Hayat Arslan

Activist

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Activist & Advocate

Born in Gharifé, in the Chouf in 1948, Hayat Arslan has become one of Aley’s (and Lebanon’s) most admired and influential activists and politicians.

At the age of 20, Hayat Wahab married Emir Faisal Arslan. A prominent leader, her husband was the son of Emir Majid Arslan, one of the leading political figures involved in Lebanon’s 1943 independence, and the brother of MP Talal Arslan.

Although she was born and married into economically comfortable families, of traditional Druze background, Hayat Arslan has become a staunch advocate and activist for human rights – and even the preservation of Aley’s cultural heritage and history.

Her family home is now the first museum in Aley – the Emir Faisal Arslan Museum – restored in dedication to her late husband and the role of the Arslan family in Lebanese history.

Overcoming Obstacles

Hayat Arslan’s upbringing gave her many opportunities – but it also prevented her from interacting with those less fortunate.

It was after she married that she realized not everyone was as well off and that many people needed help.

“The Arslan home was open to everyone who wanted to come in and issue complaints and grievances, and I was very shocked.

“All sorts of things I could not take in at first, and then I found out that this is the way the world worked.”

Her passion for activism and politics did not happen overnight. When she married, she did not have an academic degree. She began studying law at the Lebanese University but, with the arrival of her children, was unable to continue.
By the time she was 28, Hayat Arslan had decided to commence studying politics at the AUB.
Although the University accepted her application willingly, it did take perseverance to overcome the hesitations of her husband and father.

Lebanon The Giver

By the time she had graduated, Hayat Arslan was ready for a deeper level of public involvement.
So in 1983, at the age of 35, she founded the NGO –  Lebanon the Giver, a non-governmental organization focused on education and social welfare, which had fallen behind in Mountain areas during the war.

It began with building a school in the remote southern town of Hasbaya to cater to the area’s educational needs and later went on to initiate a women’s economic empowerment program.

It is an income generating organization –  with a policy not to ask for donations, but rather to earn them.

 

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Opportunities for Women

But the political situation in the country forced her to stop her actions. Having taken a stand in favor of Bachir Gemayel, fully supporting his candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic, her husband, Faisal, had put his life in danger. In 1983, he escaped an attack while he was with his wife. The couple decided to leave to the safety of Cyprus.

Returning to Lebanon in 1987, she worked to revive the activity of the NGO that remained dormant throughout her forced stay in Cyprus.

She multiplied her efforts to ensure the durability of the association which “opens opportunities for women who have no other resources”.

She also established the New Generation School of Hasbaya, and the Women’s Technical Training School in Aley in 1997.

In 1994, she established the Committee for Sofar Festivals, and in 2002,  the Hasbaya Infirmary for Women.

 

"I do not back down, but I am very peaceful in my approach, because I believe that in peace, we can do everything."

Hayat Arslan – Activist

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Political Empowerment

As early as 2001, Hayat Arslan began a new fight for the rights of women politically. Thus, in 2006, the Woman Political Empowerment Association was created.

She also became the coordinator of the Patriotic Allegiance Movement. She is a firm supporter of the electoral law Female Quota System, which was included in the drafted law of Fouad Boutros’ Committee in 2005 that aims to close the enormous gender gap in local politics. Although this law is still awaiting ratification, Hayat Arslan continues her efforts to lobby for the women quota adoption. Her activism and lobbying had contributed to the fact that 111 women ran for the 2018 elections – an unprecedented number in lebanese politics (in the 2009 elections, there were only 12 women candidates).

Aside from political projects, Hayat undertook to restore the Aley residence of the Arslan family, opening it as a museum.

In 2016, she released her book “Prince Faisal Majid Arslan – The Nation Embraced a Doctrine”.

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Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

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