'They're Trying to Bury My Husband Alive' Suha Arafat Says

Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Suha Arafat, wife of the ailing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, accused the Palestinian leadership on Monday of trying to bury her husband alive.

Her comment, and her refusal to allow access to her husband, prompted a Palestinian delegation to postpone a trip to Paris.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), Arafat's PLO deputy, former Prime Minister Abu Mazen, and PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath canceled their trip to Paris on Monday after Suha accused them of conspiracy. It now appears that they will travel to Paris on Tuesday.

The condition of Arafat, who was airlifted to Paris 11 days ago and has been in a French army hospital since then, is unknown. But most analysts believe he is already clinically dead and being kept alive only by life support systems.

According to French law, Suha, as Arafat's wife, has the sole right to decide when or if to disconnect her husband from life support. She also holds complete control over the information flow about her husband's condition and has kept all but a handful of people from visiting him since he apparently slipped into a coma last week.

Suha, 41, who had not seen her husband for more than three years until he became ill, has been living in luxury in Paris for most of the intifadah and is not well respected among Palestinians.

In a screaming telephone interview with the pan-Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera, Suha accused Abu Ala and Abu Mazen of conspiring to take her husband's place.

"Let it be known to the honest Palestinian people that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris," she said in her appeal in Arabic.

"You have to realize the size of the conspiracy. I tell you they are trying to bury Abu Amar alive," she said, using Arafat's nom de guerre. "He is all right and he is going home."

Suha, a Christian, ended her appeal with the Islamic battle cry "Allah hu Akba" -- Allah is greater.

"Everyone knows her," said Arafat advisor Imad Shakour, who remarked that he was not surprised by her words.

"She is in a very hard situation. Arafat is in a difficult enough health situation and also she is nervous according to her nature," Shakour said in a radio interview in Hebrew on Monday in response to Suha's tirade.

"This is a mistake and it's really a pity," he said of her accusations. "She didn't need to do something like this."

Abu Ala and Abu Mazen have divided up duties since Arafat's departure from Ramallah on October 28. PA officials have been concerned about the possibility of the outbreak of chaos when Arafat is gone.

"Suha has a very long struggle with all the Fatah guys that surround Arafat," said Israeli expert on the Palestinians Shalom Harari. She accused most of them of corruption years ago, he said.

In the television interview, Suha used the Arabic word muaamara, which has a meaning that is much heavier than even conspiracy, Harari said.

She tried to appear as a successor using Arafat's words "revolution until victory" but it is a lost cause since she cannot run a revolution from France, he added.


The French-educated Suha secretly married Arafat, 34 years her senior, in 1990. The daughter of a wealthy Palestinian Christian couple, Suha first met her husband 20 years ago. Later Arafat hired her to do public relations work for the PLO. Their daughter Zahwa was born in 1995.

According to Shakour, Suha was "far away" from the problems and pains of the Palestinian people. She never had a proper family life with Arafat, either.

Nevertheless, Suha was amply provided for by Palestinian funds. She reportedly controls a number of hefty bank accounts in Paris.

Commentators here suggested that she is keeping her husband alive long enough to secure control over his money.

Despite his austere lifestyle, Arafat is one of the richest men in the world. A television report by an American network quoted sources as saying that Arafat paid Suha $100,000 a month.

Before Suha's outburst, analysts here had speculated that Arafat would be allowed to die on Tuesday, which is Lailat al-Kader, the 27th day and most holy night in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

It is known as the Night of Power, when Muslims believe that Allah revealed the Koran to Mohammed. Arafat's death on that day would take on added significance.

Arafat has been suffering from a mysterious and yet undisclosed blood disorder, which has depressed his immune system.

Doctors have confirmed that the 75-year-old Palestinian icon does not have leukemia or any other form of cancer but have given no other details.

For years, stories have circulated about Arafat's rumored homosexuality. The secret service of Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania claimed at one point to have caught Arafat's homosexual escapades with a bodyguard on tape, after it bugged a guest suite in which he was staying.

Now some say he could be dying from complications related to the AIDS virus. Other analysts have said that Arafat might be suffering from syphilis.

Arabic expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar said that while it is not clear what ails Arafat, if he is dying of sexually transmitted disease, it could explain Suha's behavior.

"Arab societies are defined as shame-oriented societies," Kedar said. "If he is sick with this sickness [syphilis], Suha is the key person in hiding this. In this behavior she defends her name and her daughter's name."

Some Palestinians have already suggested that Israel is responsible for Arafat's illness, either because it poisoned him or because it prevented him from obtaining adequate medical care in the last few years when he has been under virtual house arrest in his Mukata office compound in Ramallah.

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