Palestinian born Amal Tamimi is the first foreign-born woman to be elected to the Icelandic Parliament. Mica Allan met with her to learn why politics is in her blood and about the challenges and breakthroughs she has experienced.
Published in the 2011 winter issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.11. By Mica Allan, photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Amal Tamimi at Parliament, November 30 2011, the day it recognized her native Palestine as an independent and sovereign state, the first western European country to do so.
Mica Allan: What inspired you to become a politician?
Amal Tamimi: To start with I’m Palestinian, and in Palestine you breathe politics, it is part of your life. I think it is important to find out what is going on around you politically, both nationally and internationally, and I’ve held that belief for a long time. When I came to Iceland 16 years ago in 1995, there were no regulations about integration, you simply came here and started working. I started to work officially with immigrants in 2002. I have been a part of many committees and am one of the women who established the Women of Multicultural Ethnicity Network (W.O.M.E.N.). One of the aims of this organization is to increase the visibility of immigrants in society. So, I started being political before I officially entered politics.
MA: Is entering politics something that flowed quite organically after the formation of this committee, or was it a calling that you received from other people?
AT: Both. I gave a speech in 2005 on Women’s Day and in that speech I spoke about women’s issues in Iceland and immigrants’ issues. After that you have to keep on speaking and keep on fighting.
MA: What, in your opinion, has changed over the last sixteen years for female immigrants?
AT: Today, we have more women who know about the women’s shelter, more women who are taking Icelandic lessons and taking courses on self-esteem. Also, more immigrant women are active in society. Now you see and hear many immigrant women; we have lawyers, nurses, all kinds of working women, and they are starting to be more visible in Icelandic society.
You can read the remainder of this article in the 2011 winter issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.11. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.