Wafa Idris: Representing Palestinian Womanhood
At the symbolic funeral for Idris held by Fatah, a Revolutionary Council member eulogized her. She said, "Wafa's martyrdom restored honor to the national role of the Palestinian woman, who sketched the most wonderful pictures of heroism in the long battle for national liberation. Wafa came today to complete the path of the martyr Dalal Al-Maghribi and her comrades…"
While the Iraqi media hastened to report that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had ordered a memorial erected in Baghdad to honor Idris, Egyptian television producer Dr. Amira Abu-Fatuh saw Idris memorialized in another way. In her article "An Oscar-Winning Film," which appeared in the Egyptian opposition daily Al-Wafd, she wrote: "This is not a film like all other films. The heroine… is the beautiful, pure Palestinian woman, Wafa Idris, full of faith and willpower. I could find no one better than she, and I could find no film more wonderful than this, that shocked Israel's heart… From Paradise where she is now, she shouts with all her strength: Enough glorification of the dead; enough glorification of the victories of your forefathers. They have played their part, and now it is your turn."
In general, the Arab media were excessive in their praise for the "courageous Palestinian girl." An editorial in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi was the first to acclaim her, even before her identity became known: "This is the first time a young woman strapped a belt of explosives and bits of metal around her waist and blew herself up on Jaffa Road in the heart of the occupied city. Thus, she joins the convoys of the martyrs and sets a precedent [for women] to take pride in the history of the Arab and Islamic woman…"
Al-Wafd columnist Sa'id Sadeq wrote: "Suddenly, out of the darkness, came a spark of light and hope, in the person of a Palestinian girl, courageous in deeds, not words…" Salah Muntasir wrote in the leading Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram: "Wafa Idris has not faded from my [mind] since I saw her picture for the first time… Her dreamy eyes and the mysterious smile on her lips, that competes with the famous smile some artist drew on the lips of Mona Lisa – Wafa's smile is more beautiful. All of her is more beautiful than any picture of a woman painted by any artist…"
Jordanian Islamist, Yasser Za'atrah, wrote in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour: "…Wafa carried her suitcase [of explosives], which is… the most beautiful prize any woman can possibly win. Her spirit was raging, her heart filled with anger and her mind unconvinced by the calls for peace and coexistence… Peace be upon Wafa and the martyrs, men and women, before and after her…"
Also in Al-Wafd, Muhammad Al-Amin depicted his perception of Idris as she made the decision to carry out the attack. He wrote: "She did not spare her soul… she quietly made her decision, sought explosives, went to pray, and then chose her target carefully. She went to a big restaurant with dozens of customers. She asked Allah for a martyr's death and victory. She did not forget to cast a goodbye glance at her family and neighbors. She kissed the soil of the homeland and went calmly to her fate. She inscribed her name on the forehead of history..."
Ibrahim Nafi', editor-in-chief of the leading Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, wrote in a paean to Idris: "She decided to end her fresh young life at a moment of a profound sense of oppression such as no people had suffered as the Palestinians do. But before that, she decided that her death would reverberate so as to draw attention to the tragedy created by the Israelis, with their airplanes and tanks against a defenseless people. She blew herself up on Haifa Road [sic], bustling with innocent people – like Wafa herself… She left on a morning like every other morning. No one noticed signs of tension. She smiled at the children in the family, and continued on the path set for her to blow herself up on Haifa Street… so as to tell the world that the body itself would turn into a time bomb at any moment and that the idea that one organization was a terrorist organization and another was a peaceful organization had no meaning. The inhuman Israeli policy has made the entire [Palestinian] people into human bombs..."
Also in Al-Wafd, Wagdi Zein Al-Din stressed Idris's uniqueness among women: "The most beautiful of the Palestinian beauties, a wonderful model of sacrifice, did what the strong, proud men do. Wafa Idris, who had just finished university, did not think like other members of her sex; she donned the garments of the martyrs and carried out an operation that was a response to the blood-shedder Sharon. Like her name ['loyalty' in Arabic], in her sacrifice she was loyal to the Palestinian nation. The bride of Heaven preferred death to the pleasures of life, so as to convey a powerful message to the Arab nation…"
Abd Al-Wahab 'Adas, columnist for the government daily Al-Gumhuriya, wrote: "She gave, for the first time, a different example of women's heroism; she refreshed in our minds the [picture] of the Algerian heroine Jamila Boukhreid, who struggled with all her might against France's occupation of her homeland. Although Jamila was privileged to see the liberation of her land, Wafa's pure spirit will join in waving the flag of Palestine above the dome of Al-Aqsa. Wafa Idris engraved her name with pride, with strength, and with honor... on the conscience of every Muslim Arab."
Al-Ahram columnist, Ahmad Bahgat, wrote: "Wafa revealed the meaning of the Palestinian personality; she revealed the heroism of the Palestinian woman and turned from a living creature walking on the Earth to a symbol that went down in history, the trace of which cannot be eradicated. As a nurse, her work was like that of the merciful angels. She cared for the sick and injured, and rescued the wounded. And behold, she expanded the sphere of her work from saving individuals to saving the Palestinian nation."
'Adel Hammuda, editor of the Egyptian opposition weekly Saut Al-Umma, wrote: "The most beautiful and proud picture I saw this week is the picture of the bride of Heaven, Wafa Idris, who turned herself into an explosive device and exploded in Israel. Wafa Idris elevated the value of the Arab woman and, in one moment, and with enviable courage, put an end to the unending debate about equality between men and women."
In the Egyptian Nasserite weekly Al-Arabi, Ahmad Abu Al-Ma'ati, wrote, "Wafa Idris did not sit in the coffee shops of rage to which our intellectuals are addicted, becoming procurers, and the writers who sell themselves for a shekel or a dollar. She did not go out to demonstrations… She did not sign petitions aimed at the international community. All she did was don a belt of explosives and talk to Israel, America, and the world in the only language they understand."
And, in an article in the Egyptian opposition weekly Al-Usbu', Nagwa Tantawi compared Idris favorably with President George W. Bush's daughters: "Bush, who leads an oppressive campaign to educate the world, cannot even educate his own daughters!! Note the difference between Wafa, the daughter of Arabism and Islam, and Bush's daughters. The difference is the same as the difference between our culture, based on beautiful and noble values and on the values of homeland and martyrdom, and the materialistic [Western] culture. This proves that whatever developments may be, victory will be ours – because we have culture and values."