The story of Hiba, 19, a suicide bomber.

Can the

road-map put an end to all this?

By Sa'id Ghazali in Tubas, West Bank

27 May 2003

Even her family is baffled that Hiba Daraghmeh

insisted on covering herself from head to toe in a

dark brown, all-enveloping robe at all times. The

white veil she also wore - a badge of Islamic

fundamentalism - concealed her head, mouth and nose.

Only her almond-coloured eyes were visible to the

outside world.

The shy 19-year-old student of English literature

never spoke to men, and so avoided drinking coffee or

tea at the cafeteria of Al Quds Open University in her

home town, Tubas in the West Bank. All of her friends

were women. Even her cousin, Murad Daraghmeh, 20, also

a student at Al Quds, says: "I never saw her face. I

never talked to her. I never shook hands with her."

The first time the world saw her young face unveiled

was in a poster. Islamic Jihad released it, after her

death eight days ago.

Hiba was a suicide bomber. She detonated the

explosives around her waist outside the Amakim

Shopping Mall in the northern Israeli town of Afula,

killing three Israelis and wounding 48.

Eyewitnesses described a horrifying scene of rubble,

shattered glass and great pools of blood. As

casualties lay on the pavement, emergency workers

hunted in the ceiling to recover body parts. One of

the dead was a female security guard who had tried to

bar the student from entering the building. With the

others, she brought to 360 the victims killed by

suicide bombers in 32 months of the intifada.

Monday last week had dawned like any other in Hiba's

household. As usual, she said her prayers at dawn. She

insisted on preparing the family breakfast of cucumber

salad, bread, olive oil and thyme, and tea. Her

mother, Fatima, 45, recalls: "We ate. She washed the


Then Hiba went outside to the garden where the family

had almond and olive trees, pomegranites and roses.

Her mother says: "She watered the plants and I noticed

she was smelling the roses. She was laughing, and I

asked her why. She told me, 'I feel that I am a new

person. You will be very proud of me.' Then she left

and never returned."

Before leaving town, Hiba visited her sisters, Jihan

and Mariam. She returned a notebook to a classmate.

She went to say goodbye to her grandfather.

The last time anyone in Tubas saw her, she was - as

always - wearing her Islamic clothes. Four hours later

when she got to Afula, she was dressed in jeans. She

was also wearing a belt of explosives.

To the followers of Islamic Jihad, which recruited

her, to many Palestinians and millions of Arabs and

Muslims, Hiba Daraghmeh is the fifth heroine of the

intifada. To Israelis and the international community

she is a terrorist, a callous killer. Told of the

atrocity, President George Bush vowed that it would

never deflect Washington from the road-map to peace.

He dismissed suicide bombers as "sad and pathetic".

Interviewed as the Israeli Cabinet was voting narrowly

in favour of the Middle East road-map, Hiba's family

say they are proud of her. They insist they knew

nothing of her plans.

Only her grandmother Fozeh, breaks ranks and says she

regrets her action and blames those who recruited her.

She says: "She was too young."

They are staying with relatives now, for the family's

house, large and comfortable, was dynamited by the

Israelis the day after the bombing. Only the garden,

where Hiba smelt the roses on the morning of her

mission, remains.

On the rubble of their home, the family has plastered

one of the Islamic Jihad's posters of her. There are

two more on a wall in Tubas.

Hiba Daraghmeh was much more devout than her family.

Obsessed by religious ideals, she was a fundamentalist

Muslim. Her mother says: "At 15, she wore the Jelbab.

At 16, she wore the veil."

The Jelbab is the flowing costume that envelopes the

entire body. The white veil covering all but the eyes

is a badge of fanatical Islam shunned by most

Palestinian women including Hiba's mother, sisters and

female relatives. "Throw it away, this veil," her

grandmother remembers telling her. "You are too young

and it is too hot." Her oldest sister, Jihan, 26,

recalls: "Any time the radio or TV played a love song,

she turned it off.''

She was a model student, gaining 100 per cent in her

most recent exams in Palestinian studies. In English

literature she scored 89 per cent.

"She saw herself as a special person," Jihan said. She

demonstrated that in her religious obsession. "She

used to pray for two hours, standing, stooping and

kneeling in devotion,'' Jihan added. "She spent most

of her free time reading the Koran.

"When she was repeating its verses she said she felt

unique. I thought she meant unique in her studies and

religious feelings. I did not realise she meant she

wanted to be unique in her death."

Aside from Hiba's religious zeal, the political

environment she grew up in radicalises many

Palestinians to the point where they make no

distinction between soldiers and shoppers in a mall. A

psychiatrist, Ahmed Abu Tawahina, explains: "The

closures and daily incursions by the Israeli army, the

martyrs' funeral, the eulogies recited by militants,

the graffiti, revering suicide bombers as Istishadyeen

- the martyr- attackers - are part of the political

environment which nourishes suicide bombings."

The involvement of women in suicide bombings is a new

and unsettling phenomenon for many Palestinians.

Hamas, responsible for most suicide bombings, and for

the four previous suicide bombings by women, opposes

it because the organisation has enough male


Islam does not prohibit the participation of women in

the jihad. But Islamic Jihad would not encourage it,

say members, unless the female suicide bomber insisted

on doing it.

Hiba Daraghmeh might have insisted because of her own

personal brush with the Israeli military authorities.

She was visibly affected by the trial of her

23-year-old brother, Bakr. Bakr had been shot in

Nablus in a demonstration to commemorate the 1948

Palestinian Nakba, or disaster anniversary, when

Israel was established. He was arrested on charges of

weapons possessions and carrying out attacks for

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The charge sheet includes

the possession of an explosive belt. The Israeli

prosecutor requested a 99-year prison term for him.

On the day her brother was arrested in June 2002, the

army stormed the family house. One of the soldiers

tore up Hiba's text books and a copy of the Koran, her

mother says.

A week later, there was a curfew on Tubas. As she was

walking to school, an army jeep stopped her and

soldiers forced her to take the veil off. Her

grandmother explains: "She was very angry. She was

full of hatred against Jews. I believe this is the

motivation for what she has done."

Immediately after a suicide bomber is named, the

Israeli army demolishes the bomber's family house and

arrests members of his or her family. The army

prevents them from rebuilding on the same spot.

Murad Daraghmeh calls her a heroine. As he surveys the

ruins of the family home, he says: "I am a coward. She

is courageous. I will never be an Istishahdi. I have

brothers and sisters. The army would arrest them. And

the army would destroy my family house." 


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