Throughout her career, Nadia Hijab has been a tireless advocate for justice and human rights.
Born in Syria to Palestinian Arab parents, Hijab grew up in Lebanon, earning her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the American University of Beirut. While at school, she also worked as a journalist, until she left for Qatar and then England in 1975, as the Lebanese civil war intensified. The experience helped her relate to the flight of her mother's family from Palestine. "I never understood why they left. No matter how horrible it was, they weren't threatened at the point of a gun," Hijab says. "But when the civil war started in Lebanon, a country I'd come to love as home, I packed a small bag and left thinking I would return when it was over. Then I understood."
In England, she became the Editor-in-Chief ofMiddle East Magazine and was a frequent commentator on the BBC and several other TV, radio, and print outlets. She authored over 100 articles and in 1988, Cambridge University Press published her first book, Womanpower: The Arab Debate on Women at Work. Her second book, Citizens Apart: A Portrait of Palestinians in Israel (IB Tauris) came out in 1990.
In 1989, Hijab moved to New York to begin what was to be a 10 year period with the United Nations Development Programme. During that time she served in several departments within UNDP and helped organize the organization's contribution to the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. After the UN, Hijab has worked as a consultant for organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, UNDP, and Columbia University on issues such as human rights, human development, gender, and the media.
Of all that she does, she says she is most passionate about human rights. "I feel we have a system that is agreed to by all governments that can govern human relations and provide a standard of human dignity," Hijab says. "If you invest in human rights as the basis of all you do, then you're making an investment in all areas, not just the area you're focused on. You can apply this framework of analysis to areas as diverse as freedom for the Palestinian people, social and economic justice in the United States, and environmental degradation in post-Soviet republics."
She joined the Institute for Palestine Studies as a Senior Fellow in 2006, where her activities included drafting Policy Notes, regular media appearances, and talks to diverse audiences. She was also a founder and has served as co-chair of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and a member and past president of the Association of Arab American University Graduates.