American University of Beirut

Anissa Rawdah Najjar book launched at AUB

​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​​​

As part of AUB’s co-ed centennial celebrations, and with a crowd gathered at Jafet Library from different parts of Lebanon, AUB launched the Anissa Rawdah Najjar book exhibit and distribution. The event was held in the presence of Lebanese Minister of Education Abbas Halabi, AUB President Fadlo Khuri, family and friends of Anissa Najjar, as well as members of the AUB community.

Holding a unique collection of Anissa’s handwriting, memoires, and photographs, the book, Anissa Rawdah Najjar: Memories – Achievements – Recommendations was compiled by her daughter Mona Najjar Halabi. The book offers observations and document details of the social, economic, political, and cultural reality of defining years in the history of Lebanon and the region.

“It is an honest and open account that gives the reader a view of her personal life and unadulterated sentiments, and through those, it tells a multitude of stories about the way things were and educates us on the way they could be reformed, in fact the way they could and should be,” said President Khuri.

One of AUB’s leading history makers, Anissa Rawdah Najjar (BA ’36) was a pioneering women’s rights and human rights activist, and was one of the Arab world’s first female journalists. She completed her studies at AUB in sociology and education and soon afterwards was appointed editor-in-chief of AUB’s Al-Urwa Al Wuthqa publication, which she guided until 1948. She is known for her activism and the countless programs, schools, clinics, and centers that she established and nurtured, leaving a significant impact on rural development and women’s lives.

Samar Mikati, associate university librarian for archives and special collections at AUB, spoke to the audience about the exhibit, explaining that it holds some genealogical information about the Rawdah family; documents on her academic life, her professional life, and the societies she founded; as well as miscellaneous articles, addresses, and conferences that she wrote and participated in on different occasions that reflect her wide scope and vision. The exhibit also displays several photos of her with prominent leaders as well as a selection of the awards she received for her long work in social service.

Mikati added that what distinguishes this exhibit is the rich and varied selection of topics covered over a long time span that is near a century. She also announced that a salient collection of Anissa Najjar’s personal papers, journaling most of the social work done in the 20th century in Lebanon, has been gifted by Mona Halabi and will be added to other collections of prominent Lebanese and Arab scholars, artists, and politicians at Jafet Library.

Before the audience continued to explore the exhibit, Mona Najjar Halabi spoke about milestones in the life of her mother and read excerpts from her writing about her experience at AUB and observations in her career thereafter.

“I had promised my mother that I will compile this book,” she said in Arabic. “Seeing the significance of her writings, I am comforted by the fact that we have made this achievement and now I entrust AUB with the responsibility of preserving this collection so it may inspire generations to come.”

Raed Sharafeddine, a prominent personality in Lebanon, a friend of the Najjar family, and a former student of Anissa Najjar, also spoke about the impact Anissa’s leadership has left in liberal thought and Lebanon today. He further commended the timeliness and relevance of the book, adding that it testifies to the futuristic vision that Anissa had. “Did Anissa’s journey and impact end with her passing? Of course not. Today’s gathering shows that a great thing is certainly developing and it is very promising,” he said in Arabic.

Anissa is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Commander Medal from Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on her 100th birthday and a commemorative stamp issued by Lebanon’s Ministry of Communications. In 1997, she received an honorary trophy from the Lebanese Army and was honored as Lady of the Year in 2000. She passed away at the age of 103, leaving behind a living legacy, valuable lessons from Lebanon’s history, and countless people who continue to celebrate her.​​


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