, killing nurses and doctors tending to the wounded.[44] State-run Radio Rangoon reported that 1,451 "looters and disturbance makers" had been arrested.[26]

    Estimates of the number of casualties surrounding the 8-8-88 demonstrations range from hundreds to 10,000;[3][4][5] military authorities put the figures at about 95 people killed and 240 wounded.[45]

    13–31 August

    Lwin's sudden and unexplained resignation on 12 August left many protestors confused and jubilant. Security forces exercised greater caution with demonstrators, particularly in neighbourhoods that were entirely controlled by demonstrators and committees.[41] On 19 August, under pressure to form a civilian government, Ne Win's biographer, Dr. Maung Maung was appointed as head of government.[46][page needed] Maung was a legal scholar and the only non-military individual to serve in the Burma Socialist Programme Party.[2] The appointment of Maung briefly resulted in a subsidence of the shooting and protests.

    Burmese Navy personnel demonstrating

    Nationwide demonstrations resumed on 22 August 1988. In Mandalay, 100,000 people protested, including Buddhist monks and 50,000 demonstrated in Sittwe.[2] Large marches took places from Taunggyi and Moulmein to distant ethnic states (particularly where military campaigns had previously taken place),[47] where red, the symbolic colour for democracy was displayed on banners.[2] Two days later, doctors, monks, musicians, actors, lawyers, army veterans and government office workers joined the protests.[48] It became difficult for committees to control the protests. During this time, demonstrators became increasingly wary of "suspicious looking" people and police and army officers. On one occasion, a local committee mistakenly beheaded a couple thought to have been carrying a bomb.[49] Incidents like these were not as common in Mandalay, where protests were more peaceful as they were organised by monks and lawyers.[49]

    On 26 August, Aung San Suu Kyi, who had watched the demonstrations from her mother's bedside,[50][page needed] entered the political arena by addressing half a million people at Shwedagon Pagoda.[48] It was at this point that she became a symbol for the struggle in Burma, particularly in the eyes of the Western world.[51] Kyi, as the daughter of Aung San, who led the independence movement, appeared ready to lead the movement for democracy.[52][page needed] Kyi urged the crowd not to turn on the army but find peace through non-violent means.[53] At this point in time for many in Burma, the uprising was seen as similar to that of the People Power Revolution in the Philippines in 1986.[26]

    Around this time, former Prime Minister U Nu and retired Brigadier General Aung Gyi also re-emerged onto the political scene in what was described as a "democracy summer" when many former democracy leaders returned.[32] Despite the gains made by the democracy movement, Ne Win remained in the background.


    During the September congress of 1988, 90% of party delegates (968 out of 1080) voted for a multi-party system of government.[48] The BSPP announced they would be organising an election, but the opposition parties called for their immediate resignation from government, allowing an interim government to organise elections. After the BSPP rejected both demands, protesters again took to the streets on 12 September 1988.[48] Nu promised elections within a month, proclaiming a provisional government. Meanwhile, the police and army began fraternising with the protesters.[54] The movement had reached an impasse relying on three hopes: daily demonstrations to force the regime to respond to their demands, encouraging soldiers to defect and appealing to an international audience in the hope that United Nations or United States troops would arrive.[55] Some Tatmadaw did defect, but only in limited numbers, mostly from the Navy.[56] Stephen Solarz who had experienced the recent democracy protests in the Philippines and South Korea arrived in Burma in September encouraging the regime to reform, which echoed the policy of the United States government towards Burma.[57][page needed]

    By mid-September, the protests grew more violent and lawless, with soldiers deliberately leading protesters into skirmishes that the army easily won.[58] Protesters demanded more immediate change, and distrusted steps for incremental reform.[59][page needed]

    SLORC "coup" and crackdown

    If the army shoots, it has no tradition of shooting into the air. It shoots straight to kill.

    — Ne Win[60][61]

    On 18 September 1988, the military retook power in the country. General Saw Maung repealed the 1974 constitution and established the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), "imposing more Draconian measures than Ne Win had imposed."[62][page needed] After Maung had imposed martial law, the protests were violently broken up. The government announced on the state-run radio that the military had assumed power in the people's interest, "in order to bring a timely halt to the deteriorating conditions on all sides all over the country."[63] Tatmadaw troops went through cities throughout Burma, indiscriminately firing on protestors.[64]

    Although an exact body count has not been determined as bodies were often cremated, it is estimated[by whom?] that within the first week of securing power, 1,000 students, monks, and schoolchildren were killed, and another 500 were killed whilst protesting outside the United States embassy[44] – footage caught by a cameraman nearby who distributed the footage to the world's media.[65] Maung described the dead as "looters".[65] Protestors were also pursued into the jungle and some students took up training on the country's borders with Thailand.[58]

    "I would like every country in the world to recognize the fact that the people of Burma are being shot down for no reason at all."

    Aung San Suu Kyi, 22 September 1988.[54]

    By the end of September, there were around 3,000 estimated deaths and unknown number of injured,[58] with 1,000 deaths in Rangoon alone.[64] At this point in time, Aung San Suu Kyi appealed for help.[54] On 21 September, the government had regained control of the country,[64] with the movement effectively collapsing in October.[54] By the end of 1988, it was[by whom?] that 10,000 people – including protesters and soldiers, had been killed. Many others were missing.[5][page needed]


    Continuous anniversary observances of the 1988 uprising take place around the world.

    Many in Burma believed that the regime would have collapsed had the United Nations and neighbouring countries refused recognition to the coup.[66] Western governments and Japan cut aid to the country.[65] Among Burma's neighbours, India was most critical; condemning the suppression, closing borders and setting up refugee camps along its border with Burma.[67] By 1989, 6,000 NLD supporters were detained in custody and those who fled to the ethnic border areas, such as Kawthoolei, formed groups with those who wished for greater self-determination.[68] It was estimated 10,000 had fled to mountains controlled by ethnic insurgents such as the Karen National Liberation Army, and many later trained to become soldiers.[69][70]

    After the uprising, the SLORC embarked on "clumsy propaganda" towards those who organised the protests.[71] Intelligence Chief Khin Nyunt, gave English-language press conferences aimed at providing an account favourable to the SLORC towards foreign diplomats and media.[71][72] The Burmese media underwent further restriction during this period, after reporting relatively freely at the peak of the protests. In the conferences, he detailed a conspiracy of the right acting with "subversive foreigners" of plotting to overthrow the regime and a conspiracy of the left acting to overthrow the State.[71] Despite the conferences, few believed the government's theory.[71] While these conferences were ongoing, the SLORC was secretly negotiating with mutineers.[72]

    Between 1988 and 2000, the Burmese government established 20 museums detailing the military's central role throughout Burma's history and increased its numbers from 180,000 to 400,000.[54] Schools and universities remained closed to prevent any further uprisings.[54] Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo and Aung Gyi initially publicly rejected the SLORC's offer to hold elections the following year, claiming that they could not be held freely under military rule.[73][74]


    Today, the uprising is remembered and honoured by Burmese expatriates and citizens alike. There is also support for the movement amongst students in Thailand, which is commemorated every 8 August since.[75] On the 20th anniversary of the uprising, 48 activists in Burma were arrested for commemorating the event.[76] The event garnered much support for the Burmese people internationally. Poems were written by students who participated in the protests. The 1995 film Beyond Rangoon is based on a true story that took place during the uprising.

    The uprising led to the death and imprisonment of thousands of individuals. Many of the deaths were inside the prisons, where prisoners of conscience were subjected to inhumane torture and deprived of basic provisions, such as food, water, medicine, and sanitation. From 1988 up until 2012, the military and police illegally detained and imprisoned tens of thousands of democracy leaders, as well as intellectuals, artists, students, and human rights activists. Pyone Cho, one of the leaders of the uprising, spent 20 years of his adult life in prison. Ko Ko Gyi, another leader of the uprising, spent 18 years of his life in prison. Min Ko Naing was placed in solitary confinement for nine years for his role as a leader of the uprising.[77] Because the uprising began as a student movement, many of the individuals targeted, tortured, and killed by the police and military were high school and university students.

    Many of the student leaders of the uprising became lifelong activists and human rights leaders. Many of the same activists played a role 19 years later during the 2007 Saffron Revolution. The 88 Generation Students Group, named for the events of 8 August 1988, organised one of the first protests that eventually culminated in the Saffron Revolution. They were arrested, however, prior to large-scale demonstrations and given lengthy prison sentences of up to 65 years. Included in these arrests are prominent figures such as Min Ko Naing, Mya Aye, Htay Kywe, Mie Mie, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho, Min Zeyar, Ant Bwe Kyaw, and Nilar Thein.[78] Though not an 88 Generation Students Group member, a solo protester Ohn Than also joined the demonstration.[79] All of them were released in a general amnesty in 2012. They continue to work as politicians and human rights activists in Myanmar. They also campaigned for the National League for Democracy in the 2015 Elections. Pyone Cho, one of the main leaders of the 88 Generation, was elected to the House of Representatives in the 2015 Election.

    See also


    1. ^ Neeraj Gautam (2009). Buddha, his life & teachings. Mahavir & Sons Publisher. ISBN 81-8377-247-1.
    2. ^ a b c d e f g Fong (2008), pp. 149
    3. ^ a b c d e Ferrara (2003), pp. 313
    4. ^ a b c Fogarty, Phillipa (7 August 2008). Was Burma's 1988 uprising worth it? Archived 12 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. BBC News.
    5. ^ a b c d Wintle (2007)
    6. ^ a b c Yawnghwe (1995), pp. 170
    7. ^ Ferrara 302–3
    8. ^ "Hunger for food, leadership sparked Burma riots". Houston Chronicle. 11 August 1988.
    9. ^ Tweedie, Penny. (2008). Junta oppression remembered Archived 2 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Reuters.
    10. ^ a b Burma Watcher (1989)
    11. ^ *Tallentire, Mark (28 September 2007). The Burma road to ruin Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The Guardian.
    12. ^ a b Woodsome, Kate. (7 October 2007). 'Burmese Way to Socialism' Drives Country into Poverty. Voice of America.
    13. ^ a b Steinberg (2002)
    14. ^ Aung-Thwin, Maureen. (1989). Burmese Days Archived 23 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Foreign Affairs.
    15. ^ Ottawa Citizen. 24 September 1988. pg. A.16
    16. ^ Associated Press. Chicago Tribune. 26 September 1988.
    17. ^ Wintle, p. 338.
    18. ^ Lintner (1989), pp. 94–95.
    19. ^ a b Boudreau (2004), pp. 192
    20. ^ a b c d e f g h Tucker (2001), pp. 228
    21. ^ Fong (2008), pp. 146
    22. ^ Lwin (1992)
    23. ^ a b c d e f g Boudreau (2004), pp. 193
    24. ^ Lintner (1989), pp. 95–97.
    25. ^ Yitri (1989)
    26. ^ a b c d Yawnghwe (1995), pp. 171
    27. ^ Fong (2008), pp. 147
    28. ^ Smith (1999), pp. 1–14
    29. ^ Fong (2008) pp. 147–148.
    30. ^ Fink (2001), pp. 51
    31. ^ a b c Fong (2008), pp. 148
    32. ^ a b Smith (1999)
    33. ^ Fong (2008). In 1962, Lwin had ordered troops to fire on student protestors, killing dozens, and ordered the Union Building at Rangoon University to be blown up.
    34. ^ a b Boudreau (2004), pp. 202
    35. ^ Lintner (1989), pp. 126
    36. ^ Boudreau (2004) Two groups considered to have large underground and internal support networks
    37. ^ a b c d Boudreau (2004), pp. 203
    38. ^ a b c Ghosh (2001)
    39. ^ a b c Mydans, Seth. (12 August 1988). Uprising in Burma: The Old Regime Under Siege. The New York Times.
    40. ^ Williams Jr., Nick. (10 August 1988). "36 Killed in Burma Protests of Military Rule." Los Angeles Times.
    41. ^ a b c Boudreau (2004), pp. 205
    42. ^ Callahan (2001)
    43. ^ a b Boudreau (2004), pp. 204
    44. ^ a b Burma Watcher (1989), pp. 179.
    45. ^ The Vancouver Sun 17 August 1988. pg. A.5
    46. ^ Fink (2001)
    47. ^ Fink (2001), pp. 58
    48. ^ a b c d Fong (2008), pp. 150
    49. ^ a b Boudreau (2004), pp. 208
    50. ^ Clements (1992)
    51. ^ Smith (1999), pp. 9
    52. ^ Silverstein (1996)
    53. ^ Fink (2001), pp. 60
    54. ^ a b c d e f Tucker (2001), pp. 229.
    55. ^ Boudreau (2004), pp. 212.
    56. ^ Callahan (1999), pp. 1.
    57. ^ United States State Department, 1988
    58. ^ a b c Boudreau (2004), pp. 210.
    59. ^ Maung (1999)
    60. ^ Yeni. "Twenty Years of Marking Time". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
    61. ^ Kyi May Kaung (8 August 2008). "Burma: waiting for the dawn". Open Democracy. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
    62. ^ Delang (2000)
    63. ^ Ferrara (2003), pp. 313–4.
    64. ^ a b c Ferrara (2003), pp. 314.
    65. ^ a b c Fong (2008), pp. 151
    66. ^ Yawnghwe (1995), pp. 172.
    67. ^ Europa Publications Staff (2002), pp. 872
    68. ^ Fong (2008), pp.152.
    69. ^ Smith (1999), pp. 371.
    70. ^ Smith (1999), pp. 17.
    71. ^ a b c d Boudreau (2004), pp. 190
    72. ^ a b Lintner (1990), pp. 52
    73. ^ Mydans, Seth. (23 September 1988). Burma Crackdown: Army in Charge. The New York Times.
    74. ^ Thein, Seinenu. "Heroes of Democracy: Burma's 88 Generation and the Legacy of Mandela". Psychocultural Cinema. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
    75. ^ The Nation. (9 August 1997). Burmese exiles mark protest. The Nation (Thailand).
    76. ^ *Tun, Aung Hla. (8 August 2008). Myanmar arrests "8-8-88" anniversary marchers Archived 8 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. International Herald Tribune.
    77. ^ Moe, K Z (21 January 2012). "The last night in the cell". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    78. ^ Jonathan Head (11 November 2008). "Harsh sentences for Burma rebels". BBC News. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
    79. ^ "A former political prisoner was arrested for protesting alone in front of the United Nations office in Rangoon". Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. 23 September 2004. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011.


    Books and journals

    • Boudreau, Vincent. (2004). Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83989-1.
    • Burma Watcher. (1989). Burma in 1988: There Came a Whirlwind. Asian Survey, 29(2). A Survey of Asia in 1988: Part II pp. 174–180.
    • Callahan, Mary. (1999). Civil-military relations in Burma: Soldiers as state-builders in the postcolonial era. Preparation for the State and the Soldier in Asia Conference.
    • Callahan, Mary. (2001). Burma: Soldiers as State Builders. ch. 17. cited in Alagappa, Muthiah. (2001). Coercion and Governance: The Declining Political Role of the Military in Asia. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-4227-6
    • Clements, Ann. (1992). Burma: The Next Killing Fields? Odonian Press. ISBN 978-1-878825-21-6
    • Delang, Claudio. (2000). Suffering in Silence, the Human Rights Nightmare of the Karen People of Burma. Parkland: Universal Press.
    • Europa Publications Staff. (2002). The Far East and Australasia 2003. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-85743-133-9.
    • Ferrara, Federico. (2003). Why Regimes Create Disorder: Hobbes's Dilemma during a Rangoon Summer. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 47(3), pp. 302–325.
    • Fink, Christina. (2001). Living Silence: Burma Under Military Rule. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-85649-926-2
    • Fong, Jack. (2008). Revolution as Development: The Karen Self-determination Struggle Against Ethnocracy (1949–2004). Boca Raton, FL:BrownWalker Press. ISBN 978-1-59942-994-6
    • Ghosh, Amitav. (2001). The Kenyon Review, New Series. Cultures of Creativity: The Centennial Celebration of the Nobel Prizes. 23(2), pp. 158–165.
    • Hlaing, Kyaw Yin. (1996). Skirting the regime's rules.
    • Lintner, Bertil. (1989). Outrage: Burma's Struggle for Democracy. Hong Kong: Review Publishing Co.
    • Lintner, Bertil. (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). SEAP Publications. ISBN 978-0-87727-123-9.
    • Lwin, Nyi Nyi. (1992). Refugee Student Interviews. A Burma-India Situation Report.
    • Maung, Maung. (1999). The 1988 Uprising in Burma. Yale University Southeast Asia Studies. ISBN 978-0-938692-71-3
    • Silverstein, Josef. (1996). The Idea of Freedom in Burma and the Political Thought of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Pacific Affairs, 69(2), pp. 211–228.
    • Smith, Martin. (1999). Burma – Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-85649-660-5
    • Steinberg, David. (2002). Burma: State of Myanmar. Georgetown University Press. ISBN 978-0-87840-893-1
    • Tucker, Shelby. (2001). Burma: The Curse of Independence. Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-1541-6
    • Wintle, Justin. (2007). Perfect Hostage: a life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s prisoner of conscience. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-0-09-179681-5
    • Yawnghwe, Chao-Tzang. Burma: Depoliticization of the Political. cited in Alagappa, Muthiah. (1995). Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2560-6
    • Yitri, Moksha. (1989). The Crisis in Burma: Back from the Heart of Darkness? University of California Press.

    Further reading

    External links

    1 August 1988

    A British soldier was killed in the Inglis Barracks bombing in London, England.

    The Inglis Barracks bombing was a bomb attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 1 August 1988 on a British Army barracks called Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill, London. The attack killed one soldier from the Royal Engineers, injured nine more and destroyed large parts of the barracks. It was the first IRA attack in England since the 1984 Brighton Bombing.

    The Provisional IRA had carried out sustained bombing campaigns in England before, between 1973 and 1976 carrying out hundreds of bombings in the process killing over 60 people and injuring over 1,000. The IRA carried out sporadic attacks in England between 1977 and 1984. The bombing at Inglis barracks commenced a new sustained bombing campaign that would last until the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

    The living quarters of the barracks were demolished by the blast. Construction worker Frank McParland, who was working inside the barracks, said the middle section was obliterated. The roof of the two-story red brick building was blown off. Corporal Ian Booth was rescued alive after he was trapped beneath the debris. He was saved by a radiator that fell across him and shielded him from falling masonry. Fires raged for three hours as rescuers pulled the injured from heaps of rubble and smoldering timber. Half of the barracks, the army’s main postal depot in the capital, used to lay in former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Finchley constituency.

    16 March 1988

    Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States during the so-called Iran-Contra affair..

    The scandal began as an operation to free seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with Iranian ties connected to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel and receive the Israeli payment. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the hostages. Large modifications to the plan were devised by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985, in which a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista fighters, known as Contras, against the socialist government of Nicaragua.

    While President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the Contra cause, the evidence is disputed as to whether he authorized the diversion of the money to the Contras, raised by the arms sales. Handwritten notes taken by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on December 7, 1985, indicate that Reagan was aware of potential hostage transfers with Iran, as well as the sale of Hawk and TOW missiles to “moderate elements” within that country. Weinberger wrote that Reagan said “he could answer to charges of illegality but couldn’t answer to the charge that ‘big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free the hostages'”. After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Reagan appeared on national television and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages. The investigation was impeded when large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. On March 4, 1987, Reagan returned to the airwaves in a nationally televised address, taking full responsibility, and saying that “what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages”.

    Several investigations ensued, including by the U.S. Congress and the three-person, Reagan-appointed Tower Commission. Neither found any evidence that President Reagan himself knew of the extent of the multiple programs. Ultimately the sale of weapons to Iran was not deemed a criminal offense but charges were brought against five individuals for their support of the Contras. Those charges, however, were later dropped because the administration refused to declassify certain documents. The indicted conspirators faced various lesser charges instead. In the end, fourteen administration officials were indicted, including then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Eleven convictions resulted, some of which were vacated on appeal. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been Vice President at the time of the affair. The Iran–Contra affair and the ensuing deception to protect senior administration officials including President Reagan has been cast as an example of post-truth politics.

    Under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the United States was the largest seller of arms to Iran, and the vast majority of the weapons that the Islamic Republic of Iran inherited in January 1979 were American-made. To maintain this arsenal, Iran required a steady supply of spare parts to replace those broken and worn out. After Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage, US President Jimmy Carter imposed an arms embargo on Iran. After Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980, Iran desperately needed weapons and spare parts for its current weapons. After Ronald Reagan took office as President on 20 January 1981, he vowed to continue Carter’s policy of blocking arms sales to Iran on the grounds that Iran supported terrorism.

    A group of senior Reagan administration officials in the Senior Interdepartmental Group conducted a secret study on 21 July 1981, and concluded that the arms embargo was ineffective because Iran could always buy arms and spare parts for its American weapons elsewhere, while at the same time the arms embargo opened the door for Iran to fall into the Soviet sphere of influence as the Kremlin could sell Iran weapons if the United States would not. The conclusion was that the United States should start selling Iran arms as soon as it was politically possible to keep Iran from falling into the Soviet sphere of influence. At the same time, the openly declared goal of Ayatollah Khomeini to export his Islamic revolution all over the Middle East and overthrow the governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states led to the Americans perceiving Khomeini as a major threat to the United States.

    In the spring of 1983, the United States launched Operation Staunch, a wide-ranging diplomatic effort to persuade other nations all over the world not to sell arms or spare parts for weapons to Iran. At least part of the reason why the Iran–Contra affair proved so humiliating for the United States when the story first broke in November 1986 that the US was selling arms to Iran was that American diplomats, as part of Operation Staunch had, from the spring of 1983 on, been lecturing other nations about how morally wrong it was to sell arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran and applying strong pressure to prevent these arms sales to Iran.

    At the same time that the American government was considering their options on selling arms to Iran, Contra militants based in Honduras were waging a guerrilla war to topple the Sandinista National Liberation Front revolutionary government of Nicaragua. Almost from the time he took office in 1981, a major goal of the Reagan administration was the overthrow of the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua and to support the Contra rebels. The Reagan administration’s policy towards Nicaragua produced a major clash between the executive and legislative arms as Congress sought to limit, if not curb altogether, the ability of the White House to support the Contras. Direct U.S. funding of the Contras insurgency was made illegal through the Boland Amendment, the name given to three U.S. legislative amendments between 1982 and 1984 aimed at limiting U.S. government assistance to Contra militants. Funding ran out for the Contras by July 1984 and in October a total ban was placed in effect. The second Boland amendment, in effect from 3 October 1984 to 3 December 1985, stated:

    During the fiscal year 1985 no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose of or which may have the effect of supporting directly or indirectly military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, organization, group, movement, or individual.

    In violation of the Boland Amendment, senior officials of the Reagan administration continued to secretly arm and train the Contras and provide arms to Iran, an operation they called “the Enterprise”. As the Contras were heavily dependent upon U.S. military and financial support, the second Boland amendment threatened to break the Contra movement and led to President Reagan in 1984 to order the National Security Council to “keep the Contras together ‘body and soul'”, no matter what Congress voted for.

    A major legal debate at the center of the Iran–Contra affair concerned the question of whether the NSC was one of the “any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities” covered by the Boland amendment. The Reagan administration argued it was not, and many in Congress argued that it was. The majority of constitutional scholars have asserted the NSC did indeed fall within the purview of the second Boland amendment, through the amendment did not mention the NSC by name. The broader constitutional question at stake was the power of Congress vs. the power of the presidency. The Reagan administration argued that because the constitution assigned the right to conduct foreign policy to the executive, its efforts to overthrow the government of Nicaragua were a presidential prerogative that Congress had no right to try to halt via the Boland amendments. By contrast congressional leaders argued that the constitution had assigned Congress control of the budget, and Congress had every right to use that power not to fund projects like attempting to overthrow the government of Nicaragua that they disapproved of. As part of the effort to circumvent the Boland amendment, the NSC established “the Enterprise”, an arms-smuggling network headed by a retired U.S. Air Force officer turned arms dealer Richard Secord that supplied arms to the Contras. It was ostensibly a private sector operation, but in fact was controlled by the NSC. To fund “the Enterprise”, the Reagan administration was constantly on the look-out for funds that came from outside the U.S. government in order not to explicitly violate the letter of the Boland amendment, though the efforts to find alternative funding for the Contras violated the spirit of the Boland amendment. Ironically, military aid to the Contras was reinstated with Congressional consent in October 1986, a month before the scandal broke.

    27 October 1988

    Ronald Reagan stops construction of the new US Embassy in Moscow after Soviet listening devices are found in the building structure.


    United States President Ronald Reagan has decided to tear down its new Moscow embassy building, which is heavily penetrated by Soviet listening devices and build a replacement. The Administration has been trying to decide what to do about the building since the existence of the listening devices was disclosed last year.

    Government intelligence experts would be reluctant to certify that the American embassy structures are protected against Soviet spying unless an entirely new structure is built. Because Congress has adjourned, Mr. Reagan’s decision to consult lawmakers apparently postpones final action on demolishing the building to his successor and the 101st Congress, which will be asked to provide the money, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars, for the job.

    Construction of the chancery was halted in 1985 because of suspicions that the Soviets had planted listening devices. American intelligence specialists have been examining the structure to try to determine how the Soviet spying techniques work. If the chancery is saved, the building would be used for unclassified activities, while the old embassy building next door would be refurbished and used for classified activities. Soviet officials will not be able to occupy a new Soviet Embassy office building until the American chancery is demolished and replaced.