Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mother of 3 suicide bombers runs in Palestinian elections

ABC News:

Mariam Farahat, who is running as a candidate in Wednesday's Palestinian parliamentary elections, can work a crowd like a veteran politician — shaking hands and greeting supporters. When she gets on the stage at a Hamas rally, she is the star attraction. She is one of Hamas' most popular candidates.

In Gaza, Farahat is known as Um Nidal, or Mother of the Struggle — a mother who sent three of her six sons on Hamas suicide missions against Israeli targets.

"We consider it holy duty," she told ABC News. "Our land is occupied. You take all the means to banish the occupier. I sacrificed my children for this holy, patriotic duty. I love my children, but as Muslims we pressure ourselves and sacrifice our emotions for the interest of the homeland. The greater interest takes precedence to the personal interest."

She is most famous for being in a Hamas video that showed her 17-year-old how to attack Israelis and told him not to return. Shortly afterward, he killed five students in a Jewish settlement before he was killed himself.

Um Nidal's home has become a shrine to her dead sons, with admirers and other members of Hamas often dropping by.

Um Nidal is not your typical Hamas candidate, but she does represent an extreme wing of the party — one that is wildly popular despite being downplayed in this election.

"I had no desire to join the parliament or the political arena," she said. "It was enough … the pride of jihad, and I found that I have to complete my social and political duty."

Destroying Israel is not something Hamas has promoted much during this election campaign. But at the grassroots level in Gaza, where Um Nidal campaigns, most Palestinian supporters believe it was the violent attacks against Israel that forced them to pull out from the Gaza Strip last fall.

"This is our strategy," she said. "We are working on two parallel lines — the political and the jihadist."

Um Nidal is likely to win tomorrow with no set policy or platform. But she does have three sons who are still alive. If necessary, she says, they will follow in their brothers' footsteps.