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A Message from the Founder

Although my father was illiterate, he understood the need for his children—including his daughters—to receive an education that would help prepare them for the challenges they would face in the modern world.

The years that followed the Nakba witnessed a series of moral and material defeats for the Arabs, which relegated us to an age of darkness and ignorance. Our people had only one option left: redemption through knowledge and education. My wife Leila and I both started our professional careers as teachers, and it soon became apparent to both of us that if there were to be no quick solutions for improving our current social situation, then the only way to encourage change would be to work for a better future.

We believed, from the outset, that a free human being is capable of both questioning and creativity, and is not afraid of innovation or adventure. We understood that we could not face the realities of war, tyranny, and oppression, without striving to be enlightened, creative individuals working towards establishing an open, dynamic society.

We continue to uphold our belief that Palestine is an inseparable part of the rich intellectual heritage that we call Arab culture, and that Palestine, in order to be worthy of its activists and their sacrifices, must be a living, breathing entity connected to the global cultural scene. We also believe that investing in the children of Palestine and the Arab world is the best way for us to reach these goals.

Over the years we have provided as much support and encouragement as possible to the numerous individuals, institutions, and projects working to improve education and cultural diversity in the Arab world.

Our commitments have grown with time, and several years ago it became apparent that there was a need for an independent, professional organisation that had a clear methodology for developing a number of pioneering projects in arts and education, and ensuring their continuity. In addition, we felt it was necessary that this organisation have a physical presence in Palestine. Thus, the A. M. Qattan Foundation began its work in 1998, which it continues to this day.

As the great Palestinian educator, my former teacher and mentor Khalil Sakakini once said, "They planted and we harvested, we plant and they shall harvest."

Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan

Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan (1929-2017) 

Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan was born in the city of Jaffa, Palestine on November 5th, 1929. He began his education at the Ayyubid School there and then joined An-Nahda College in Jerusalem, which was headed by the educator Khalil Al-Sakakini, who was to greatly influence Al-Qattan. In 1947, he enrolled at the American University of Beirut, where he began studying political science. However, the events of the Nakba forced him to switch his academic studies to business administration in order to support his family, which had been expelled from Jaffa and had settled in Amman, Jordan. 

In 1951, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and began his professional life as a teacher in Amman and then in Kuwait. There he met Leila Al-Miqdadi, the daughter of the Palestinian educator Darwish Al-Miqdadi, and they soon got married. In 1953, Al-Qattan joined the Ministry of Water and Electricity in Kuwait, working there until he became its Director-General. In 1963, he founded Al-Hani Construction and Trading Company in partnership with the late Hajj Khaled Al-Muttawa’, which soon became one of the most successful contracting companies in the Arab world. 

Al-Qattan was actively involved in several social, charitable, and developmental activities since the 1960s. He was one of the founders of the Institute for Palestinian Studies and the Welfare Association (later known as Taawon). He was also Palestine’s representative at the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and a trustee of the American University in Beirut. This, in addition to his involvement in Palestinian and Arab politics, representing Palestine on several official international visits. He accompanied Ahmed Al-Shuqairi, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s first chairman, to China in 1964 and supported the organisation in its early days in Kuwait. In 1969, he was elected President of the Palestinian National Council during its meeting in Cairo. However, he resigned after a few days when the various factions of the PLO disagreed on the principle of a unified oversight of the organization's military and financial assets. This marked the end of his direct political engagement, although he remained a member of the Palestinian National Council until he resigned in 1990 alongside his friends Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu Lughod, in protest at the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. 

Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan and Leila Al-Miqdadi Al-Qattan, were from an early period very passionate about supporting education and culture in Palestine. This eventually led to the creation of the A M Qattan Foundation in 1993, which they launched in London. In May 1999, Abdel Mohsin returned to Palestine for the first time since 1948 to visit his birthplace, where he was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Birzeit University. 

In March 2011, Al-Qattan announced his decision to allocate a quarter of his wealth to create a fund to ensure the sustainability and independence of the Foundation. 

Both Leila and Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan aspired to build Palestine without recourse to foreign patronage. They strived to use their financial means to help the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation, supporting their education and culture. It was hoped that Abu Hani, as he was known to his friends and colleagues, would live to inaugurate the Foundation’s new state of the art building in the Al-Tireh neighbourhood of Ramallah but sadly he passed away a few months earlier on December 4th, 2017, at his home in London.  

Leila Al-Miqdadi Al-Qattan (1934-2015) 

Leila Al-Miqdadi was born in the city of Mosul, Iraq, in 1934. Her father was the esteemed educator Darwish Al-Miqdadi. She and her family were forced to relocate multiple times; first to Iraq, then to Damascus and Beirut, and finally Kuwait. In Kuwait, she worked as a school teacher and met her future husband, Abdel Mohsin. 

In 1963, the family moved to Beirut. There, alongside a group of Lebanese and Palestinian women, she worked to revive Palestinian embroidery in refugee camps, participating in the establishment of Inaash - the Association for the Revival of Palestinian Camps, which continues to operate to this day. She played a central role in the founding of A.M. Qattan Foundation, was a member of its board of trustees and inspired and guided its cultural programmes. 

Leila had a passion for art, especially music, and was a supporter of all forms of artistic expression. She was also among the pioneering women in charitable and social work in Palestine and the Arab world. Besides her many contributions, she supported numerous cultural and charitable projects and initiatives in Palestine, with the Palestinian Museum being among the most notable. 

Leila passed away on January 27, 2015, in London. Her name remains engraved in the memory of the Palestinian cultural and artistic field and in the minds of everyone who visits the Qattan Centre’s library in Ramallah, which was named after her, recognizing her significant contributions to culture, arts, and education for Palestine. 

How it All Began, published on the Foundation’s twentieth anniversary in 2018, chronicles the foundation's journey since its inception. 

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