Mariam Farhat, Known as ‘Mother of Martyrs,’ Dies at 64
Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times
Published: March 20, 2013
Mariam Farhat, a Palestinian lawmaker known as the “mother of martyrs” after three of her sons died in attacks against Israel, one of which was a suicide mission that she encouraged in a homemade video, died on Sunday in Gaza City. She was 64.
Hatem Moussa/Associated Press
Ms. Farhat, who was also known as Umm Nidal, had liver and bowel diseases, according to the Web site of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Hamas movement, which announced her death.
A photograph on the site showed what was said to be Ms. Farhat’s body, wrapped in a Hamas flag, with an automatic weapon lying across it. Thousands of people, including top Hamas officials, attended her funeral on Sunday. The Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke at a service in her honor, according to al-Qassam.
Ms. Farhat was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. Four years earlier, her 17-year-old son, Mohammad, was shot to death after he stormed an Israeli settlement with an automatic rifle and explosives, killing five students. Shortly before the attack, Ms. Farhat made a video in which she appeared with Mohammad to show support for what he was about to do.
“I wish I had 100 boys like Mohammad,” she once said. “I’d sacrifice them for the sake of God.”
Two more of Ms. Farhat’s sons, Nidal and Rawad, were later killed in clashes with Israel.
“I brought them up to be martyrs,” she said in an interview with National Geographic Television several years ago, “to become martyrs for the name of Allah.”
Nidal Farhat helped make Hamas rockets that were used to bomb Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When he died, he left behind a 4-year-old son, Imad. Ms. Farhat told The New York Times in 2004 that she had assured Imad that he would be reunited with his father.
“You will be a martyr one day,” Ms. Farhat said she had told Imad, “and then you will go and see your dad.”
Ms. Farhat was born in Gaza City in 1949. She had at least three other sons, one of whom, Wesam, served time in an Israeli prison. She was involved with Hamas well before her sons grew up.
The al-Qassam Web site said she had provided shelter and protection for prominent Hamas military leaders, including Emad Akel, who was killed in 1993 by Israeli forces.
Ms. Farhat had not been active in politics before she was elected to the legislative council, where she was one of six women among the party’s 74 representatives in 2006. She was popular among young women in Hamas, though she said that not all of them should try to emulate her.
“It is not only sacrificing sons,” she said in 2006. “There are different kinds of sacrifice — by money, by education. Everybody, according to their ability, should sacrifice.”
Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat (Arabic: مريم محمد يوسف فرحات), or Mariam Farahat (c. 1948 – 17 March 2013), popularly known as Umm Nidal (Arabic: أم نضال), "the mother of Nidal", was one of the Hamas' candidates elected in the Palestinian legislative election, 2006. Three of her six sons performed Hamas suicide attacks against Israel. The word "Nidal" in the Arabic language is a secular term, meaning "struggle", "effort" or "work".
Farhat attracted public attention after being filmed advising her 17-year old son, Muhammad Farhat, for his March 2002 operation against Israeli settlers. After entering the Gaza Strip former settlement of Atzmona, opening fire on the Israeli students and throwing hand grenades at the school where they were studying, killing five students and wounding 23 others, he was shot dead. Upon hearing of her son's death, she proclaimed "Allahu Akbar!" and gave out boxes of halva and chocolates. Her eldest son, Nidal, was killed in February 2003 by bombs planted by Israeli intelligence. A third son, Rawad, died in 2005 in an Israeli airstrike on his car carrying a Qassam rocket.
Farhat died on March 17, 2013, from multiple organ failure, in Gaza. Her funeral was attended by 4000 Palestinians and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.